- Natalie Dressler
Living in a Pandemic
This past year has brought about huge shifts and changes in the world and how we live. Changes in our social, work, and personal lives have had the potential to stir up anxiety, loneliness, depression and fear about the future. For others it has pulled up increased compassion, care and concern about the world and people around us.
Through noticing these changes, I've been curious about the vast differences in people's reactions to Covid-19 and the social events happening in the past year. In paying attention to people's reactions around Covid-19 and surrounding restrictions, it's peaked my interest in people's childhood attachment wounding and past traumas and its link to how they are currently experiencing the world.
Not being able to have full control over our life and our sense of security can trigger our bodies to activate the fight, flight, freeze and submit responses.
This is hugely adaptive! Our body really knows how to get us through a challenging situation, especially when we lack feelings of full safety and control. Parts of us may go into overdrive to manage how we're feeling, or to help us distance from the emotions that are stirred up inside. This is actually a good thing, especially when we have limited time or resources to work with what's going on inside for us.
Some people may find themselves getting stuck in this nervous system response though, especially when it has been adaptive for their brain to use this response in the past. Subsequently, old brain circuitry around survival may surface for many during this global pandemic.
You might be interested in diving in and working with what's coming up for you around the events of the last year. If you have a moment to get a little bit introspective, it might be helpful to find a journal or some quiet space to reflect.
Get curious for a moment and notice how your body is feeling while you're reading this post. If you take a few minutes to check in, how are you feeling affected by the current restrictions from Covid-19? How are people's attitudes about safety measures, adherence to restrictions, etc. affecting you? What comes up around some of the political and social justice issues over the last year?
How is this sitting in your body? You might notice tension, heaviness, disconnection. Or you might feel a sense of relief at having space from previous commitments that may have stirred up feelings of anxiety or resentment in the past. Perhaps you identify with a newfound sense of compassion and empathy for others.
Notice what's standing out as the loudest emotion or body sensation and see if it feels ok to direct your attention there.
When you do, take a few moments to notice how you feel when you're sitting with that feeling. Do you feel resentment or frustration that it's there? Maybe it's not a new feeling for you and a part of you would like it to just go away. Or maybe you can understand why it's there and feel a sense of compassion for those feelings and body sensations.
See if you can hold all of these thoughts in your mind as just thoughts. If you need a bit of space for any overwhelming ones, you can ask the thoughts to just soften in their volume a bit. They may soften, or they may not. If not, get curious around the message that reaction is it trying to tell you. Does something need more attention in your life?
As you continue to spend time with the body sensation, feeling or thought that most stands out to you, invite in some compassion or even just curiosity about it.
If you can't get to this place of compassion, you can continue to spend some time listening to the frustration, anxiety, sadness or stuck feelings around the original body sensation/feeling/thought too. Notice how it feels to welcome all of these thoughts and feelings to be here. Pay attention to how this feels in your body when you invite them here and just listen to what they have to say.
If you can feel some compassion, extend this to the body sensation, feeling or thought that's the loudest. Notice this compassion in your body and see if you can breathe it into the areas of your body that need it.
Then you may want to listen to the body sensation/feeling/thought and ask it what it needs you to know. Without judgment, just sit with whatever comes up. It might share a bit of its history or how long it's been there. Or it might share an image or an emotion. If it feels too much, consider making a note of this to bring to your therapist and see if you can switch instead to some grounding or breathing and noticing the compassion there for it.
It's common for current events to trigger up old wounding. Perhaps there have been times as a child you have felt powerless or alone. Reflecting on how you dealt with that as a child can help you understand and have more compassion for how you are dealing with the current pandemic today. When we bring compassion and understanding to those parts of us survival responses, it frees up room for them to soften their reaction to activating situations in our life. What felt like intense anxiety, might feel a bit lighter. Loneliness has a chance to feel less heavy through the time and connection we give it with our own sense of compassion and care inside.
*This blog post is not meant to be a substitute for therapy or medical advice. Please see a trained therapist to explore these ideas further.