Some have mistaken my calm about the COVID-19 virus as not being vigilant enough. I have been told I need to take it more seriously. My calm nature from being a Registered Nurse in the unit or being a Mindfulness Specialist and Teacher tends to keep me present and grounded. But don’t let my calm equate to my lack of practical measures that I think are important.
In fact, I wish I could give a little of my calm to those in panic mode, hoarding, over-shopping or fearing apocalyptic scenarios.
“In a culture where the ‘extreme theme’ has become the norm, people are increasingly seduced into believing that intensity equals being alive. When that happens, the mind becomes wired for drama and the soul is starved of meaningful purpose. This type of life may produce heart-pounding excitement, but the absence of this addictive energy can bring about withdrawal, fear, and restlessness that is unbearable,” states the author of Addicted to Chaos: The Journey from Extreme to Serene, Dr. Keith Lee.
Our need for speed and the over saturation of media reporting has created the perfect chaotic storm. Despite it being a good idea to be in the know of what is happening in our world and perhaps more importantly, what is happening in our own neck of the woods, we have allowed the word pandemic (meaning, prevalent disease over a whole country or the world) to be translated as panic.
Some of us are hyper-researching, some are tuned into the constant global news updates all day and every day, viewing it like a scary movie that we can’t look away from, and most of us are quite unsure what all this truly means. But what does the constant barrage of alarming news do to our health? Well, the simple answer is a lot. It affects our bodies, our immune systems (which we need at optimal condition), imbalance our nervous systems and can elevate anxiety, stress, depression and fear.
Studies show that drama causes the pituitary gland and hypothalamus to secrete endorphins, which are the pain-suppressing and pleasure-inducing compounds, which heroin and other opiates mimic. If it mirrors heroin, the logic would stand that indeed chaos and drama can be addictive. Like any addiction, you build up a tolerance that continuously requires more to get the same neurochemical affect.
Therefore, its crucial for us to not be constantly glued to the media machine and be mindful of what is a real and what is perceived. We want to check in with ourselves to see how we are doing. Are we letting fear get out of hand where it is affecting our health and livelihood?
Now for some people, there is a very real threat out there. First responders and health care workers, and folks with conditions that make them compromised may be understandably more cautious. But let’s be mindful.
Mindfulness refers to the practice of being aware of the now, as it is. Right here and right now. All too often, our thoughts wander somewhere other than where we are in the moment. We can get preoccupied with what has happened in other parts of the world and envision it could be us or what could happen to us. Mindfulness encourages us to notice these preoccupations, and then to gently bring ourselves back to the now. What does this moment ask of ourselves?
We know to take the necessary precautions and measures to reduce exposure and transmission. We can also stay present with it all and not allow ourselves to get swept up in the chaos, such as the ‘don’t feed the bears’ analogy. Feeding the bears brings them reason to come back around. Fear often can create more irrational fear. Recognize that you have the choice to not engage in the constant info intake or with the unnecessary, irrational thoughts and actions such as hoarding.
Most of us, if contracted would feel fever, headache and cough and perhaps some breathing issues and would heal fine from it. We still need to protect ourselves so we don’t contract and give to others that would struggle more. But that doesn’t mean we need to envision doom and gloom.
Notice your thoughts and if you catch yourself envisioning end of the world scenarios then go find something more joyful to do. Turn off the news, read an uplifting book or story. Email, skype or call a friend. Or get outside and get some fresh air. Find a nearby forest and take in the view. Go for a drive to the beach or down a country road.
When folks invite you into worrisome conversation or try to drag you in the fear mode, simply decline the invitation. Understand that they may feel fearful and that is their choice, but you are doing what you can to not get caught up with. If needed, speak and act with clear boundaries of what you are attempting to focus on and what you will not. Chaos addicts often have very weak boundaries. Make sure yours are strong.
My family and I have been talking about this virus for months now as my sister lives in Hong Kong where they introduced social distancing. My sister still went to work, still went shopping, still took the subways with mask on and hand cleaning regimes, and now they are getting back to normal. Big events where people would gather in greater numbers were cancelled. Travel in and out of the country was monitored and restricted. Now, their incidents of positive testing is drastically declined, people are healing and routine is being embraced once again. My sister says it’s pretty much back to normal now.
Let’s keep perspective in order to maintain control over our own feelings. Keep centered, still find joy, laugh lots, but be practical and be safe.
Remember, we are always responsible for our own happiness and health and we have a choice on how that looks.
(Happy Healthy YOU is a wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast! If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org).