LETTERS: Remember to breathe during crisis

In the beginning, when our world view went upside down, people indicated things felt surreal. They felt unfocused, absent minded and panicky. As the weeks have gone by, it is clearer that this is a profound time full of radical shifts and transitions. We are challenged to see our world, our selves in new ways continuously. This can be disorienting. How can we work with this?

We are spending a lot of time right now in our back brain, in the back part of our head. This is the survival part of our brain. Do we run, fight or just freeze? This gives rise to the low levels of anxiety. When we can move into the front part of our brain, the executive functioning area, we can think and problem solve. These days we are frequent travellers in both. Something we can do is to start with the process of noticing, just watching. Some days you may feel extra tired, angry or irritable. Other days you may feel positive and hopeful. Some days you may feel parked in neutral. Other times you may notice that you are grieving what was, and the anxiety of how it is and how will it be.

We all have capabilities, things we did in tough times, resilience, fortitude, moving forward one step at a time. What did that look and feel like for you. What was your experience when you got to the other side of that challenge. What did you learn? What can you use now? We can remember this about ourselves, about our friends, our families.

Be aware of what may trigger you, such as the sound of a reporter’s voice on the news or provocative images of people in gowns and masks. Just notice any feelings that come up. Then look at the flowers or trees and sky around you and see how it calms your nervous system.

This period of time we are in could also turn out to be one of the most creative. Be part of that in little ways, and big ways. Doodle, laugh a lot, plant a food garden to feed yourself and others. Tell wry jokes.

Spend time with yourself, meditate, breathe, let your shoulders relax. Feel gratitude for this Earth which sustains us and the kindness of those around us. Have a routine everyday. Sleep, eat, exercise, hug your pets.

Remember those that are already challenged with addictions and mental health concerns. They have already been fighting a daily battle. Extending compassion and generosity helps us all and reaffirms our interdependence and humanity.

Remember to breathe.

Joanna Campbell, clinical counsellor


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