Those Wobbles are Normal
As we live through another week of ‘lockdown’ many of us are experiencing constantly changing emotions, thoughts, feelings and sensations…struggling to sleep, tearful and overwhelmed, angry and picking arguments, wanting to stay in bed, desperately reading information, lethargic, feeling physically sick…often these change day by day, some mornings we’re up and fine, other mornings we just want to pull the duvet over our heads and stay hidden. Sometimes the way we are feeling can change hour by hour.
These ‘wobbles’ that we are going through, the ups and downs in each day are normal. Yes…normal! We are in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, one that hit very quickly. Yes…we may have been watching it unfold in China and may have even felt a bit twitchy when it got closer to home in Italy…but for most of us the quickness of lockdown came unexpectedly sudden. Now it’s here with us and most of us will have feelings of being out of control and maybe terrified.
SO WHY ARE THESE FEELINGS NORMAL?
It’s down to that tiny almond-shaped mass of grey matter located deep inside the temporal lobes of the brain – the amygdala! Back to our ‘cave-man’ ancestors, the amygdala was essential if they were to stay alive; the constant threat of being eaten at any moment by a bear or sabre-tooth tiger meant the amygdala regularly ‘fired up’ and the ‘flight -fight’ mode kicked in!
Fast forward to today and we are on constant alert. We may not be at risk from a bear or sabre-tooth tiger but we are exposed to threat and may feel out of control. So as the amygdala ‘fires up’ we are flooded with chemicals cortisol and adrenaline, our heart races, our breathing shallows and becomes rapid, our usual responses are overtaken…we are in the ‘flight or fight’ mode. BUT we can’t do anything – we’ve been told to stay at home and stay safe. Hence the ‘wobbles’, the anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
HOW WE CAN HELP OURSELVES?
Our minds and bodies are extrinsically linked so often the way we are feeling tells in our body too. Noticing how we are feeling both in our mind and body is the first step and then treating ourselves kindly.
Breathing – slowing that rapid breathing down can help us calm the amygdala, letting our body and mind know that we are alright. Taking three nice easy deep breaths; breathing in through the nose, holding the breath for a moment, then releasing the breath very slowly. Then returning to the body’s natural breathing rhythm and just focusing on the breath, noticing the in-breath and the out-breath. You’ll feel yourself calming.
Noticing – checking in with ourselves is something that I encourage with all my clients; however, this is even more important at this time. Recognising our thoughts, emotions, feelings and sensations so we can respond to this and choose what to do to help ourself.
Kindness and compassion – when we are having those ‘wobbles’ don’t try to push them away. As the saying goes ‘what we resist, persists’. Instead we can notice how we are feeling then decide what we need to do to look after ourself, knowing that this ‘wobble’ will pass. Extend that kindness and compassion to others around us who might be having a ‘wobbly moment’ too.
Limit exposure to the news and social media – avoid checking in too often with the news and social media. Constant exposure can keep us on high alert, drawn us into the vicious circle of anxiety and worry.
Keeping a routine – wherever possible get into a routine. Get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time; eat at regular times; shower and get dressed. If days seem long and it is a struggle to get through them, then break the day up into chunks and plan something in each chunk.
Being in the moment – lockdown is a fact – we have no choice. We do, however, have a choice how we respond to it. Wherever possible use this time positively. What can we do, keeping safe, that we don’t usually have time for? Creative time…reading, painting, yoga, baking, gardening, cooking, games, writing, walking in nature…something to lose ourselves in in this moment in time. Time for nurture.
Talk to people – think of this time as ‘physical distancing’ rather than ‘social distancing’. As humans we need social contact to thrive. Make sure to have contact with people each day, especially if we are living alone at this time. Talk to people rather than messaging; use facebook or video calling to see people; share worries but also share some laughter. Laughing releases endorphins which give us positivity!
Remember self-care during this time is even more important than usually – it’s not selfish, it’s a priority. We are living in uncertain times but we are in it together. Remember this time will pass and if we can come out the other side with established good self-care techniques then we will come out even stronger.