We, as a species, have been stressed for a solid year. The pandemic has become our god telling us how to interact with each other, when we can hug, smile, or hold one another’s hands in times of struggle. We’ve missed birthday celebrations, holidays with the family, weddings, and funerals.
Is it any wonder that the Spring Breakers in Miami have lost their sense of propriety, citizenship, and lawfulness? We have been on edge for so long that we need to nurse our nervous systems back to health. Sustained stress has become the new normal.
Last March, some of us thought that this would all be over by Easter. Then when it wasn’t, we thought, “Maybe by the summer.” The lush summer came and went; everything turned red, gold, and brown; it got cold. “Maybe by the new year.” Each expectation leads to another disappointment. The disappointments feed our angst like a greedy child devouring cookies.
As we come out of the pandemic, we need to heal our collective angst by down-regulating the nervous system. But how?
There’s this misconception that the object of meditation is to have a mind empty of all thoughts. Ain’t gonna happen. Your mind is supposed to think; that’s what it does.
Meditation helps us practice putting some space between thoughts. In this space, we question the validity, helpfulness, or effectiveness of the thoughts. When your mind is racing, “What if I get Covid. What if the reports about the vaccine are true?” you have no opportunity to test if your mind is being truthful.
Maybe your mind sounds more like mine, “What if there are lingering effects that are messing up my lungs, and I won’t know about it until I’m 90? What if I don’t live to 90? What if I DO live to 90? Will I have enough money to live on when I’m 90?”
Welcome to the untamed mind. Mediation allows the space to say, “Wait a minute. You’re not 90 yet. Let’s just stay here in 2021 for now.” When you create space, then the anxiety disperses like steam off of hot pavement after a summer rain.
Studies out there (you can google it) show that when your exhale is longer than your inhale, your parasympathetic nervous system comes online. That means you are consciously controlling your nervous system. Flight, fight, freeze, or flee is temporarily suspended. Spend some time consciously breathing the next time your smartwatch suggests it.
Here’s where prayer comes in. But not just prayer, journaling, connecting with like-minded people. Connect with your higher power, your community and your inner self. In those connections, your brain makes oxytocin, making you feel better (you can google that too).
Be gentle, weary warrior. It’s been a rough year for all of humanity. You are neither the exception nor the one that was singled out. We are all in this together -just like the yard signs said. As we come out of this pandemic, remember that we have to come down together too.
Just for Today
When I find tightness in my body (jaw, hips, shoulders, belly), I’ll breathe in and slowly exhale three times.
God, we need you. You say that you came to give us not just a life but a life of abundance. We require that abundance now. We need peace inside our hearts and minds. Bring all of humanity a sense of self-awareness so that we can work with you to come down from the stress of the pandemic. With you, all things are possible. Thank you.