A Short Guide to Managing Anxiety During COVID-19
What I love is that we can be here together, right now, wherever our bodies happen to be physically. You found me, and now I can do what I do best: be here with you, share with you, honor you. Let's breathe.
It's incredible that “science” can now prove what sages, prophets and shamans were teaching thousands of years ago. Wherever our species came from, we seem to have known some very profound things for ages - in other words, wisdom isn't something that's evolving - it's been around longer than we can imagine. Yet we seem to be destined to repeat the same “mistakes” no matter what tough lessons our ancestors have been given.
Fear, greed, ignorance, violence and betrayal continue to pervade our lives, as they have throughout our universal human story. We default to our animal instincts, which can be skewed by trauma, loss, and shock. Is it even possible to move beyond what seems to be our human nature – this unceasing drama of the human condition? Or is this just it, do we just have to suck it up and bulldoze through it?
One thing we now know, literally know for sure is that when we consciously pause and slowly inhale, exhale, and do that again a few more times…. We change our brain chemistry, and when at that moment we learn how to become the observers of our thoughts and actions, to take the position of the witness, we move from the base of the mountain to the top. We see the vista of our options. We reconnect with our choice.
The Power of Choice
In the Old Testament God said, “I put before you the Blessing and the Curse; Choose Life”. Consider the possibility that this commandment is actually a loving cue from the universe; perhaps we have been given a hint, a simple secret of life from the Source. At each moment of NOW we have a choice - we can identify what is life-giving, and what is life-depleting. We get to choose. In a sense, this is how we were created in the image of God: in every moment, we can choose what happens next - in our minds, our attitudes, our lives.
The secret to harnessing the power of this comes with learning how to become the OBSERVER of our thoughts, our minds and egos. Once we realize we are not our thoughts, we can begin to have a relationship with them, choosing how to relate to those parts of ourselves. This practice changes our experience of life.
Our Internal Compass
We all have an internal compass – the ability to pause and listen to an inner voice that intuitively knows what is life enhancing. This is the tool that can lead us out of the exile of our suffering. As the Buddha taught over 2,00 years ago, most suffering comes from our beliefs about what is real. These beliefs were formed when we were young, trying to make sense out of confusing, chaotic, painful or scary circumstances. Mindfulness - awareness of our thoughts and their impact on our attitude and perspective - is the first step on the path out of mental and emotional bondage.
Connection and Emotional Safety
Finding someone with whom we can be genuinely open, vulnerable or intimate is often elusive, a distant fantasy. This is the most critical component to our basic sense of well-being, and in relationships, the ability to trust. Without the opportunity to feel emotionally safe early in our lives, to feel connected, seen, heard and valued, we typically develop what Freud called "unconscious defense mechanisms” to protect us. The unconscious finds ways to protect us from pain. We dissociate, numb ourselves, avoid or run from discomfort that cannot be alleviated. These unconscious strategies work in the short term, but over time they can break us down – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. The fallout that comes with unconscious self-protection is self-neglect; we don't hear our "compass", we don't know what we need, we've amputated the part of us that gives us feedback because the pain or chaos seems unbearable. To change, we need to become conscious, awake, and this is where the OBSERVER comes in.
Our Automatic Self-Protection System
Our subconscious protection is generated in the limbic-reptilian system of the brain. It's the part that is automatic, unconscious and repetitive. It activates our entire body for defense by eliciting aggression, fleeing, freezing or shutting down. In all cases, unconscious self-protection takes up great chunks of our energy, while simultaneously turning off systems that aren’t critical to our survival – like our immune system. The resulting states of hyper-vigilance, chronic worry, obsession, agitation, irritation or numbness, drain our batteries (adrenals) over time and inhibit our natural immune response. We become depleted of our essential energy, our life force, and less able to fight off disease. Relationships, bodies, minds and spirits weaken and eventually decay. This is the explanation for the slow descent into personal hell that is often called depression, depletion, anxiety, emotional shock, addiction, or depersonalization.
Without the freedom to be genuine, open and emotionally intimate, we don't feel complete as human beings. We are “social animals” who are meant to connect with others. So if we cannot let our guard down and allow ourselves to be real and to connect, we suffer with a sense of deep loneliness. We can unlearn the unconscious self-protection responses when we learn to create an atmosphere of emotional safety for ourselves, wherever we are.
This website was created to give you your power back. With love. Ellen