We all feel fear. We don’t all feel powerless. The way we experience this crisis is not the same, and we have power to change our response.
We are in this together. I am not alone. I can do my part.
We have the actual facts of Covid-19. It is an airborne virus that has been confirmed in more than 2.5 million people worldwide. Health professionals have some facts about how it spreads. There is no vaccine. People with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable and at risk. People can unknowingly carry the virus without having symptoms themselves. Because it is so new, there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t know what will happen to ourselves and others.
We all have an elevated level of alarm in response to this real life and death threat. This shows up as more hypervigilance in our nervous system, catastrophic thinking, anger or irritability, trouble sleeping, and disconnection from ourselves and others. We hate feeling powerless. How are you experiencing what is happening?
People in a freeze response might be binge watching Netflix. Alcohol sales are up. Domestic violence is up. Depending on where people get their information, some don’t believe there is a threat. Conspiracy theories are spreading faster than the virus.
These are all understandable trauma responses. For some people, this pandemic is landing on a nervous system already hypervigilant from a lifetime of trauma, fragile mental health, and a feeling of isolation.
The facts of Covid-19 are the same for all of us, and we experience it personally in different ways. Some are struggling more than others. People with children suddenly at home are having a different experience from someone who is alone and enjoying a retreat, or someone who is desperately lonely.
“We are in this together” and “I am not alone” brings up a variety responses, all of which are valid. Many people are responding from fear, feel like no one has their back, and they go on the offense or into freeze. Many people are showing up for work in grocery stores and hospitals, knowing the satisfaction of helping others even as they expose themselves to the virus. Neighbors are looking out for each other and bringing groceries to those who are at higher risk. People are donating money and masks.
Taking action, no matter how small, helps break through that horrible feeling of powerlessness. These are some ways you can help. What are others?
- Down-regulate your own nervous system through breathing, relaxation, exercise, getting enough sleep and eating well
- Recognize and limit catastrophic thinking and worst-case-scenario fear mongering, whether that is on the news, social media or in your own mind
- Reach out for help when you need it AND know that sometimes the best support for you is what you offer to others
- If you are lonely and isolated, reach out to a neighbor or someone online with kindness and ask how they are doing
- If you find yourself nervous or minimizing what you can contribute, take a deep breath and take a small step then another – it will be welcomed by most people
- Think of who you rely on for emotional support, ask how they are doing, and open space for them to express themselves and receive support from you
- Contributing time or money lets us know we are helping others, whether that is a donation to our local shelters or another cause close to our heart
- In my community, a commuter service is offering free grocery delivery locally. Other local companies are donating pizza or energy bars to workers at our hospital. Restaurants are providing free meals to truckers. There are thousands of examples of this online.
- You could share a YouTube link to a favorite song on social media
- Offer encouragement to friends on social media
- Join an online support group to both share how you are feeling and listen to others as you connect with them
- Focus on strengthening your own immune system
Do this guided practice to get in touch with your own strength and resilience. You can make a difference. We need each other. We will get through this together.