A wave of panic steamrolled my body Friday morning. I was having trouble swallowing. It was hard to breathe. The muscles in my legs began to twitch. I was freaking out.
Moments earlier, I’d found myself deep down in a rabbit hole of scary stories about the coronavirus. As I ingested the frightening words, my thoughts became frantic and dark. Worries began whirling around in my mind. ‘Wait, does my throat hurt?’ What if I have the virus! I’m so scared. Are my parents going to be okay?‘
It was only 8 a.m. and I was already exhausted. I’d gone from feeling pretty normal to feeling pretty terrible. In that moment, I felt like my world was crumbling. I was completely out of sorts, not to mention, I was home alone and would be all day. If I wanted to get through this day in a civilized manner, I needed to reclaim my sanity.
I have all of the self-help tools for feeling better, but sometimes when you’re in a panic, it’s hard to remember what you need. It’s hard to think straight. It’s nearly impossible to be rational. I closed my eyes and rested my forehead on top of my folded arms, feeling defeated.
As I rested, I listened to the sound of rain pattering lightly on top of the roof. It was an unusually rainy morning in Southern California, the sky was dark and eerie, fitting for the current state of the world. In that moment, I heard my inner voice say, “Go outside! Go for a walk.”
Without hesitation, I obeyed. I pulled on my winter jacket and headed out the front door. I was desperate to leave the stuffy confines of my home and breathe some fresh air.
In nature, I’m able to slow down and just be.
I live in a rural part of California. My neighbors include horses, goats, turkeys, and a cow. Where I live, the grass is green, the land is sprawling, and the air is fresh.
As I stepped outside in my moment of panic, I breathed in the fragrant air and let it cut through the tightness in my chest. I felt a slight sense of relief. Around me, birds were chirping and squirrels were playing in the trees. I looked around in awe; with utter appreciation and envy for the simplicity of their lives.
That moment made me realize that despite what’s going on in the world, nature is still operating as usual. While the coronavirus terrifies billions around the world, the flowers are still blooming, birds are still playing, and those darn snails are still eating our plants!
I walked slowly on the wet pavement, careful to avoid the worms occupying my path. With each step, I began feeling more grounded. With each sip of fresh air into my lungs, I began to relax. A voice popped into my mind, ‘Whatever happens, you’re going to be okay.’
‘I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay.’ I repeated this to myself over and over until I believed it. I let the feeling of safety soak into my bones and relieve the tension in my throat.
I took two more walks that day. While the world feels panicked, uncertain, and chaotic — nature is still working in perfect harmony. That reminder makes me feel really, really good.
I’m creating a new habit.
The three walks I took on Friday were my saving grace. My lifeline. My way out of the chaos. When the world feels like it’s too much for me to handle, I’m making it a habit to step outside and reacquaint with nature.
When I see how harmoniously everything is working together, it brings me peace. When I see other beings around me living without worry, it reminds me that, I too, know how to relax and live in a calmer state.
If nature like this isn’t closely available to you, don’t worry! I’d encourage you to take a mindful, meditative walk — meaning, take a walk wherever you live and simply notice your surroundings. While on your walk, look at the different colors of the bricks on buildings or the shapes of the clouds in the sky. Focus on things that feel constant, serene, and unaffected by chaos.
You can even listen to a guided walking meditation, too, like this one.
Another way to bring yourself more peace? Have plants in your home to care for. The way they naturally bloom and grow is a reminder of the harmony and resiliency of nature. I also love spending time with my cat and appreciating how blissfully relaxed she is. Again, it just reminds me how to cultivate that feeling of peacefulness within myself.
It times of great uncertainty, we need ways to ground ourselves in the present moment to appreciate what is still thriving and working well, despite the chaos all around. You, too, can be firmly planted and strong in the middle of the storm.