During this time when everything in the world seems uncertain, we are being faced with a huge challenge. It is the challenge of innovating a brave new dawn while taking a hard stop to pause in stillness. As emotions like fear and anxiety ensue after such an upheaval and major change in our way of being, there is no doubt that the resilience of our spirit is being tested and strengthened.
What is resilience? It’s a word that gets referred to whenever we face and make it through a challenge. Our hearts continue to shine and chins are held up high regardless of the adversity we have endured. In most cases, we become even stronger coming out on the flip side and have become better equipped to handle life and its various stressors.
Adversities such as illness, death, loss of a job, and any other trauma causing grief or loss that creates a significant life disruption, will require resilience in order to continue on without losing the spark for living. It is what we are currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Resilience of the body, mind, and spirit is generated by self care, connection with community and having optimism and faith that things will be ok, no matter what happens. We are responsible to feel through our emotions to heal them. Moving through the feelings and honouring them as they come up is the way to do this. Using these blocks and stagnant energy as fuel to transmute and create new strategies is a way to keep our high vibes up. Even now, in the face of major challenges and life lessons that we have never encountered before, it is absolutely ok to act like business is not as usual. When we go through experiences that knock us down, sometimes we are expected to come back as the same person and operate like we usually do. Going back to ‘normal,‘ whatever that means! However, when we go through a drastic change, we are stretched and shifted forever.
Here are some practices to help you through this especially difficult time:
Breathing: Take three deep breaths first thing upon waking up and anytime during the day when you feel anxious or fearful. A good way to calm the body is to exhale twice as long as you inhale. For example, if you breathe in for two counts, then breathe out for four counts. Focusing on your breath allows you to take a moment to stop and choose how to respond, versus reacting immediately to your current circumstances. It helps bring more oxygen to your body, activating the parasympathetic nervous system and resulting in feeling better and more relaxed.
Staying connected: By now, you have probably been on at least a few or several Zoom/FaceTime/Whatsapp calls, and it is great to stay connected to your family and friends when physical distancing is in effect. Reach out to people you know will be supportive and bring encouragement and reassurance to you. During times of stress it is important to be surrounded by strength (even if not in person). Also, be mindful to keep your screen time to a manageable level for you and take breaks often (looking away from the screen and standing up every twenty to thirty minutes. It is important to stay in touch as best as you can, but also maintain healthy boundaries so that you can keep your energy levels balanced. Placing a maximum on the number of calls, for example a total of three calls per day, will make sure your head doesn’t spin and your eyes don’t cry from all the screen and talk time.
Meditation: Increasing our awareness and staying in the present moment helps us to experience what is actually happening instead of trying to change things. Place both hands over your heart and close your eyes while you feel and connect to your heartbeat. This can be a very powerful practice to quieten the mind and become fully present, trusting that everything that is happening is to move us towards a higher purpose. Every challenge can become an opportunity, and it can be especially helpful to reflect upon it this way. There are several ways to meditate, so experiment and try to find one that works well for you.
Journaling: Taking time to express yourself everyday, especially in the morning, is a nice way to gain clarity. You can write whatever comes to mind, putting your stream of consciousness thinking onto the page. My favourite practice is Morning Pages, where you write three pages continuously, releasing everything onto the page, and not stopping until you have completed all the pages. You can also put down your intention(s) for the day and the feelings you are currently experiencing. Journaling is a private and safe space for you to fully let go of all the thoughts floating through your mind, and helps validate your emotions in an effective manner. It can also bring light to options that you may not have known were even possible.
Gratitude: Spending time everyday noticing what you are thankful for cultivates a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for every single thing you do have. Being mindful about all the small miracles we experience can be humbling. From our bodies functioning automatically; to the beautiful nature existing on earth; to our deep connections with friends and family; to doing work that we love and enjoy; pretty much everything can be looked at with a sense of joy and delight. Becoming present to all the love, peace and happiness you receive helps magnify it all.
Relaxation exercises: There are so many different exercises to help us relax after our bodies deal with high stress and tense times. Working out at the gym/home, doing yoga, swimming, running outside, playing gentle sports, and dancing in your living room can all help to stimulate the production of endorphins, while helping to melt tension and loosen up stiff muscles and achy bodies. Movement helps shift your energy and promotes a relaxed physical and emotional state. Choose any activity that interests you and make time regularly to incorporate it into your lifestyle; it will help you feel better.
Having faith: Creating space for spiritual practices allows us to do the inner work to rely on ourselves in times of crisis as well as celebration. Feeling connected and having faith in the world around us has been shown to provide us with strength and comfort. Being able to reframe whatever challenge comes our way can help us neutralize charged emotions and allow us to believe we can handle it. Having a spiritual practice may be having trust in the universe or source energy, or a religious faith in God. Whatever it may be that helps you to find a sense of peace and calm in your heart and mind, honour and nurture it.
The above practices can be helpful during times of distress, but it is essential to practice them regularly to effectively help our bodies tune into what a calm state of being feels like. When you have an arsenal of tools that strengthen your soul essence, it will be much harder to get triggered. And when you do, it will be easier to rebound back because you know what to do.
Resilience of our being shows us that we can and will get through to the other side. There is no limit to the creative possibilities even if we feel stuck. As we navigate through this pandemic, there is no doubt we will come out of this unprecedented time stronger than ever before. However, we truly have to believe in ourselves to keep calm and carry on. Creating inner peace and calm confidence during a healthcare crisis is no easy feat. Nevertheless, we will prevail, as the resilience of the heart and human spirit always finds a way.
Written by: Dr. Anita Rajan