Employ the Three C’s To Get Through The COVID-19 Crisis
It is hard to find words when all of us are speechless. But we have to stay in touch, share wisdom, cultivate community, and provide support.
When it comes to supporting wellness, it’s good to start with the three C’s: calm, connection, and compassion. Science has shown that these three qualities support mental health, boost immunity, and cultivate resilience. There are things we can do, for ourselves and others, as helpless as we may be feeling.
Creating Calm During Upheaval
We are all impacted by this crisis in different ways — our lives, our health, our networks, our livelihoods, our basic sense of safety. We are shaken and profoundly uncertain.
So we have to actively cultivate calm. Watch for signs of stress. Pause throughout the day to feel into your body. Set your phone to remind you once an hour or a couple times a day to check in. Are you tense? Are your shoulders up? Forehead furrowed? Jaw tight? Are you nauseous or lacking appetite? Short tempered? Distracted or scattered? Do you have a headache or other body aches?
These are signs your body is in fight/flight mode, your system flooded with cortisol and adrenaline. In this state, the body cannot heal, fight infection, or absorb nutrients. Your hormones become dysregulated. Your mind can’t reason well.
Here are some suggestions for cultivating calm:
- Curate your news and social media. We all want to stay informed, but if that’s triggering stress, turn it off and/or unfollow.
- Take three-minute breathing breaks: Sit, close your eyes, and set a timer for three minutes (or more). Deepen your breath and focus on it. Expand the belly on the inhale, then make a long exhale. This is basic diaphragmatic breathing. If your mind wanders, come back.
- Go outside.
- Move your body any which way. Put on music and dance.
- Start meditating; now’s a perfect time. Use an app such as Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace, or Ten Percent Happier. For guided meditation, check out Tara Brach’s podcast. Also, Springboard Meditation Studio in Mt. Airy has moved many of its programs to Zoom. Check their events and news and sign up for the mailing list.
- Watch comedy or silly animal videos, make jokes, look up funny memes. Laughter is a potent balm to your nervous system. Try laughter yoga (search YouTube).
- Wellness Team members are offering online yoga and pilates, including Esther Wyss-Flamm, Michelle Stortz and Diane McKallip. Contact them for details.
- Vocalize! Sing, hum, talk, laugh — even gargle.
- Cool down: Apply a cold compress to the back of your neck, splash your face with cool water, or consume cold foods and beverages.
Feeding the Craving for Connection
Research has shown that social isolation is as dangerous to health as smoking. Thankfully, we have technology!
Here are some ways to keep connected while respecting social distancing:
- Video chat with friends and family. Plan group gatherings online; it really is better than the phone. Try Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime. Dana’s daughter lives in New York, but joins the family for dinner via FaceTime.
- Create group email lists and texts among friend and family groups. Seventeen of Dana’s family members — three generations — are in a group text. Normally, they see each other once a year if they’re lucky. Now they are in touch constantly. “Every time my phone pings, it lifts my heart,” she wrote.
- Check in with neighbors. Create block-based phone and email lists. Use Google Groups.
- Use social media in the way it works best. Don’t spread negativity, divisiveness, or fear. Create sub-groups. Reach out to someone you’ve been meaning to connect with for years. Share positivity, humor, and health tips.
- Dana is offering free gatherings on Zoom for the online community to cultivate peace together. Get more info at www.danabarronphd.com/community.
Team member Wendy Romig, owner of Sage Integrative Health in Mt. Airy, believes crises like the one we’re experiencing can be an opportunity to explore new ways of being that can create positive change.
“We are cut off in many ways,” she wrote. “Yet, we can come together with loved ones. We can pause, rest, reflect — shake off the busy-ness of our everyday lives. We can nourish new habits that will last beyond the emergency.”
Fostering Compassion in Your World
Demonstrating compassion for self and others has been proven through a number of studies to improve overall health. Who is hurting? Who needs help, resources, a call, text, or video chat? Who can you forgive, to lighten your own heart? When anger arises, ask yourself what pain that person may be feeling. Anger causes stress; compassion relaxes and releases.
Dana’s favorite resource for self-compassion is Kristen Neff at www.self-compassion.org. Explore her guided meditations, self-compassion practices and more. She also recommends Tara Brach’s guided meditation “The Rain of Self-Compassion” at www.tarabrach.com.
We have a choice now, in every single moment. We can be reactive, defensive, individualistic — or we can be calm, kind, compassionate, and communitarian.
These are the moments that define generations. Crises bring out our best and our worst. What would it mean for you to do your best — for yourself, your loved ones, and the entire world?