Maintaining Balance

“We’re all in this together” is the phrase being flashed at us via all types of media in an attempt to create a sense of connection, belonging, and meaning in a world that seems to be screeching to a halt with closed borders and physical distancing being the order of the day.  Self-isolation, stay-at-home, lock-down, social distancing, have now become everyday terms being used to describe our present state of existence. Making rapid progression in a matter of weeks, this previously unknown and not well understood virus named Covid19 has overtaken the globe and is, as it were, holding us all to ransom.

So yes, we are all in this together, this collective trauma, characterized by “lack of predictability, immobility, loss of connection, loss of sense of time and sequence, numbing out and spacing out, and loss of safety” (Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.).  Yet we are all experiencing this world crisis differently. Some may be feeling anxious and fearful, some may be feeling calm and controlled, and some may be feeling numb and helpless.

Whatever the state we may find ourselves in on any given day, we need to remember that what we are feeling is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

When the thoughts pop into your head: “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I pull it together? Why am I not functioning as I normally do?”, the answer is: “Because you are a human being, a vulnerable human being, with strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and emotions, just like every other human being.” We are all in this together, whether we are sitting alone, or isolating with family, whether we are worried about running out of food and money, or have a well-stocked pantry. There seems to be a psychological thread that is running through every single person on the earth at present that is holding us all together, mobilizing us to fight this invader and to survive its destruction. There also seems to be an emotional bond stretched across the world that is gently supporting and lifting those who are intensely focused on and stressed by dealing with the logistics of managing this pandemic.

Now more than ever, the old adage “one day at a time”, and sometimes breaking it down to “one hour at a time”, seems to be the way to move forward. The uncertainty which we are all facing can bring with it a sense of paralysis which we need to actively work to overcome. This  heightened level of anxiety, sometimes bordering on panic and paranoia, can be effectively managed by following simple guidelines and implementing self-regulating techniques.

For parents, caregivers and other adults that may be having difficulty managing anxiety, here is a format that may be helpful:

  • Stop whatever you are engaged in and allow yourself to become aware of the physiological and emotional symptoms that you are experiencing. Sometimes actually writing them down can be helpful to alleviate their effect.
  • Ground yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed – feel yourself sitting in a chair, feel your feet firmly planted on the ground, feel your arms on the arms of the chair and your body firmly supported by the chair. Look around the room or space that you are in and name five things that you see.
  • Breathe deeply  – take a deep breath in slowly counting 1-2-3-4-hold for 1-2- then breathe out slowly counting 1-2-3-4. Repeat this four to five times. (There are many versions of deep breathing exercises. Use which variation works best for you).
  • Ask yourself: “In this moment, what am I grateful for?” come up with at least five things.
  • Take three more deep breaths.
  • Ask yourself: “In this moment what am I able to control?”
  • Take more deep breaths
  • Then determine a course of action or next steps. Writing these down can help with forward-thinking and control.

Meditation, exercise, gardening/connecting with nature, and healthy adult conversation are also tools to help with managing anxiety and maintaining balance.

Read our next blog post in this series: Managing Pandemic-Related Anxiety – a guide for adults and kids

Lystra Mahabir-Mongroo, Self-Care Psychotherapy & Counselling Services

B.A./B.S.W., M.S.W., EMDR II, C.Hyp.