Did you know that we can increase resilience in our nervous systems?
I’ve said to clients this week that we should look at this current crisis as a marathon and not a sprint. I know that may sound discouraging. What I mean is that we need to pace ourselves. If our nervous systems are ramped up to ten on a scale of 1-10, we are going to burn out and deplete our systems before we even get through this 30 day (and quite possibly longer) quarantine.
This is where resilience-building comes in. If your nervous system is in a heightened state (also known as fight or flight), it needs opportunities to come back into a state of balance and regulation. Getting stuck in a high zone of stress and overwhelm is exhausting.
Set little reminders throughout the day to check in with your body and track your nervous system. Create an alert on your phone or attach a post-it note to something that you look at multiple times per day (the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or your laptop). When you see or hear this reminder, pause and do a body scan. Start at the top of your head and slowly scan down throughout your body to your toes.
What do you notice? Tension, constriction, a swirling mass of nervous energy? That’s ok. These are all valid responses to a global pandemic! But you don’t have to live in this place every waking moment.
Sit down and breathe. Bring your attention back to your body. Focus on the places inside that are most in need of your empathy, curiosity, and compassion. Sometimes this kind of slowing down and tuning in will allow the tension to soften and the stress to release little by little. Let yourself feel those shifts.
If your kids are feeling anxious, ask them:
Where do you feel the worry in your body?
What happens if you bring some attention there?
As you hold your attention there, what happens next?
These questions will help them to slow down, bring some mindful attention inward, and come back into a place of balance. Every time you come back into a regulated state, even if only for a moment or two, you have increased resilience in your nervous system. And the more resilient you are, the better chance you’ll have of making it to the finish line with your emotional well-being intact.
We will get through this. I have no doubt. Slow and steady wins the race.