Coping Through This Time of Immense Loss.
I don’t know many people who aren’t affected by what is currently going on with the coronavirus pandemic.
In a moment’s notice our world changed, and the freedoms we were used to were taken away. Fear replaced surety, as mass numbers of people began to hoard, and those who didn’t get out in time were left to wonder how they were going to wipe their bottoms.
States began lockdowns, and the internet went from posting cat memes to posting numbers and news clips reflecting who was being affected, and how many have died. This drastic change left everyone confused, hurt, uncertain, and experiencing a myriad emotions that most of us haven’t felt before. It bears the question: what exactly are we going through?
The easiest way I can describe what we are going through is grief. We have entered a time of immense loss, in many areas. Loss of freedoms, loss of health, loss of jobs, and sadly, loss of loved ones. Many people have had to work from home, while others have had to go into the office, risking both their and their families’ health.
People have been forced into isolation, which has increased existing mental health issues, while people who wouldn’t normally experience them now do. I personally suffer from both depression and anxiety and live alone — so now more than ever, I have to pay particular attention to my self-care and my mental well-being.
As I mentioned before, we are all experiencing grief. Understanding this will help us move through the process with love and understanding, instead of confusion and anxiety. The stages of grief as described by the Kübler-Ross Model are described below:
Not only are we going through grief, but we are all experiencing trauma. Trauma is the emotional response to a disturbing or distressing even that can overwhelm an individual and their ability to cope. Trauma causes a sense of helplessness and diminishes the sense of self, causing limitation in one’s full range of emotions and experiences.
When we experience trauma, we close down the pre-frontal cortex, and this activates our reptilian brain. This part of our brain is known for its ability to control bodily functions, such as heart rate and breathing. Activating the reptilian brain puts us into reactionary survival mode, much of what we are seeing when it comes to hoarding and anxiety.
How long we stay in this traumatic state depends on our ability to cope, which depends on our past traumas and ability to heal.
Does any of the above resonate with you? I know it does with me! I have gone through some of, if not all of these daily. So, what have I done to help myself work through it?
Recognizing the Process:
The good and bad news is, none of us have ever gone through this before! There is no one to ask to for advice since they are most likely looking for advice as well. I don’t know about you, but I am in need of a hug 24/7, yet I can’t because I am social distancing! Recognizing that we are all in this together and that we are all new to this has helped me cultivate patience and compassion for both myself and for others.
The world has seemed so disjointed lately. People have separated themselves by race, sexual preference, ethnicity, political affiliation, etc., and yet here we are, all experiencing the same thing. Although this is an unfortunate event, this event has also caused us to come together as one, with one common purpose.
We are all working through the stages of grief, all experiencing a bouquet of emotions, and all uncertain about what tomorrow brings. Our connectedness will be our strength, and we will pull through this together. It is important that you recognize when you need to take a moment and practice self-care. It’s okay to feel all these emotions, it’s okay to break down, it’s okay to feel helpless — just don’t live there.
Recognize the emotion or stage you are feeling and honor it. All feelings are valid, and we need to feel in order to fully process the event or situation. Be gentle with yourself as you work through this process, and remember: nothing lasts forever.
I admit, when this first happened, I went deep into panic mode. Well, not at first, but once everyone started hoarding and panicking, I too began to panic! My depression set in and I found myself drinking every night as a way to feel better and silence my anxiety. Although it physically felt good, I knew that mentally it wasn’t the best result.
Then I woke up one day and realized that even though a few things had been taken away from me, I still had so much to be grateful for. I had spent my time while panicking focusing on the lack of instead of cultivating a mind of abundance. I began to look around at my home, my job, my health, my social network, and mostly my safety, and realized how fortunate I was.
This didn’t change my situation, but it changed my perception of it, which has allowed me to cope better. I know this may be easier said than done, especially if you have lost your job as a result of recent events, worried about paying bills, buying food, etc., but if you allow yourself to go down a road of despair, you will have a very difficult time coming back.
None of us are immune to bad times. They do not discriminate, and in the blink of an eye your life can change, and it did! Make gratitude a daily practice, because no matter what comes your way, there is always something to be grateful for.
Many of us have been forced into working from and staying at home, which has caused us to be stagnant more than normal. Gyms are closed, and to make matters worse, we are sitting for prolonged periods of time. This can cause the muscles of the hip flexors to shorten, which can shift/pull on the pelvis and cause all sorts of hip and back pain.
I normally work out 4-5 times a week, which consists of weightlifting and light cardio. Not having a weight set at home and not being able to work out has been seriously impacting my physical and mental health. There are many ways in which one can get moving without a gym. Since I don’t have weights at my house, I have had to improvise my workouts Rocky IV style!
I am lifting everything from rocks, to paint cans, paver stones, and my couch (yes, literally lifting my couch). You don’t have to be this extreme though! Body weight exercises are incredibly helpful for toning and keeping muscle mass. In addition, resistance bands are an excellent way to add extra weight when free-weights aren’t available.
While there is a 6-ft rule in effect, that doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and do cardio. Taking walks earlier or later in the day is safer than at peak times. You can also jump rope or use a rebound trampoline for extra cardio. Several fitness companies are also offering free trials, which is a great way to try their products as well as keeping your body moving!
Remember to Breathe:
This is the most important tip of all: remember to breathe. Stress causes us to breathe from the chest area, not the abdomen, which results in shallow breaths. Less oxygen to the lung results in less oxygen to the brain, organs, and circulatory system. This can cause anxiousness and increase panic attacks.
Meditation is a great way to calm the mind by focusing on the breath. It also allows us to take a time out from the craziness of the world and turn our focus inward, creating silence and cultivating peace. If sitting in silence isn’t your cup of tea, then try guided meditation. Guided meditations walk you through the meditation process, step by step, and help you achieve peace and calm.
Practicing mindfulness throughout your day is also extremely beneficial, and can be achieved in several ways from journaling, walking, affirmations, etc. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your awareness into the now, instead of focusing on past thoughts or future worries. This allows us to stay present and focused on what we need to accomplish throughout our day.
Yoga is a form of moving meditation that allows for the body to stretch and relax through a series of poses. The mind and body are connected, and stress causes energy to get stuck in the body, which causes aches, pain, and dis-ease. Yoga helps you to connect with breath, and to move the energy that has become stagnant.
Whatever method you decide is best for you, the Number One rule is: remember to breathe!
It is very important that you recognize that you are suffering a great loss: the loss of control. Not having control of our lives leaves us feeling helpless, and that can lead to a myriad emotions and unsettling feelings. Honoring yourself during this time is critical, and self-care is essential to work through this process. Stress can impair the immune system, which makes us susceptible to illness.
Make sure you are eating nutritious foods and supplementing with vitamins and herbs (as needed) during this time. Allow yourself to snack on your guilty pleasures here and there, as comfort food releases dopamine — our feel-good neurotransmitter.
This is a time of true transformation. Nothing will be the same after this, and neither will you. We have to understand what is in our control, and what is not, and surrender to that over which we have no choice. By surrendering, we accept our circumstances and allow space and energy to flow where it is needed the most: our bodies. You may not be able to control the situation, but you can control how you react to it.
Take a moment, stay present, breathe, practice self-care, and most of all, be kind and patient with yourself. This too shall pass.
Jennifer L. Mezzio is a certified Yoga instructor, energy healer and life coach. In addition, she is a certified nutritionist and bodybuilder. Jennifer believes in the mind-body-spirit connection, and makes it her life’s passion to motivate and inspire others. She is currently in the process of starting a 501(c)(3), which will help raise self-esteem and self-confidence in victims of bullying. Jennifer lives by the mantra “There is no greater gift in life than giving back.” You could contact her via Balanced Wellness and Nutrition.