The Global Pandemic has brought us to a new level of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, overload, and what sometimes looks like madness. But let’s not kid ourselves, we were already anxious, frightened, depressed and overwhelmed. Overstimulation of our minds and exhaustion in our nervous systems had already spread like a virus, through all cultures and socio-economic levels. The pandemic has indiscriminately magnified the consequential anxiety and this has become our new normal.
As an adult, I’ve struggled with being enough. Overachievement and the need for approval have always driven me, often to the high end of anxiety and, when I was younger, to depression. Like many others, I have had lots of counselling to help pinpoint where my anxiety started, and this exploration has helped me to live a life of curiosity, love and passion. I am not alone. Worldwide, more than 284 million people suffer from anxiety, making it the most prevalent mental health or neurodevelopmental disorder worldwide. These staggering numbers are growing daily.
Our ancestors were able to put aside their anxiety, to rest until the next battle or event. But our fast-paced technology, TV, social media, and texting drives us to feel like we are never quite free of pressure. We accommodate our survival-based fear and anxiety by soothing, avoiding, or numbing it down. The fight-flight response that kept our ancestors alive, is killing us slowly.
Recognizing our overstimulated mind is the first step. We need to identify when cortisol and adrenaline are activated; when our mind starts to race, hands tremble or there’s a shaking sensation in the chest.
When you feel anxiety arise, sit quietly and breathe into that feeling, resist attaching a story of ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘who’ to the feeling. Don’t argue with yourself about it; don’t try to blame, shame, or guilt the feeling away. That’s never worked and it never will. Identify the anxiety as early as possible and breathe through it until it lets go of you.
A pioneer of dealing with anxiety Dr. Claire Weekes wrote,
To recover, we must know how to face and accept panic; to go through panic until it no longer matters… Recovery is in our own hands, not in drugs, not in the avoidance of panic, not in ‘getting used to’ difficult situations. Permanent recovery lies in the patient’s ability to know how to accept the panic until they no longer fear it.
An exhausted nervous system will bring on a lack of enthusiasm, low motivation, cynicism, black-and-white thinking, withdrawal, and a feeling that we are performing our daily life with no attachment to what we are doing. The adrenal glands become worn out after excessive long-term stress and lose their ability to produce cortisol.
We may not be able to control the outer circumstances of our lives. However, by identifying and taking notice of what’s happening within us, we can develop resilience by taking small moments of mindfulness and awareness.
If we can activate hope through gratefulness and being in the current moment, optimism and action can be rebooted. Hope won’t stop the challenging things from happening, it just helps us to understand that they are transitory. Hope is sowing the seeds of Love.
We need to create new neural pathways in our brain – those stimulated by gratitude, kindness, cheerfulness, buoyancy, and hope. When we think more hope-filled and optimistic thoughts, our bodies release dopamine and serotonin, two types of neurotransmitters that relax the nervous system. Both of these chemicals are linked to feelings of happiness.
Avoid constantly accessing the news or having it on as background noise; at least take it down a couple of notches. Being hammered over and over with the same negative events is not healthy and smothers hope in a heartbeat. If you must carry your mobile phone, perhaps limit the apps that constantly notify you of doom and gloom.
Spend time outdoors, read more, meditate, immerse yourself in art, literature and music. These activities nurture our hearts and make us more peaceful and wise. Don’t underestimate the importance of this time as an opportunity to effect change.
As a small child, I remember the excitement of saying goodbye to my favourite aunt as she boarded a luxury liner from Sydney Harbour, heading to Southampton. She threw a yellow streamer from the upper deck and I eagerly caught it and held on tight, smiling and waving with my other hand. This encounter left an indelible mark on my imagination. Now as an adult, hope for me is the streamer between the ocean liner and the dock. Between me and my future.
What has this article stirred within you? Where is your yellow ribbon of hope? Are there any glimmers of fading memories or inspirations that you can bring back to the Now— dust them off and repurpose as a symbol of hope for 2021? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
2,021 hugs for you all.