There is a very definite feeling of experiencing history being made, a little bit of surreal, a touch of disbelief, and a sense that anything could happen. My first such experience in this lifetime was with the fall of the Berlin wall. I was too young to understand the implications of this historic event, and yet I can still remember how the air seemed to vibrate differently. All that my memory holds of the day the Wall fell are some images of crowds pulling pieces of the wall down and my Dad telling me to keep the newspaper with the headline and date.
I have experienced several of these momentous occasions sprinkled across my life, both global and personal moments of knowing things would never be the same again. Sometimes these moments have been tinged with joy and others have been painted with pain. Always they are a sign that life will never be quite the same again.
There seemed to be an ebb and flow to these events, no set pattern and yet the times of monumental change seemed to balance out with times of calm perhaps even boring routine. It could be several events grouped together in succession, or alternately a single event that drastically shifted the path ahead.
This year has proven to be a year unlike any other. We have witnessed history being made on what has felt like a daily basis. A bombardment of events that feel like our world will never be the same again and we must wake up every morning expecting to hear the unexpected. It’ll be interesting to see how the history books tell the story of what we are currently living through. 2020 will require an entire history textbook for itself.
The constant shifts to our world have had a dizzying effect. Our nervous systems are on overdrive and our stores of mental, emotional, and physical are depleted. We have experienced an avalanche of unfathomable events; they have all asked us to pivot in different directions that feel counter intuitive somehow. Isolate to save each other, connect to save each other, reach out to care for your loved ones also don’t visit your loved ones to keep them safe, listen to authorities to stay safe and band together against authorities to try and make sure everyone can feel safe, stop using all non-essential services and also make self-care a priority, stop all group activities and also take your health seriously.
The barrage of constant contradictory ideas and emotions has left us in a state of stumbling around numb and yet hypersensitive all at the same time. Making our way through a dense fog that has a few rays of light shining through in spots but overall prevents us from being able to see or feel anything clearly. The edges of the world seem both muted and incredible jarring, clearly, our world will never be the same again, but what will it look like once the fog clears?
This fog and fear state we are all stumbling through is induced by our nervous systems trying to save us, all this chaos has placed us firmly in survival mode for almost an entire year. Our bodies are not meant to be in survival mode for long durations of time, our adrenal glands are meant to be used for short quick bursts, not marathons. Look around and you can see the fatigue set in. Remember how to start with, we all wanted to take the pause of the pandemic and learn several languages, bake bread, and renovate our homes? Not really feeling it, anymore are you? Adrenal fatigue has set in and without care and focused attention it will only get worse.
How do we stop the descent into total depletion and exhaustion? By focusing on what we can control. Many things have happened and are continuing to happen that are completely outside of our control. It all makes a person feel very small and ineffective, doesn’t it? Seems like a good time to remind you that you are both infinitely powerful and valuable, so let us change our perception and start to own it. Time to refocus on what we do have the power to affect and change.
Let’s start out by stating the obvious, you are not alone or abnormal for feeling the way you do. In fact, it would be almost impossible for you to feel any other way. We are all feeling this disassociation because our bodies are designed to keep us alive and our bodies currently believe that we are under threat due to all the traumatic events we have been through this past year.
Trauma lives in our bodies for long after the traumatic events themselves have passed and the only way to get rid of it is to process it. Because it lives in our bodies, this means that we need to process it physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Running, hiding, suppressing, and numbing may seem like a quick fix, however, the effects of these actions have long-term effects. Trauma can change our DNA for up to 12 generations after it has been survived. (If this concept interests you I suggest looking into anything by Gabor Mate and also the book Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives–and Our Lives Change Our Genes by Moalem MD PhD, Sharon) Just think, we are still dealing with the Trauma that the Spanish Flu Pandemic inflicted on our ancestors in 1918. We are incredibly lucky to know this, so we can actively try and mitigate the effects on our future generations along with taking care of our current selves.
We can work to help our body come out of survival mode, by engaging in activities that help to boost all of the happy chemicals in our body. There are 4 main happiness chemicals that our body produces, and I am about to break down how to actively boost each one by consciously engaging in the things that will induce our bodies to produce them.
- Dopamine (AKA the Reward Chemical) – this is created whenever you do anything that makes you feel like you have accomplished something. Feeling listless and ineffective, combat it by completing a task on your list, indulging in a self-care activity that you can start and complete in a short amount of time or celebrate a win. (Even is the win is that you did not eat the entire bag of marshmallows in a single sitting….or chips for the salt crowd.)
- Serotonin (AKA Mood) – think of this one as mindfulness and motion. When you can feel the darkness set in and it seems like everything has a grey haze around it do things that either move your body or focus your awareness on the now. Doing yoga is a win-win here, as you both get into motion and focus on being present. Other great activities are going into nature, go for a walk or meditation. Or ask your healthcare prat=ctioner about adding the supplement 5-HTP to your daily routine.
- Endorphins (AKA Pain Reliever) – indulge your senses and focus on joy. If pain is becoming too much look for ways to engage your other senses and focus on things that bring you joy. The problem with pain is that to try and prevent it, our bodies will stiffen up, tensing up in expectation of worse to come. Which of course only increases the pain we are in. To combat this, indulge your other senses, eat chocolate, laugh out loud, dance, and exercise. Fun, simple, silly, and yummy.
- Oxytocin (AKA Love) – connection, connection, connection. Disassociation is a common side effect of any form of trauma, feeling alone, misunderstood, and emotionally numb is sadly a very common state. Finding ways to connect is crucial to be able to save ourselves. Play with a dog or cat, play with kids, video chat with a friend, compliment someone, engage in acts of kindness.
At the end of the day, all each of us can really control is ourselves. We may be able to affect the outcome, but we cannot dictate either the path that takes us there or the obstacles we meet along the way. Our power does not actually reside in control of the outer world, our power comes from controlling ourselves, our boundaries, our self-expression, and our perspectives. In the chaos that we find ourselves surrounded by, we just need to take care of ourselves and each other.
Feel it, release it, and be gentle about it. Time to write yourself a permission slip and keep it where you can see it. Give yourself permission to slow down a little, to be a little less productive, a little less driven, a whole lot more forgiving, and ever so grateful.
“When you put up defenses against the discomfort of a broken world, you also cheat yourself out of the opportunity to see its beauty” Liddy Grantland
Namaste ~ Michiko @SweetSerenityYoga