My elderly father, who has lived through the Great Depression of the 1930's, and WW2, recently commented that he has never before seen such widespread, community anxiety in Australia since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Fear and anxiety about this disease can be overwhelming for many reasons. Aside from the obvious concern of contracting the virus personally, people are concerned about their:
- high-risk family members and friends,
- separation from family/friends,
- job security,
- the survival of their business,
- the welfare of their staff or team,
- travel restrictions and the possibility of being "stuck" somewhere,
- the long-term economic consequences- national and international!
Knowing how to cope with these stressors can make you, the people you care about and your community stronger.
By reducing your stress, you switch off your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) which protects you from immediate threats like an attack. Your SNS contributes to the Stress Response which triggers physiological changes that enable you to fight against the threat, escape from the threat, or freeze. When you're in this stressed state, your immune system is impaired. It's not needed to run, fight or freeze.
However, when we feel calm, we activate our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which enables us to rest, regenerate and digest our food. Our PNS deploys our immune system which of course is designed to protect us from diseases. When we're calm, our thinking capacity is also enhanced, enabling us to think with more clarity and make better decisions, including health decisions. For example, when we're stressed, we might choose harmful ways to feel relief like smoking or excessive drinking, instead of helpful ways like exercise, or walking in nature.
The Stress Response is designed for emergencies and quick recovery. Once the crisis is over, the body usually returns to the unstressed state. However, when we 'get stuck' in stress, (for example, long-term worry about COVID-19), our energy is drained, our immune systems are compromised and we are more vulnerable to disease.
Emotional management is key to reducing stress and activating our PNS. There are many ways of managing our emotions which I teach through my online workshops and coaching sessions. An effective, evidence-based way to replace fear and anxiety with calmness and managed concern is a HeartMath technique called Care Focus.
1. Breathing at a slow, relaxed pace, pretend you are breathing through your heart and imagine that you are calming your mind and emotions with each breath.
2. As you breathe, visualize mental and emotional calm and poise streaming into your mind and into all your cells. Hold a conscious intention in your heart to change feelings of anxiety or fear into managed concern. Practise will increase your capacity to maintain care and compassion without creating burnout in your system. Any progress is good progress when reducing fear. Be patient.
3. Finally, radiate compassionate care and calm into your environment to help reduce the fear and see people making smarter choices from an attitude of managed concern.
I encourage you to practice this Care Focus for 5 minutes each day to help you, your close company and your community.
Feel welcome to get in touch and let me know how this technique makes you feel.