I’m unnerved by the novel coronavirus. Watching it travel throughout the world and now affect our country and state, I don’t know how our national and local governments will lead and support its citizens during this uncertain time, who will become ill, how long the crisis will continue, or if it will re-emerge later in the year or next year. So much is not known.
My nervous system is easily upset as I tend to expect the worst possible outcomes in situations, so my response is nothing new. But I’m listening to others’ worries every day now, both in my office and at home, and I know I am not alone. This is important for all of us: we are not alone.
My daughter’s final college semester is going to be finished “online” -upending just about everything she and countless others thought their final months at college would be like. My son, a high school senior, is also worried about the implications for finishing out his year. My sister and father, and other loved ones, are in poor health with weakened immune systems. Anything planned could be cancelled. How we work is already changing. The economic impact is unknown, but clearly happening.
Clients and friends are rethinking travel plans, worried about loved ones and recognizing the disruption to their work, social and home lives. Anxiety is high.
In other parts of the world and country the disruption and death are already painful realities. It’s becoming clear that in order to slow and “flatten the curve” of the virus’s spread, we have to make drastic life changes.
Difficult, uncertain times call for us to dig deep and remember what centers and grounds us, and to clarify what options are open to us. When I’m tempted to yet again comb through all the news sites for something definitive about the virus, I now work hard to not “go there” – to go instead to getting clear on what I can do, what’s possible and what’s not. And sometimes I do my best to simply breathe.
We know the best advice about hand-washing, not touching your face, making sure you’ve got extra food and supplies in your home, etc. Suggestions about how to manage strong emotions and worrisome thoughts during this time is less available.
I follow several bloggers and one of my favorites, Sandra Kornblatt, recently posted, “How to Decontaminate Your Mind.” She wrote from an early epicenter of the virus in the United States: Seattle. She’s thoughtful and honest and recommends a procedure to get grounded and recognize our larger connection to others, to the mystery of life, to the divine, to whatever helps us recognize a bigger picture and reality.
You can read her post here.
Jason Stephenson shares YouTube music and meditations for those with sleep and stress challenges. Hailing from Australia where wildfires destroyed so much already, he intimately knows disaster and upset. His most recent post lists some suggestions, including:
“Refocus on your highest intent: Take a moment to become aware of any fearful thoughts. Only when we are aware of what is here can we shift our attention to something new. Spend a few minutes considering your highest hopes for the future. Then visualize what this looks and feels like for another few moments.
Come down to your heart: What does it offer at this moment? With your eyes closed, invite all uneasy thoughts down to the heart. As you sink into the peace and stillness of this space, let it be okay to not have certain answers or insights yet. What wisdom or virtues can your heart offer you in place of mental understanding?
Seek support: When we fear the future, it can be so deeply healing to turn to a loved one, friend, or professional who can lend an ear. Our human fears are universal; take this as an opportunity to connect rather than to pull away. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you have made it through tough times before.”
You can sign up for his meditations and articles here.
It’s impossible to know how the virus is going to change our lives and world. It already has and it’s going to keep changing. Surrendering to this reality is wiser than fighting it. At the same time we can work to care for ourselves and others in ways that use our inherent strengths. And we’d do well to remember that old Buddhist truth: Everything changes, nothing is permanent.
This too shall pass, but it’s going to be awhile.
The Telemental Health Option
I’ve started providing video therapy sessions to clients who moved to another part of the state, were unable to leave their home, or when a snowstorm made travel ill-advisable. I use doxy.me, an encrypted and HIPAA approved platform.
I prefer in-person sessions and yet find this a suitable alternative for clients with whom I already have an established relationship. I offer this option should the coronavirus response prevent office sessions. You’ll need a laptop or tablet, a quiet place that preserves your confidentiality and a decent internet connection. You’ll also need to confirm that your insurance company reimburses for telemental health; some plans don’t. More on all this in another post. For now, just be aware that video therapy sessions are an option.
Brenda Hartman-Souder March 2020