During the time that all of the country has been asked to practice social distancing, and many are in isolation or self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease to vulnerable groups of people and to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system, people are experiencing increased concerns in their lives. For people who are already regulating their mental health issues like anxiety and depression, this can be a particularly challenging time.
I am not a mental health practitioner, although I do have a master’s degree in mental health, and I work regularly as a body mind therapist (which is simultaneously being a life coach and licensed massage therapist). Working in the field of health (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) I see many clients who suffer from anxiety and depression. Although I do not treat these mental health issues, my clients are referred to their therapists for this support, I do support people in releasing the tension in their emotional, mental and physical state and educate them on how to increase their “happy hormones” so that they can live with decreased anxiety and depression.
What is Anxiety?
In anxiety, the body is in a constant state of alert, or “fight or flight,” otherwise known as the sympathetic nervous system. People with anxiety have a hard time regulating this system. It is constantly sending them alerts that there are things to be concerned about. Small things can feel life threatening, and learning to cope with them is a learned skill.
Self-Medicating the Pain
Often times, people with anxiety or depression turn to other forms of self-medicating, like drugs, nicotine, alcohol and other addictions like gambling, shopping, binge watching TV, or over/ under-eating. These are unhealthy ways of dealing with anxiety and depression. Even though they give a person a temporary high and make that person feel momentarily better, the long term result is self-sabotage. After drinking, spending, overeating or partying too much, the person wakes up the next day and realize he or she didn’t actually solve any problems, and oftentimes, if the behavior is repeated frequently, creates more of a problem, including increasing anxiety and depression.
Shame tends to circle underneath these mental health issues. When a person is unwilling to confront their own shame-causing behaviors, they tend to create more shame from which they try to hide or run. The stay in denial about these feelings, by attempting to temporarily mask them with these unhealthy and addictive behaviors. These behaviors cause a temporary rush of chemicals and hormones that make the person feel better, but over time are damaging.
The choice is ours. Which tools will we use? We have the option to choose healthy behaviors that are temporary solutions with long term benefits, although they may not give us that immediate high or sense of relief. Or, we could choose the unhealthy behaviors that feel good now, but hurt us in the long run. Keep reading to discover healthy tools we can use NOW to support us LONG TERM.
Mental Health Issues
Anxiety without the coronavirus is a mental health issue that is treated with psychotherapy, medication and tools for relaxing. Some of these are: resting, calming the nervous system, like massage/ craniosacral therapy, taking action towards making life feel better, meditation, prayer, spending time with family and friends, and community service.
Anxiety is heightened with the coronavirus, and bigger life circumstances that we are facing right now, such as
- not having an income,
- losing a job,
- losing loved ones who are at risk or ill,
can all be incredibly overwhelming.
I don’t think it is helpful to label people using diagnosis, except for psychiatrists to attempt to support people’s chemistry as they are going through difficult circumstances that the client has not yet learned to manage on their own with tools.
My body mind concept of anxiety is “I have a lot of feelings inside of me, but I don’t know or trust what I am feeling, and I am trying to do whatever I can to avoid looking at or feeling those feelings.” Anxiety also comes from believing that we can “do it all alone,” even though we are interdepedent as humans, and separating ourselves from others can feel like death in the subconscious
What You Can Do to Manage ANXIETY During the Coronavirus and Practicing Social Distancing:
#1 Use Your Imagination to CREATE Your Life
- Spend time going deep into your core to discover the beauty that resides there.
- Allow yourself to go into hibernation or sanctuary inside of you.
- Find that place inside of you that offers refuge and shelter. Rom that place, discovering your gifts, and imagining a NEW way of using them in the world.
#2 DON’T WATCH the News
Don’t watch the news or read twitter, or social media or any other nonsense news that is scary or anxiety provoking. Over saturating yourself with news about the virus causes your cortisol levels to spike, which actually reduces your immune system. You want your immune system STRONG right now, so find a virtual meditation or yoga class. Here is a FB group my friend Laura started for exactly this: https://www.facebook.com/groups/525310841725790/
#3 Create a Routine
Create a routine, including when you are allowed to watch any news or get any updates on the virus.
- Make a list of what you want to know about the virus through the day, and actively search the information you want to know for a specific amount of time.
- DO NOT allow other people’s hysteria and spam to inform you.
- Routines allow us a sense of control over our immediate environment and provide us with safety and security.
#4 Fill Yourself with Positive Information
#5 Take Control of Your Environment
If your environment is out of control (as in things are disorganized or messy and it’s causing you anxiety to be with it) then tackle ONE SMALL AREA every day. Determine which area you will do, and spend 15 minutes cleaning it up. Just spending 15 minutes a day organizing or cleaning a space you don’t usually spend time with will make an amazing difference.
#6 Practice Self Care
My personal favorite ways to combat anxiety are:
- taking a bath,
- having an orgasm,
- drinking tea,
- reading an inspirational book,
- eating chocolate,
- cooking a healthy meal and
- talking to people.
What is Depression?
Depression is a natural survival phenomenon. For 10 million years, we were hunters and gatherers, cave men and women, who were interdependent, tribal, pack animals. We could not survive without each other, and to be apart literally meant DEATH. When we STOP MOVING due to freezing temperatures, a message is sent to the brain saying, “It’s winter, go into survival mode.” This message to your body happens through neurochemicals in your brain, not in your physical, sensing body.
For example, your sense of touch (nice weather) or your sight (I see sun and flowers, not snow and ice) is not what determines what causes these neurochemicals to release. The chemicals dump because you stopped moving your body, and it thinks you are going to starve and try to survive with your family of 50-500 people in a tent or cave for a long period of time. Your brain automatically looks for food that will sustain you through winter, and depresses your mood to be able to get along with so many other humans in such a tight space for an extended period of time. The body actually stops repairing itself as well, in order to conserve calories for surviving. This depresses your immune system as well, which has negative impacts for you during the coronavirus outbreak. This information is available in a book called Younger Next Year by Henry S Lodge.
There is situational depression and chemical depression. The diagnosable depressions range from mild and irregular to severe and life-long. What causes depression is undefined, but researchers point to everything from chemical imbalance (including neurotransmitters that regulate mood, pathways of least resistance in the brain that come from negative thoughts and how the nerve cells communicate – which can also be treated with craniosacral therapy), to genes, to stressful life events, and how people are able to deal with stress, early losses and trauma, the seasons, and medical problems (including addictions like alcohol and narcotics). For more information about what causes depression, I would like to point you to an article from Harvard Medical School here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression
Social Distancing and Depression
During the social distancing and isolation of the coronavirus, being cooped up inside, not moving, possibly binge watching television or sitting at your computer all day, with our family members that we may not know how to get along with, many of these neurotransmitters are firing, telling us to eat a high fat, high calorie content diet, and to go into a low grade depression. (How else do you think cavemen dealt with starving to death in the winter with their mother-in-law?!).
The BEST WAY to OVERCOME this DEPRESSION is to MOVE.
When springtime came, hunters and gatherers of course were running around, chasing animals to eat and picking food all day to feed themselves and their children/elderly. MOVING helps the kind of depression that people will experience during social isolation and quarantine. It is imperative to get at least 1 hour of exercise every day during this time. Unless you want to get depressed and eat everything in the house.
You Aren’t Feeling Your Feelings
Earlier, I described my personal definition or experience of anxiety being someone who has a lot of feelings but isn’t able to differentiate them or feel them. My personal definition or unscientific theory on depression, based on working on people’s bodies for over 20 years and helping them release their depression is that they just simply DON’T feel their feelings.
Very often times, these clients had situations or circumstances in childhood to send a message that
- Feelings were not ok and should not be expressed and
- Something so painful happened that they are trying not to feel that again.
What happens when a person shuts down their entire feeling system, to avoid pain, is that even happy or good feelings cannot be felt either.
What you can do to regulate DEPRESSION during the coronavirus pandemic:
#1 Use Your Imagination to CREATE Your Life
Don’t allow yourself to go down the road of everything that is NOT working. Just don’t even let yourself start down that road. Find something to create, talk to someone, help someone, serve someone or be a contribution. The best way to get over our own sense of inadequacy is to support someone else by being there for him or her.
#2 DON’T WATCH the News
Don’t watch the news or read twitter, or social media or any other nonsense news that is scary or anxiety provoking. Don’t spend your life being mindlessly influenced by outside forces that you wouldn’t choose for someone you love.
#3 Love Yourself and Make Loving Choices for Yourself
#4 Remember You Are Amazing!
For depression, usually isolation creates negative thoughts. The quickest way to go down the shame spiral of depression is to leave yourself alone with your own negative thoughts. This is a challenging time. Many people who depend on OUTSIDE influences to make them feel better, like
- their job,
- their money,
- socializing, or
- other forms of distraction
are particularly sensitive to this time. Remember that YOU are not what you DO or your SUCCESS. YOU are an amazing human being just because!
Exercise – as discussed above this is IMPERATIVE during this time.
#6 Be Creative
Do art or creative expression to get those feelings moving
#7 Rip Boxes 🙂
Start ripping boxes – this not only helps unexpressed or repressed anger, but is also a good form of exercise.
#8 Create Positivity
Spend time with positive people on the phone or on video calls.
#9 Fill Yourself Up with Positive Information
Fill yourself with positive information. Read inspiring books, watch inspiring webinars or Ted Talks, talk to a life coach or virtual therapist.
If you are reading this post realizing that there are many other tools available to you to support your own uniqueness while practicing social distancing, whether that is experiencing anxiety or depression, and reading this article made you curious about what else is available, please check out my Pain Free Guide.
If you are interested in doing some intense shadow work, diving into the parts of your body that are restricted or contracted (that result in what psychologists label anxiety or depression) and you want someone to do that deep dive with you, (THIS IS NOT TRADITIONAL THERAPY) please book a breakthrough session here.
READ MORE FROM ME
Over the years, I have been a serial learner and practitioner, taking in information about psychology, religion, spirituality, science, medicine, quantum physics, relationships, parenting, and overall, general happiness and work-life balance. I’ve been fascinated in what it takes to and have created my life of pure joy, happiness, balance and peace. It is my mission to spread what I have learned and practiced to you in ways that are simple, easy to understand AND implement. I have served people in achieving realignment in their bodies, relationships and purpose for over 20 years. If you liked this article, and you want to read more, please visit one of the links below:
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