One of the things that really concerns me right now is how fraught with fear we are becoming. Fear has always been a prominent emotion. After all, our nervous system is wired to look for cues of danger.
For most of us, our ability to rise above this tendency, as well as our resiliency, are reduced. I write this so that we can each be reminded of the importance to keep our nervous systems as calm as possible, even during these incredibly challenging times. Regardless of our faith or ethnicity we have had difficult histories – some more challenging, some during certain times. Even though we did not live through those histories personally, we are affected. This is referred to as ancestral, or generational, trauma. We carry these traumas and wounds within us in addition to the intuitive need to look for danger. No wonder we have such a tendency to be anxious, worried and even fearful.
The current world events are frightening. Yet, we cannot respond most effectively if we do not stay grounded and calm. (Looking for proof of this concept? As examples, reflect on surgeons in the operating room who encounter a medical crisis, or the pilot Sully Sullenberger who landed his plane safely on the Hudson River. If they had responded in panic, the outcome would not likely have been successful.)
I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to calm our panicked nervous systems, but I do encourage you to continue to learn ways to do so. Each time you practice a technique, you are reinforcing your parasympathetic system’s ability to calm yourself down, and each time that offers the potential for it to be a little easier the next time.
Why should you do this practice? Well, it’s really hard on the body to be in fight and flight for long periods of time. Also, it feels really awful!!!
And here is another important reason: The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is fear. When we are in fear, it is very difficult to feel safe enough to open our hearts to adequately connect with others, and this includes our closest loved ones; and that is not a good thing.
An important aspect of what makes our nervous system feel safe is the act of feeling connected to others. We are actually wired for connection in order to feel safe. It’s knowing that we can reach out and the other will be there for us. If we are in fear we are less able to reach out and to achieve that. This makes us more fearful, and also makes us less available to connect with others with whom we may not have familiarity.
As a result, we see the world as me versus you and us versus them. This experience of separateness and polarization breeds contempt, resentment, hostility, and more fear. And the cycle goes on and on.
Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” You may only feel like one person, and wonder how you can really make a difference, but it is important to remember that you are not really the singleton that you think you are. There are many of us who believe in peace and love [with just a side-note that way before Marianne Williamson even thought there might be a time that she would run for president, as a spiritual teacher she taught that “sometimes the loving response is no”.] Realize that you are not alone in this quest. There are many of us who long for peace and unity, but that message does not (currently) sell advertisements on the news, so it is not broadcast or printed.
Be the peace you wish to see in the world. Start your practices (or delve back in) so that you can calm your nervous system and respond from your more grounded, peaceful place. Your mind and body (and your heart and spirit) will thank you for it. I know that I do (thank you).
Please remember to take care of yourself even while you are taking care of others, personally or professionally. Remember that you must “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”.
I thought it might be helpful to remind us all of strategies to help calm our nervous systems as we continue to experience these difficult times, whether that is personally or vicariously.
- Keeping busy is an effective tool for mental distraction (in the short-term), but provide enough quiet time so as to not stress your physical body.
- While it is important to be informed, and even to bear witness to the stories, you only need a small amount of information to achieve that goal. Please turn it off or stop reading when it’s time. (Even before it’s time.)
- Focus on movement, hydration, and healthy nutrition to take care of your physical body.
- Re-visit your creative endeavors.
- Get out in nature.
May we all know peace! Namasté
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield, MI. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties, work or school related anxiety, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders, and those who wish to Remember and Become ‘Who You Really Are’. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and email@example.com, and visit www.JudyLipson.com for more information.
This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to replace medical care.