In these present times, as we struggle with the Covid-19 virus, there is much uncertainty.
Our brains do not like uncertainty, and our brain stem reacts with fear, anger, guilt and sadness. These reactions were learned thousands of years ago and were geared towards protection and survival. Whenever we are faced with uncertainty, we become hypervigilant looking for danger and this triggers our “fight or flight” response.
Unfortunately, until we know more about this virus and until we are able to develop a vaccine giving us protection, we are going to have to protect ourselves through physical isolation and distancing while at the same time maintaining our emotional and spiritual closeness to friends and family. It is this emotional and spiritual closeness which will help sustain us until our world stabilizes again. This time frame is likely to be months rather than weeks and so we will feel better sooner if we can just accept that these physical distancing patterns in our society are going to be with us for a while.
It is important for us all to respect that one of the most effective ways of fighting this virus is to give it no chance to spread. This means that physical distancing is critical and is why the closing of so many gathering spots and businesses is appropriate. A virus that cannot reproduce (and a host – i.e. a human – is needed for it to live and reproduce) will gradually just die off as is what happened with SARS. This Covid-19 virus may be more stubborn however and it may not be until we have an effective vaccine that we can let down our guard.
Until this occurs, we may need to continue engaging in physical distancing and isolation as a means of not allowing this virus to affect us, our friends or our loved ones. This does not mean that we should avoid emotional or spiritual closeness. In fact, we need more of this to soothe our minds and spirits. Our body is strengthened by exercise and we can try to find creative ways to optimize exercise opportunities.
Anxiety is part of fear and most of us will have some degree of anxiety or fear regarding our own health safety and health safety of loved ones and friends.
We may find ourselves feeling angry. Our anger might be geared towards the virus itself for its intrusion in our lives. Our anger may be aimed at the government for its actions or lack of actions. Our anger may be aimed at financial uncertainty and the potential for disrupting our financial stability and comfort.
We may find ourselves feeling guilty if we indulge in certain activities which may be seen to involve higher risk.
Certainly, there can be sadness for the apparent loss of love and closeness to friends and family as well as a grieving for current loss or perceived future loss.
Over the next while, Bette will be posting a few of my guided meditations on our website for your use. There are limits imposed by the website and so these guided meditations will be no longer than about 15 minutes. Although longer meditations may produce greater depths of relaxation, a shorter meditation can easily be repeated more frequently – one cannot overdose on meditation. If you find that an evening meditation is helpful for you to sleep, I might suggest that you do one meditation while sitting in your favourite safe and comfortable meditation chair. You could then transition to bed and listen again as you drift off to sleep. Feel free to repeat the guided meditations as often as you require. The goal is to turn down our “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system response and revert to our parasympathetic (think dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) response – i.e. our relaxation response. By doing this repeatedly, we will be able to remain calmer, boost our immune response and accept the most necessary social changes.
Be still. Be strong. Meditate and exercise. Maintain physical distance but emotional and spiritual closeness.
Dr. John and Bette.