Our country, our state, our town and our lives have been drastically impacted by the global pandemic. Most of the developed world has closed down. This is unprecedented and it can be frightening. Sudden, unexpected changes to our lives often are. It is easy to feel afraid, stressed and anxious. You are not alone if you do.
The pandemic has spread to over 100 countries and billions of people are worried they might become infected. Non-stop news coverage is focused on the virus and its harmful impacts. Health experts try their best to predict the intensity and scope of its spread, but no one knows for sure. There is uncertainty about how long it will last or where the next outbreak will occur.
And what of the local, national and global economies? Not knowing how deep or how long a recession might last only adds to our anxiety. Many can’t work and are worried about paying their bills. Business owners worry about paying their loans. Our governments are trying to help, but will it be enough and will it work?
All this uncertainty can lead to higher levels of stress, anxiety and even anger which are all forms of fear. Fear is an emotion our body feels when we believe we are in danger. It switches our body’s metabolic systems into what is commonly known as the ‘flight or fight’ response. Stress hormones like adrenaline are created, throwing our body’s functions into emergency mode. We can experience this as a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, upset stomach, and even the inability to react (emotional paralysis), etc.
While the ‘flight or fight’ is a natural response to keep us safe in an emergency, living in a constant state of fear will harm us. It is not healthy. Our life energy is redirected away from important body functions such as regeneration, digestion, growth, but most importantly our immune system. Science has shown how continual stress can lead to insomnia, fatigue, and depression which make us susceptible to illnesses.
The fact is, living in fear drastically reduces our body’s natural ability to fight this virus. This means not only an increased susceptibility to the virus, but also increased severity of the illness if we get it.
So, besides hand washing and social distancing, the next best thing we can do to avoid the virus is to stay out of fear.
But how can we stay out of fear if we are already afraid?
We can start by becoming mindful of our thoughts. Try managing concerns by focusing on what we can do today. Try not to worry about things that we cannot control or things that might happen. Find positive things to think about like “I will get through this; Everything will be fine; or I am grateful that I am healthy” etc.
Finding big and little things to be grateful for in our lives is a powerful way to quiet fearful thoughts. We can deepen the connection to people in our lives. Watch something together on TV that uplifts or makes us laugh; listen to music that feels good, play games or read an inspiring book. Exercise or go for a walk and take the time to absorb the beauty of nature. Whatever we do, do it out of loving care for ourselves and others.
Perhaps the most important action we can take is to breathe. Our breath is unique in that it is the only automatic body function that is possible to control with our conscious thoughts. It is a connection between the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of ourselves.
Have you ever noticed how the more stressed we become, the shallower our breathing becomes? We can intentionally override shallow breathing with practice. Practice taking slow and deep breaths. Begin by counting on the in-breath for 4 or 5 seconds and then slowing release the breath for another 4 or 5 seconds. Notice your breath expanding your chest and visualize your lungs filling up with nourishing oxygen. As you deepen and slow your breathing, literally feel your body relaxing. On the out-breath, visualize your body releasing stress. You can do this for as long as you like, whenever you feel stressed. Make it a daily habit.
You can consciously breathe anywhere at any time, but it might be easier if you can find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes as you focus on your breath. This helps to block out the distractions of the outside world giving you the space to go within yourself to notice what you are feeling.
Some people like to visualize inhaling love when they consciously breathe. They see themselves filling up with the feeling of love and circulating love’s healing energy throughout their body. Once again, on the exhale they visualize the release of all worries, stress and fears. Those who pray can ask God, or perhaps an angel or saint, to bless the air they breathe and their bodies.
Another practice that we have found helpful is to visualize your breath coming in and out through your heart. This is called “Heart Centered Breathing”. Try to imagine taking slow, deep breaths into your heart and filling up with love on the inhale and on the exhale sharing love with the world. By syncing your heart with your mind through your breath, research has shown that you create more harmonious electrical impulses in your heart and mind to enhance your body’s natural healing abilities. (heartmath.org)
While in this relaxed state, it is a perfect time to pray or hold loving intentions for others we are concerned about. Praying with love in our heart is significantly more powerful and effective than when we are in a state of fear. Our religions teach God is love. The more connected we are to love, the closer we are to God. As it has been often said, “Love heals all things”.
From a calmer state of being, not only is our immune system enhanced to stop the virus, but we are also able to make better decisions to manage our concerns. Our thoughts are clearer, and we can tap into our own intuition to help guide us. Calmly managing concerns, such as evaluating risk factors or determining next steps of action during this crisis, is far better than unconsciously reacting out of fear. Unchecked, fear can lead to panic and chaos which is very destructive.
Let’s remember – we are all in this together, and together we will get through this. The more loving we are, the more we stay out of fear. Worry, stress and fear lowers our energy level and weakens our immune system. Love nourishes our body and strengthens our immune system. It is what binds us together. Love brings out the best in us and those around us and can create miracles. So let’s all do our part to stay out of fear and heal this virus.