I installed this app called Momentum on my browser so that every time I open a new window, it throws up a photo of a gorgeous landscape and some positive words of enforcement. Just now it gave me a star-studded sky at the Yosemite National Park, and the words ‘Never underestimate your problem or your ability to deal with it’. It really made me pause (and think back to the days I lived to climb).
These are tough times. We’re in the midst of a worldwide crisis. We’ve hit the pause button hard. A kiss on the cheeks, a high five, a hug and my twice-weekly contact improvisation sessions – these are all things I took for granted only a month ago. Now, they’re all things to avoid. And that’s why, now more than ever, it’s so important to pause and breathe. To give some thought to our mental health.
Don’t underestimate the toll that a problem of this scale takes. Yet, that app was right. We also shouldn’t underestimate our personal abilities to deal with the curve balls that life throws at us. The words ‘global pandemic’ are an overwhelming weight that feels heavy and crushing, it’s easy to make your anxiety spike. If there’s one thing the past half-year has taught me: when the world gets overwhelming... Step back. Sit down. Breathe.
A global problem might not feel like something we can address as individuals. Social distancing measures aren’t about individuals, they’re about societies working in unison. They’re about everyone doing their part.
Stay home, stay safe, stay sane. Unfortunately, the unforgiving and inevitable math of epidemics is that it will get worse first. It’s easy to feel discouraged. Like your hanging on the couch is a futile effort. This is normal in chaos.
Do what you can for your friends, your family, your community. Be kind to others, and to yourself. What you’re doing is saving lives.
But you can only keep doing that when your mental health isn’t falling apart. I encourage you to take some time today, just a minute or two, to breathe and feel this very moment. In the words of the Buddha: “The past no longer exists, and the future is not here yet.” If you stop clinging to the past and the future, it’s a lot easier to unravel the tension in your body, realize that right now, everything is ok, and feel happiness seeping in.
Today I’m reading another book by Thich Nhat Hahn. He says: “The only moment in which you can feel truly alive is the present moment. Right now is the destination, your point of arrival.”
So allow yourself a few minutes to just… be.
Sometimes, I need an external stimulus to help me focus. Be it walking meditation, a few grounding breaths with the time limit set by the traffic light, the white noise of one of my kids snoring, a lit candle or the smell of burning incense.
Sometimes I use jewelry. There’s something comforting about the weight of a necklace settling in that space between my collarbones, the reassuring pull of an earring hanging out on my lobes. Or a ring keeping me anchored in the moment, a twinkle on my finger that calls my attention to the here and now.
I often coordinate my jewelry to reflect my needs. Garnet is a stone of strength, and it’s my current favorite stone to encourage me. A reminder that empowerment emerges through the cracks and the corners of adversity. I love to wear sapphires for clarity and focus - to help me see what’s really there instead of letting my imagination run wild scenarios.
Deep colors comfort me, rich hues that I feel I can just get lost in. When my focus zooms in on these colors, I can physically force myself to just stop and breathe for a moment.
I have to say though, that these are quite general tips for people who deal with anxiety sporadically. I urge you to seek help from professionals if your anxiety affects your everyday life. There are times when everything I do won’t be enough, and I just need to give my therapist a call to guide me to release some of the anxiety building in my body through somatic experiencing. As individuals we can only do so much to deal with challenges that are outside of the norm.
So hunker down babe, let your breath guide you to the present moment, and I hope to always hear that you are healthy and happy.