Something a little bit different – Neuroscience informed ways to manage the stress of lockdown pt 1

Firstly let’s acknowledge reality. We are all being impacted by a global pandemic, it will be impacting us differently, but it will be impacting us.
Being human, this will have an effect on us. That’s unavoidable, and if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, fearful, hopeless, bored, disconnected, angry, that’s all normal!

We can’t change what’s happening out there in the world, and I don’t know what’s happening in your individual life that may be beyond your control; but I can offer some ideas on how you might begin to find some moments (and hopefully longer spaces of time too) of peace and of respite, some little windows of calm.

Lots of people will be expounding the wonders of yoga, meditation, bread making or learning a new skill. It can be easy to roll our eyes, and wonder how can any of that help in any way, and that’s a valid question, and sometimes we try these things and they just fall flat.

In the work I do I have found that one ‘self care’ or ‘stress management’ tool or idea, DOES NOT fit all, and it doesn’t fit any of us all the time.

What helped yesterday or this morning can feel annoying or impossible right now.

You need to stop and ask, how am I right now?

Finding ways to manage the stress and distress of living through these incredibly hard times, has to be responsive. Responsive to you and how your feel right now.

Are you irritated, snapping, raging at the world. Afraid, anxious, worrying about every tiny and huge aspect of life, or are you shut down, moving through mud, hopeless or feeling helpless and trapped?
Every different state that isn’t one we want to be in, is different. It will involve a different set of chemicals, breath and heart rate, body position and muscle tone, it will have different cognitive echo’s of these bodily states, and different sensations and emotions too.

What actions, tools, techniques that might help, will have to be the right ones for you, right now, in this moment.

Sitting down to meditate when you feel enraged or very low works for some but can often leave us feeling overwhelmed or swamped by the very feelings were trying to take a break from.
Closing your eyes when you feel anxious can leave us feeling deeply afraid. Trying to do something active and aerobic when we feel flat and disconnected can feel like some kind of impossible cruelty.

So what do we do?
Personalise and respond to how you are right now.

A few suggestions:
Feeling angry and agitated – Try letting some of that energy move around, some QiGong shaking (at about 2.30mins I show how this shaking is done) or speed walking, if you need to get some stuff off your thinking mind first, maybe some angry writing, fast and not censored.

After you’ve given your body a good shake, maybe move into some gentle patting and tapping (an example of body tapping here), especially around the back of the back and head, the shoulders and just under the collar bone. Do this tapping gently, with just the tips of your fingers if you like. It should feel good!

Also give some time to deep breathing, in through the nose and really noisy sighs put through the mouth. You can do this type of breathing throughout the shaking and tapping.

If you’re feeling fearful or anxious it can be great to get down to the ground, seek some support from its solidity. Pile up loads of blankets and pillows, lay on your side of that’s available to you, pillows between your legs, under your head and behind your back, and some to hug. Take your time, make this place feel really good!

In this place of comfort and support, try breathing in and out through your nose, count to 6 on the out breath, hold here for the count of 4, and breath in however feels natural.

So, our for 6, hold for 4, in naturally, repeat.

Keep that counting pattern going. See if the counting can get slower. 
On the out breath and hold really let go, feel the cushions and material around you, keep your eyes gently open., the safety and solidity of the cocoon you have created for yourself.

If your feeling really shutdown and disconnected – Breath in through your nose, breaking the in breath half way though with a brief hold, the sigh out of the mouth: in, in, sigh, do this 4 times.

Sit up right, in a chair, start pressing your feet into the ground, press on the in breath, release on the out breath, see if you can keep getting stronger with the pressure until you feel it all the way up to your bum and lower belly. Then still sitting, feet on the ground, open and close your knees gently, like butterfly wings.
Do the – in in, sigh breath 3 more times.

Now turning your head left to right, not all the way. Just gently. Track the room your in at eye level, looking gently at everything across the horizon line, back and forth, very slowly.
Stand up. Breathing in through the nose raise the arms side ways as high as they comfortably go, let them move back down breathing out through the nose. Do this for a minute or two. Arms up and down, really slowly, letting the breath lead, the hands should be really relaxed!

Next, go to your window, and find the furthest horizon lines, they could be roofs, hills, tower blocks, satellite dishes, just look out to your natural horizon line.
Finish by doing 3, in, in sigh breaths.

Let what you need right now and neuroscience be your guide to what different states of mind and emotion might need to move things a bit.

Move – Breathe – Change

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