I am thinking of you in this anxiety provoking time and wanted to reach out. I’m sure you’ve been receiving helpful guidance on how to keep yourself as safe as possible from exposure to the COVID-19 virus as it continues to plague the world. I wanted to add to that useful information by offering you a few proven techniques to help you boost your emotional immune system. They can help you remain psychologically healthy in the midst of personal and global worry and fear. And, they are also wonderful techniques to help you combat depression and grief as well as anxiety.
Technique # 1: Military breathing
I love this technique because it’s so easy and works wonders to calm you down when you’re feeling anxious and stressed. Here’s the process:
Breathe in naturally while counting how many counts it takes to breathe in.
Whatever the count is, take twice as long to breathe out. So, if it takes 4 counts to breathe in, take 8 counts to breathe out.
Take in your next breath and count how many count it takes to breathe in. The number changes from breath to breath. This time it might be 3 counts, or 2 counts, or 5. Whatever the number is, take twice as long to breathe out.
So, you’re always counting the number of counts it takes to breathe in and doubling that count for your exhalation.
Do this for 90 seconds to a few minutes. You’ll know when it’s time to stop because you’ll feel calm. You’ll feel balanced and stable. You’ll feel normal. Like a car whose carburetor is idling smoothly, instead of running ragged. This simple breathing exercise helps to re-regulate your nervous system when it’s gotten whacked out from anxiety and stress.
Technique #2: Visualization
Your imagination is your most powerful tool. When we’re worried or depressed we tend to imagine worst case scenarios. The reality is that it takes the same amount of energy to imagine a best case scenario. So, experiment with imagining the best. Imagine yourself being healthy and well. Imagine your immune system withstanding any viral assault. Imagine your loved ones healthy and well. Imagine your neighbors, friends, community, and the entire population of the earth filled and surrounded with well-being. Doing this normalizes your own nervous system and helps you feel good. This in turn can only help your body stay healthy, and, make the world a safer, happier place too.
Technique #3: Self-compassion
We are living in a difficult, critical time and you need assurance that you’ll be able to manage the storm. A simple and effective way to do this is to place your hand on your heart. Or if you prefer, place it on your belly or solar plexus. Then feel the comfort this tender gesture brings you. This simple act can help to soothe your soul in these trying times.
Technique #4: Your favorite things
What do you know helps you calm down? Is it meditation? A walk? Dancing in your living room to a favorite song? A phone conversation with a friend? Whatever it is, please be sure to make the time to do it now. Your nervous system will thank you.
And since many of our normal outlets for fun and entertainment are inaccessible for the time being, during our leisure moments it’s important to focus our minds on positive entertainment we can access at home. It may be helpful for you to know that when we’re stressed it’s harder to concentrate, so it takes a truly engaging show, movie, or book to hold our attention. Two films I recently streamed that I recommend are: Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Mostly Martha. And, as a writer and avid reader, here are a few books I highly recommend about people who show amazing fortitude and resilience in the midst of profoundly trying times: The Nightingale, The Goldfinch, The Tattoist of Auschwitz, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, and Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge trilogy that begins with Pillars of the Earth.
Wishing you good health, resilience, and courage,