On 5 March, 2020, COVID19 arrived on the shores of South Africa. Three weeks later, thousands had lost their jobs, some were stuck in quarantine, and the nation went silent as all were sent into lockdown. Such is the recipe for a national mental health disaster.
I am one of those people whose brain turns to mush in the face of chaos. I tend to stand at the coalface of tragedy and aim my blank gaze in the direction of precisely nowhere. And, of course, there is that annoying history of depression. Not to mention the fact that I lost my travel business overnight due to Coronavirus.
However, when confronted by this catastrophe, I sprang into action. I had profound lows, alternately crying through the night and waking in a flat panic. Soon I began to experience ongoing fears of my inability to feed my small children. I imagined the inevitable loss of our home when our savings ran dry. My fear felt like an endless foray into a vast, dark, unknown world where we collectively wander seeking answers we never find.
After seven days of this personal chaos, I decided it was time to get off the Corona train. I had grieved – quickly. It was time to calm my anxiety, transform my business, and get moving towards this bizarre new reality. Armed with a spiritual toolkit randomly collected over the years, I worked tirelessly to manage my anxiety so as to stay calm and think generatively.
Here are the methods I used (that actually work!):
1. Turn off the news, social media, and Coronavirus Whatsapp groups
As humans, we have an unusual fascination with the macabre. How else can one explain why people stop in busy traffic to observe the grisly aftermath of a car accident? If you REALLY want the most updated news on this virus, the only website you need to know is:
Otherwise, try to sustain the discipline to turn off your social and news channels. One possible exception is Instagram, which has incredibly inspiring content if you choose your accounts very (very very) wisely.
2. Learn how to do Trauma Release Exercises
Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) are founded on the principle that our bodies store trauma. By releasing trauma in the body, our nervous system is calmed which naturally releases mental/emotional trauma – as all these systems are connected. As a beginner to TRE, I would highly recommend working with a professional who could teach the exercises during lockdown via Zoom or Whatsapp. Otherwise, for those who have done TRE before, You Tube has great free resources.
3. Take online yoga classes
The definition of yoga is the union between body, mind, and spirit. When all three function in harmony with one another, there is no place for the anxiety to ‘live’ within that personal ecosystem. For those already practising yoga, most of the local studios have put their classes online and a daily practise makes a great anchor to overcome anxiety. Focus firstly on the breath and make the actual postures secondary, then spend several minutes of quiet time laying down at the end in Savasana.
4. Focus only on today, this moment, right now
What will happen after Coronavirus? Guess what – no one knows. No one. And no one includes you – yes you, the person reading this post. Therefore, it won’t help at all to imagine all the possible things that could possibly happen and manufacturing further potential catastrophes that will probably never happen. Wake up in the morning and make a sustained commitment to deal with what is right in front of you. If it helps, set an alarm on your phone with the message “focus on today,” and make today the best day you possibly can. Our lives, after all, are a collection of todays all strung together to create our future.
5. Listen to binaural beats first thing in the morning
Binaural beats is sound engineering at its finest. With tracks on You Tube and Soudcloud, binaural beats are “songs” engineered with specific soundwaves as the base note to balance the brain. Some tracks aim to restore balance of specific brain function – delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma. If you are not a psychiatrist, type “binaural beats for anxiety” into You Tube and you will get an algorithmic collection of fantastic calming beats.
Other SUPER simple anxiety reducing ideas – smelling lavender, taking Valerian, drinking chamomile tea, or meditating.
I hope this helps you find the eye of your personal storm. When we are calm, our frontal brain functions much better and allows us to think in a