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Finding Calm Among Chaos

The other day, I saw this headline—WHO official says coronavirus may 'never go away'. After reading that, how do you feel?

Now consider this....scientific evidence has repeatedly show that most viruses never go away. Take HIV for an example. At one point, HIV was considered epidemic. At the beginning of the crisis, we didn't understand how it was transmitted and how to treat it. Today, we know a lot more, and even though HIV hasn't "gone away", as a society we know how to manage the virus.

Knowing that, how do you feel now?

It's completely understandable to be scared of Covid-19, especially here in northern New Jersey. Unfortunately, headlines such as the one I listed above can add to that fear in an unnecessary way. So can uninformed content on social media, which has been a known problem since before the pandemic and continues to be a problem today.

In Five Element Theory, fear is associated with the Water Element, which is associated with the Kidney. In East Asian medicine, the adrenal glands, which are situated on top of the Kidneys, are included in this Element. One of the purposes of the adrenal glands is to respond to stress. For example, let's say you're on a hike and suddenly you see a coyote running towards you. Part of your body's response for survival would be your adrenal glands sending hormones throughout your body to help jumpstart certain systems to give you energy (including increasing your heart beat and respiratory rate) while conserving other systems (including shutting down digestion, which takes up a lot of energy), so that you have the best chance possible to get away from the coyote. This same organ responds to stress, especially fear. Excessive stress and fear over time can tax the Water Element, which can cause some bodies to fall into a pattern of constant, low-grade stress with a higher heart beat and shallow breath or a pattern of collapse where energy is really low.

How do we manage fear in this day and age?

1. Avoid the news. Certainly, it's a responsibility as a member of society to be informed. However, the news is not your only avenue to staying informed. If you want the latest information, facts and expert advice about managing and preventing the spread of Covid-19, go to the CDC and WHO websites. Their information is spelled out in layman's terms and is easy to navigate. These facts are much easier to digest when read from a website written by an expert than spoken by a news reporter who may or may not be sensationalizing the facts.

2. Minimize social media. Scrolling through social media feeds can be a good way to see what's up with family and friends, but it's easy to scroll onto something that incites strong emotions. Spending less time on social media is one option. Another is to block/delete content and/or connections that consistently create a stress response for you.

3. Create routines. The body tends to like habits. The body likes to be fed at certain times and get a certain amount of sleep. Commit to going for a walk or doing 20-30 minutes of yoga every day around the same time. Schedule regular Zoom gatherings with family and friends. Set aside 30-60 minutes per day to play with a hobby you enjoy. These routines keep your systems running on a consistent, calmer energy.

4. Laugh. It can be difficult to laugh during dark times. Think back to 9/11....remember the baby steps it took to be able to laugh again? What's different about now is that this is a traumatic event that's unfolding slowly over a long time. It's okay to laugh. It's also okay if you're not ready to laugh. If you're ready, watch a funny movie. Read a comedic book. Watch a comedy special (I believe Jerry Seinfeld just came out with one on Netflix).

5. Be kind. Most of us have never been through a pandemic before. Stress and pain can cause people to not be their best selves. If a family member, a friend, a coworker or a neighbor says or does something that bothers you, before responding take a moment to recognize that their words or actions may be a reflection of their stress. Likely the words to describe the beginning of 2020 will be "pandemic" and "social distancing" but hopefully the words to describe the ending of 2020 will be "kindness" and "empathy". Being kind and empathetic can come automatically with practice. A simple read to help with this is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

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