How to Be Calmer in the Middle of the COVID-19 Storm

There is no denying that the Coronavirus at our doorstep has disrupted our lives, and many are feeling powerless. When considering how I could best support people, I decided to offer practical tools to help ground you into a sense of well-being despite this stressful time. These tips and skills can assist you in dealing effectively with uncertainty, negative thoughts, and the uncomfortable emotions of worry, anxiety, and fear.

Breathe deeply, stay calm and grounded in the eye of a hurricaneLeading the way of all things important: self-compassion.

Many times, we exacerbate negative feelings by trying to deny them. Or we become overwhelmed by worry. Or if we do feel our emotions, sometimes we judge ourselves for not having it together more. Don’t! Concern, anxiousness, and even a ripple of panic are natural responses to the declaration of a pandemic and the growing confirmed cases of the Coronavirus. Be extra kind and gentle with yourself.

No matter what you feel, it’s okay. By acknowledging your feelings, they’re less likely to intensify or get out of control. Don’t expect life to be as usual—it’s not! Accept what is, then, take precautions, boost your immune system, check on neighbors and loved ones, and follow the guidelines to stay healthy. (If you are sick, stay home and protect others who may have a compromised immune system.) 
“Being kind to ourselves in hard times bolsters our resilience, so we can
learn from setbacks rather than getting stuck in rumination.”

~Sebene Selassie

Science shows that kindness and empathy boost our immune system while negative emotions lower our immune response. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and others. It's an action that will help everyone.


We can ease the disruption of our lives by leaning into compassion for ourselves and others.

Compassion is key in times of uncertainty

 

Act on the things you have control over to regain your balance and increase resiliency.

Our brains are wired for survival, so they don’t like danger and threat. Therefore, keep your thoughts in check. Don’t allow your mind to be a runaway train repeatedly churning worst-case scenarios. If you do get on an anxious track, interrupt it. Thoughts create emotions; if you want to feel calmer, change your thoughts. (We make better decisions when we’re calm since we’re more capable of accessing the logical part of the brain.)

MIND TIP:  It’s helpful to shift our minds by using our imagination or connecting with memories of safety and happiness. The brain doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination. This knowledge gives us an edge when utilized thoughtfully. By getting in touch with a happy memory or visualizing a positive experience or outcome, your body will begin to release neurotransmitters that counteract the stress hormones.

So, if you find yourself stressed out and anxious: breathe deeply and then use your imagination to create positive emotions. This imagery can be a happy reunion with someone you love, a loved one holding you tightly in an embrace, an exhilarating hike in the mountains, or a relaxing getaway on a warm ocean beach. With travel curtailed, imagery is the safest way for a getaway!

 

Do things you CAN control: love on your kids, exercise, listen to soothing music, or read an uplifting book to give your mind a break. By doing things you DO have control over, you’ll feel a little bit better. Activities that are soothing and nurturing will offset the encroaching anxiousness.


Sooth and nurture yourself to offset anxiety and worry

 

Another thing you can control is your perspective. It’s not what happens; it’s our perspective and how we respond to what happens that holds the greatest power. How can you shift your perspective to view this challenge from a place of realism while also keeping yourself encouraged and calmer?

MIND TIP:  Dr. Luana Marques, an anxiety specialist at Harvard and a licensed clinical psychologist in Massachusetts, gives this advice when feeling anxious. Grab a couple of ice cubes and hold one in each of your hands. Doing this simple action brings down anxiety and cools your brain. Pretty cool, eh? (Hopefully, we won’t have people hoarding ice.)

Increase self-awareness, emotional modulation, and mindfulness.

In stressful times like this one, emotional intelligence is paramount. Increasing your mindfulness and enhancing awareness of your thoughts and emotions will go a long way in helping you regulate tough emotions. At times of high stress, our Threat System is activated, and we need to engage our Soothing System.

For a deeper dive, check out our Heartmanity blog on “Why Should You Care About Emotional Regulation?”

 

Deep breathing is beneficial for calming because when the Threat System is in gear, we tend to breathe shallow and faster. Slow, deep breathing can help you calm even when your mind is twirling.

Breathe in peace. Breathe out anxiety.

          Breathe in safety. Breathe out stress.

                       Breathe in kindness. Breathe out fear.

You don’t need an hour of meditation to be more mindful. Being fully present at whatever you’re doing, no matter how mundane, is very restful for our minds and calming to the emotions. For example, when washing dishes, feel the warmth of the water. Listen to the gentle stream of water as you rinse the dishes. Hear the clang of the cups as you place them in the dishwasher. Absorbing completely into a simple activity, much like a runner’s high, will help you suspend concerns for a few minutes, refreshing you for what is before us.

MINDFULNESS PRACTICE: Another strategy is called Mindful Listening. Stop for 30 seconds. Listen to the unique sounds in your environment: the heater fan, the voices in the next room, the wind blowing outside, the slight hum of the lights, or the clicking of someone typing on their computer. Intensify your focus, noticing all the sounds. Simple. Only 30 seconds. Acts like a good night’s rest for your brain.

 

EMOTIONAL TIP:  For a quick gear shift to slow down your emotions and return you to the rational mind, try our 6-Second Gear Shift. (To get the skill card free, put in the code LOV19.) This practice works with engaging the cortex, the logical part of the brain. It's a simple exercise that modulates the emotions and has been found extremely helpful in calming intense feelings such as frustration, anger, and fear.

Do what you can to give empathy and support others Do what you can to support others.

This morning I received a notice from my online scheduling service, Schedulicity. The CEO announced the suspension of the monthly subscription fee until July 1st for those who carry their service. What a great way to support people who may be experiencing cancellations that create an economic pinch. If we all do what we can do to make this unnerving time a little easier, it will unite us. This targeted kindness reminded me of our social responsibility to give any way we can, in ways that are right for us. Kindness and caring are a win for all.

Our true power does not lie in avoiding problems or challenges; it lies in the confidence of facing them.

Together, we’ll learn how to be better prepared in the future and discover our ability to live in the calm eye of a hurricane—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Related reading:
 “A Brain Hack to Break the Coronavirus Anxiety Cycle.”

 “Yes, You Actually Can Do Something About the Coronavirus.”

For personalize coaching or to learn more about our Heartmanity programs, call 406-577-2100.

If you want to dig into learning more about emotional intelligence, check out our online emotional intelligence course.

Yes, teach me emotional intelligence!

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer’s passion is to help people create thriving relationships first with themselves, and then with each other. She teaches emotional intelligence skills and a step-by-step process that removes the obstacles to growth, loving connection, and communication. Her popular One Year Makeover and Return to Serenity programs provide a personalized approach to transformation. Her understanding of brain science strategically reshapes a person’s pain into power while restoring inner peace and well-being through a fun and remarkable learning experience. Jennifer is happily married to her beloved husband of 39 years and is the mother of three grown children.

Posted in Brain Fitness, Mindfulness and Perspective, Emotional Intelligence & Fitness