Feeling Into Phase Two

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

About 3 months ago our world slowly came to a halt. Statistics filled the news, local shops closed, institutions that we always thought would be accessible shut down. We put on masks and gloves, and stocked up our pantries and grabbed extra toilet paper. As a collective we felt BIG feelings – terror, relief, uncertainty, hope, self-protection, gratitude and more. We rode the waves of this unchartered and unmapped territory together.

In many ways we were tested like we never have been before. We felt the anxiety of uncertainty and got angry, scared, quiet, sad, and took these feelings out on each other. And in those rare moments where we could breathe maybe we remembered to be kind to ourselves, and those around us. Forgiveness and gentleness became our friends.

We also showed up for each other like never before. We redefined what it means to parent, to teach and to love. We surprised ourselves with how much we could get through. We realized we are human, and in the middle of global upheaval, we are doing the best we can. And then we got up and did it all over again the next day.

It took a few weeks and then a new way of life settled it. It looked nothing like our old life but the dust was settling and we found a weird new groove. There was certainty in the uncertainty.

And now, Phase 2 is unfolding. Schools, coffee shops, hairdressers (and more) are slowly reopening their doors and we find ourselves in a state of change, once again. Even when change is “good”, it can be hard to make the adjustment. A shift of any kind takes work. Good doesn’t necessarily mean easy.

Phase Two might bring with it another phase of feelings for you. Another wave to ride. Another set of uncertainties or questions like – should I send my kids to school? Do I still need to wear a mask? Who can I visit with? How long will the distancing last?

You might find yourself energized one day, and exhausted to the bone the next – this is natural to feel.

You might find yourself excited about things being open, and feeling the heartbreak that social distancing is here to stay for a while – this is natural to feel.

You might be in grief from lost experiences, jobs or loved ones that are no longer part of your world and nothing feels okay – this is natural to feel.

You might be happy, grateful and going with the flow – this is natural to feel.

Your whole, beautiful, messy human experience is okay and allowed. There are no wrong feelings or experiences when we are all navigating something we have never done before. Give yourselves the permission to allow all that is there, to be there.

Permission looks like this: Name your emotion. Naming it can provide you with a sense of solidity because your brain can wrap itself around something your body and heart are experiencing. It helps your brain and body connect, which helps your nervous system to calm down.

Remind yourself that this is how you are SUPPOSED to be feeling (no matter what it is, your feelings are valid!). There is no right or wrong here. Getting angry at or berating yourself can often trigger shame and a desire to hide. Big feelings need connection to soften and release.

Connect – with yourself by taking deep and steady breaths. Getting out into nature. Journaling. Or connect with a trusted friend. The one you know has got your back when things get hard.

And perhaps you read this and tomorrow, when life takes over, you forget. Come back to this post. And come back again. Because you deserve to know that all that is happening inside you is okay. It won’t last forever because change is the foundation of the human experience.

Phase Two, here we come. Let’s keep holding hands and remembering: we are literally all in this together.

I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats That Don’t Exist

By Shahaa Kakar

I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.
I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.
I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.

This is a mantra I have been repeating to myself today.

For people with anxiety, our minds are constantly playing out every possible disaster scenario and planning how to respond to them, should they occur:

“What if this happens? What if that happens? How will I cope then? How will I deal with that? What if something happens that I haven’t even thought of!”

Our minds go spinning off into all sorts of imagined apocalypses. Even though these threats are not real, this thought process is anxiety-inducing in itself and triggers a stress response in our bodies. Our nervous systems don’t know the difference between real and imagined. Our heart rate speeds up, the adrenaline starts pumping and we go into fight-or-flight mode (or maybe live there), ready to respond to the non-existent threat.

Have you ever noticed this when you watch a really scary TV show, for example? Your back might start tensing up, you may notice yourself holding your breath. It’s the same physiological response at work – and over time it has a toxic effect on our beings and our bodies. It’s not a nice way to live!

When you notice your mind running down these paths, pause, take a deep breath and remind yourself, you are safe in this moment and everything is okay. You don’t need to prepare for impending disaster. You are perfectly capable of responding to anything that actually happens.

In the meantime, come back to this moment. Physically turn your head and look around in all directions. This act of turning our heads signals to the brain to take in the current information. Perhaps you notice a beautiful painting in your room or a lovely tree outside your window. Take a moment to really notice it. Breathe it in and notice what it feels like in your body to be present with the beautiful painting or the lovely tree.

Then, if you want to take one step further, put your vivid imagination to good use and imagine the situation you were worried about now working out. See it fall into place in your mind’s eye and imagine how great you will feel when that happens. If you have a mind that needs to plan, plan how you will celebrate when this happens! 🙂

Repeat as needed. Everything is okay. You got this!