I hope you and those you care about are well. I’m hanging in there. The days of the pandemic have been a roller coaster for me, as I’m sure they have for all of us. My personal experience seems to go like this:
Day A: Existential dread. No joy, no hope, no fucks to give. No new reasons for this to happen, it just does.
Day B: Less dread, the idea of hope, I find a fuck in a cabinet I hadn’t opened in a while.
Day C: Wake up in a good mood only to have that mood squished by life
Day D: Sleep most of the day and withdraw from everything and everyone
Day E: Wake up feeling okay, on the lookout for life to squish the okay feeling, it doesn’t happen. Make some plans to chat with friends.
Then back to Day A. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
I’ve been learning to cope with my existential dread for a few years, now. Massive amounts of therapy and life coaching have helped me change the way I think about my life and my self which has allowed me to a big and bold steps to accomplish things I’ve always been too afraid to do, or felt that I didn’t deserve.
The next phase of all of this work was to rewire my nervous system so it wasn’t always in fight/flight/freeze/faun mode. I needed change my thinking to be able to do the things to show myself that I could survive the scary things, and that hey, these things weren’t actually scary.
But then some real scary shit happened on a global scale. My nervous system basically turned into the voice of Zack de la Rocha screaming, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”
Which is not helpful. I mean, it is, because it is my body’s way of saying, “I’m not letting down my guard because I’m protecting you so we can survive this thing!” But this rise in anxiety has left me exhausted, disconnected, and honestly feeling like complete shit.
I woke up feeling great the other morning, only to have the tasks of everyday life fill me with agitation and annoyance. I talked with one of my life coaches (it takes a village) about this yesterday and she said it was probably because the default state of my nervous system is to be on edge and ready for something to happen. She suggested that training my body to accept a different default state could help prevent my mood from souring when things go off kilter, as the are wont to do. It should also help me from sabotaging the good days by raining on my own parade before someone or something else does.
To do this, I have put to put my body in a calm state to show myself that I can be safe in it. I must acknowledge when I am in a calm state, and to do this I have to be aware of the calmness. If you are interested in trying something similar, here’s what I will attempt to do at least a few times a day (but forgive myself if I don’t).
- Mindfulness activities. Mindfulness has been huge in helping learn self-regulation and self-awareness. I’m someone who feels very deeply (even if I don’t always show it) and I react to the feels that I have. But feelings aren’t facts, they are data, and it’s more important for me to understand what the feeling means than it is to react. Mindfulness activities help train my brain so I can become aware of when I’m feeling calm and take note of it. Here are some fun mindfulness activities, while these are written for kids, anyone can benefit from them.
- Learning what “calm” actually means to me. I just searched for “what’s it like to feel calm?” and this feeling seems to be hard to pin down. The search results were along the lines of “how to soothe anxiety” and even the very definition of “calmness” is, “the state or quality of being free from agitation or strong emotion.” But what does that mean? So what I’ll do is journal about the feelings and sensations I experience when I think I am calm.
- Prove that I am safe when I am in this calm state. I will look for the tigers and show myself that the only one is my stuffed animal I have had since I was 5 years old, and he’s been trained for snuggling and not tearing out my jugular. I live alone, so I will tell myself that no one will come through my door in a dysregulated mood. I’ll feel my heart beat and my lungs breathe to show myself that I am surviving this calmness.
Today’s Scorpio Full Moon is giving us the power to define who we want to become. Everything around us seems to be burning down, but we can decide how we want to rise up from our ashes. I want my default state to be “calm” instead of always on edge and anxious. And I can start doing the work (and GOOD GOD will it be work!) now to get myself to that state of calmness.
What are some things that you can do feel calmness? Is calmness even the sensation you’d like to become your default? I’m sure this something that varies for many of us! I’m curious to know what you think. What’s your default state and is there a state you’d like to have instead? What activities can you do today to get you closer to that preferred state?