“Paralyzed, paralyzed, so messed up can’t open my eyes.”J. Green
In normal circumstances, I’m mid bop, with my hands in the air, singing this song at the top of my lungs. However recently, this lyric takes on a whole new meaning for me. (For my non-Tampa peeps, click HERE to listen…Saints this song ain’t for you…consider this your warning).
Since February 13th, I have been emotionally paralyzed and scared to open my eyes. Recently, I dealt with my dad being in the hospital, and two weeks later, the death of my favorite uncle. Anyone who KNOWS me, knows that my dad is my best friend. Much of who I am, (i.e. my love for reading, news & politics, soccer, & music) is attributed to him. When I got the call letting me know he was in the hospital for a serious medical condition, everything froze in me—Nothing else mattered.
I remember not being able to breathe, and feeling so lost. I knew I was panicking, but I could not emotionally regulate myself. I was stuck longing to jump on a plane, and crying tears of frustration, because there was nothing, I could do for him physically or medically. I felt helpless. In my mind, everything came to a full stop. I literally could not process or make space for anything or anyone requiring energy from me, because truly, I was hanging on by an emotional thread. I physically felt as if I was being suspended in a trance-like state because I was afraid. Heck, I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath, until I was able to lay eyes on my family last weekend.
For me, being so far away from family during these emergencies has been nerve-wrecking to say the least; and with COVID-19 at the forefront of every media outlet, the nerves have increased. With every cough and breaking news alert, it feels like I am in a continuous heightened state, just waiting for more doom and gloom to roll out. A few of my friends have reported being in the same space, where they are caught up in the sensationalism of news reports, chain messages promoting a possible quarantine, and obsessing over whether they have enough supplies at home. This leads to me to think about how folks are coping with what’s going on in the world, in addition to personal and professional matters that were already present? COVID-19 did not stop what was happening in your life prior to, and in most cases, it has created an entirely new set of stressors to now factor in.
When it comes to heightened emotions, it helps to take a moment to pause and identify possible triggers; In the case with my dad, I didn’t do this! My inability to physically be present with my dad highlighted my lack of control, and triggered my fear of losing him. I tricked myself into thinking, if I could physically be present, then maybe I could control the uncontrollable—which would mean I could control my fear. This internal conversation with myself, was my feeble attempt at suppressing my emotional responses.
In retrospect, taking a deep breath, and pausing would have been a gift to myself. Why? Because there was no need for me to rush through my emotions in order to be proactive with a solution. By pausing, and extending grace to myself, I could have done a self-check-in: What part of my body is holding the most tension? What can I do to alleviate the immediate pressure? Going for a walk, doing a tension release exercise, journaling my thoughts, or doing deep breathing exercises, would have allowed me, the space to identify the connections between my emotions and the fight or flight response I was experiencing. A self-check in would have nipped the panic, and allowed me to remember, there is only so much I can do.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the other stressors in our lives, let’s keep in mind that it’s important to:
- Recognize the limits of your control. While you can’t control the pandemic, you can control how you respond to it. The CDC has provided steps on how to protect yourself HERE.
- Protect your energy! Take deep breaths when processing updated news reports. Create boundaries when it comes to screen time, and how much information you are soaking in. If you are noticing an increase of negative emotions, take a break!
- Breathe, Stretch, Shake, Let it Go! Emotional dysregulation can induce stress and tension throughout the body. Conduct a body scan by doing a progressive tension release exercise. If you haven’t done one before, click HERE for an audio guide on YouTube.
With all that is going on in the world, here’s to being in control of our responses, our bodies, and most importantly, our peace.
-Your Favorite MFT