There are countless ways a mind and body can feel being sheltered at home for weeks at a time. Here we will look into common reactions I am seeing in the world about the impulses to overly do, to not be, and maybe to freeze.
URGE TO BE PRODUCTIVE
Many are writing lately about how this country’s coronavirus experience could shape a new outcome where society returns less “to normal” and instead to a new way of doing less and being more. With cultural norms abounding to overwork, be more stressed than your friends, not miss out, and just plain do, perhaps a forced slowing down will help us learn a new way.
Yet chances are you nervous system is finding it difficult to slow down if you’ve been on a non-stop thrill ride of productivity for the last…forever. Especially if your job has slowed down or academic work has shifted, the habit to do plus the anxiety of uncertainty could have your fingers fidgeting and legs bouncing against the couch. Your nervous system might have impulses for flight– to leave your home or desk– or your fight response might be activated to want to take action but it’s feeling stifled to help the world from your living room.
An urge for productivity has many people buying up baking supplies, learning a new language, or taking up roller skating or gardening for a new hobby. If you’ve wished for extra time in order to finally do such activities, wonderful! And if you’re grounded in what you’d like to do, rather than just a force that commands MUST DO, then that sounds rooted and healthy. Your productivity train though could become misplaced in overspending or misplaced overdoing, ignoring the time to just and be, rather than do. You might feel the urge to fill the time or feel you “should” be productive.
To help switch from a productivity prioritized mindset, get intentional. Ask yourself how doing is truly serving you, truly serving your overworked body, or serving your intuition. Or not. Get intentional about how you want you life spent: over working and doing to avoid yourself, or no? If you want to slow down, slow down: walk slower, breathe more, decide your next task based on your needs and energy rather than by default mechanism. Invite in more presence and focus of mind to clearly see the reasons why your impulses say to do. If you practice a new way, you might just find new joy and appreciation– as well as a needed break.
AVOIDING MINDFUL PRESENCE
Whether or not your body and mind are on this hamster wheel of doing, the changes around you could also make it difficult to be present. When too much doing is happening, presence is lost. Even if you aren’t set on Go mode, with your body’s reaction to the anxiety around us all and new life changes you could find yourself flitting about your space mindlessly jumping from cleaning to snacking to a rolodex of TV shows to working, not actually finding presence. Being present means arriving in this moment to notice yourself & surroundings, without judgment and without thinking that propels you into the future or past.
“Should” is also a killer of presence. Should pressure might seem to make you really “present” with laser focus on a task, but here your autopilot is likely on instead of real, honest checking in with what you need or want. (My ultimate goodies about “should” here).
Being constantly busy is a primary way to ignore what is actually happening in your present moment. Many people utilize busyness to ignore themselves: how they feel or what they need. Try something new and slow down. Put your phone down or the remote down. Those items aren’t bad, but watch how your hands automatically go to the remote if you start to feel lonely. Or you reach to text someone when you feel the underlying overwhelm of the coronavirus shut down. Pause. Ask yourself how you are and what would best serve you right now.
TRAUMA & FREEZE RESPONSE
For some people, especially those who have experienced trauma, the sensation of feeling “stuck” in the house could potentially bring up an old sense of what we call freeze, or collapse, via the nervous system. As there is fight and flight for action in times of stress or threat, there is also freeze, which looks like inaction yet actually has a fierce amount of energy underneath. It might feel like freezing or feeling stuck in place, collapsing, feeling suddenly very tired or foggy, feeling unable to make a move.
For those with freeze remaining in the nervous system from a past traumatic event, the mandated order to stay at home, can feel like an inability to move forward, to do, or to be actionable. It could possibly feel very reminiscent of trauma, wanting to do or protect yet finding it unreachable. You might notice a shutting down of your thinking with an underlying overwhelm. There could be a fear-inducing feeling of “I’m stuck.”
Try these to help:
- Move your fingers and toes to start re-awakening to a more pleasant state. Let hands play with a pen or better yet kinetic sand or a fidget.
- Orient yourself by moving your eyes around your space and letting your head and neck slowly follow your eyes. Take in colors, textures, things, for possibly 30-90 seconds, until ultimately your eyes naturally rest on something (doesn’t matter what it is) and notice your system: are you breathing slightly more easefully, has a muscle group relaxed?