This page is here to anchor you in your center, empower you to choose your strongest self, and soothe and steady you.
We are going to get through this. How you feel as you get through it is my concern.
With great love,
The world is experiencing the impacts of the viral pandemic. It’s alarming to witness entire countries close borders and stores and cancel flights, services, and events. It’s tragic that some people who contract the virus do not recover. All of this is factual and beyond your control.
Many people are cascading through intense cycles of fear in reaction to these out of control events and they’re panicking, hoarding, feeling paranoid that their very survival is at stake. Feeling and behaving this way is not beyond your control. In fact, this is the area you have great dominion over, your internal state.
Emotion is moving energy. It moves in our bodies and is highly contagious. Sadness, anger, joy, patriotism, and celebratory feelings are all examples of emotions that spread when enough people feel them. Fearful emotions spread like wildfire.
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(See, good things go viral too.)
Check-in and Change
Before you read on, check-in with yourself. Be honest, no stiff upper lips or stoicism. How are you doing? Do you feel safe? Are you a little off? Or is everything inside you spiraling? Whatever your answer, it’s okay. Recognize it without judging it. Observe it. It’s not you. It’s a feeling.
This page is a resource designed to guide you to a grounded, centered state of fortitude.
Let's get to work.
Prime Yourself To Grasp This Information - Breathwork
I’m asking you to do this before reading on because when your mind is in a high state of stress, you are unable to grasp calming wisdom. In fact, the greatest solutions are unavailable to you because when you’re in this state only information that resonates with and confirms the stress feels true. You can see why it is a dangerous and harmful state to remain in.
You’ll be far more capable of handling any problem when you are grounded, secure, rational, and in possession of your power. Please do this process now:
Take a few minutes and follow this breathing process. Read it then do it.
- Imagine there’s a red ball of light at the base of your spine. Put all of your attention there. To do this you’ll have to take all of your attention away from thinking and analyzing. It’s okay, your unceasing mental vigilance actually isn’t helping anyone.
- With all of your attention on the red ball of light, inhale through your nose for a count of five. Direct the breath into that ball. Follow the flow of your inhale and imagine the ball expanding.
- Pause your breathing for a count of five. See the expanded red ball.
- Exhale through your nose slowly for a count of seven.
- Repeat this seven times. If you catch yourself thinking, return to the ball. Place ALL of your focus on it. Get out of your head. If you are struggling with being distracted, use your powers of discipline and focus. Breathe into the ball of light. For these few minutes, nothing else exists. Add on breaths if you have a rough start.
Okay, I am working from the premise that you have done the breathwork in the drop-down above.
Right now, in the midst of change and uncertainty, you can work to help yourself into an increased state of calm and centered wholeness.
This note is broken into sections to speak to different aspects of this challenge and your mind. All of them are designed to put your feet on the ground and pull your mind out of fear. You can read it in order, or go to a header that feels interesting right now. Go to whatever you can grasp and then go back to what you skipped.
GUIDELINES TO HELP YOU NAVIGATE THIS CHALLENGE
Here are some guidelines for handling this and most any significant challenge. Click the rule for an explanation of the guideline. Take them slow. Read each one and reflect on it. Take one into meditation. See yourself becoming better able to control your inner world. Your outer world will reflect your changes. This is the most important work.
I understand how my thoughts interact with my body and health.
Nothing happens in a vacuum; there is a connection at every level. Every act impacts someone or something else. This is true within our bodies too.
The CDC cites stress at the leading cause of disease. If you are living in stress, it is exacerbating all of the challenges you're facing.
“Certain types of chronic and more insidious stress due to loneliness, poverty, bereavement, depression and frustration due to discrimination are associated with impaired immune system resistance to viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and cancer. Stress can have effects on hormones, brain neurotransmitters, additional small chemical messengers elsewhere, prostaglandins, as well as crucial enzyme systems, and metabolic activities that are still unknown. Research in these areas may help to explain how stress contributes to depression, anxiety and its diverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract, skin and other organs.” Stress.org
In addition to causing physical aging and disease, stress blocks inspiration, creative flow and the ability to see the bigger picture. From this contracted space we cannot create success, happiness, health or joy.
What is stress?
Stress is the result of your thinking. It comes from your thoughts about what you're focusing on. Whether something is stressful or not is highly subjective. Many people experiencing today's global challenge are not feeling stressed. I am among them.
I am not superior. I don't have special qualities. I have lived a life that's presented massive upheaval and life-changing challenges and it taught me that I can control what I allow to occur inside of me. I can control what I focus on. I can choose not to undermine myself or allow outside influences or circumstances to undermine me. I have worked myself up into frenzies that left me trembling in corners and relegated to desperation so intense that I just gave up.
At the bottom, I discovered how to operate my mind and body. I learned how my systems work and that if I wanted to thrive and connect with higher forces, I had to live at that level of energy.
The good news is you can learn and practice this for yourself and change the way you show up and feel during challenges.
Here's a look inside the body's response to your thoughts about events. Remember when you perceive life as scary and threatening you feel stressed. When you perceive life as an experience with challenges that you can handle you feel empowered. The state you end up in dictates how your autonomic nervous system responds.
Your body's autonomic nervous system is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Here's a table and a graphic to illustrate their different effects. While you read, consider which system is most often activated in your body?
|Parasympathetic Response - Relax and Renew||Sympathetic Response - Stress and Defend|
|decreased blood pressure||increased blood pressure|
|hormones of relaxation and regulation flow (acetylcholine, oxytocin)||stress hormones spike and circulate (cortisol, epinephrine)|
|body relaxes and feels safe||body readies to flee from danger|
|digestion increases as blood flows||digestion slows as blood is diverted|
|feel calm, relaxed, able to assess circumstances patiently, reasonably, flexible thought, open to higher solutions, responsive||feel anxious, charges, unable to rest, or think with altitude, hyper-vigilant, and over-focused, reactive|
There's a lot you can do to help reduce stress reactions and move back into a state of relaxation and renewal. Here are some approaches:
1) The breathing process shared at the opening of this page when practiced for more than four minutes helps move the body from a stress reaction to the relaxation response. Click here to go to it.
2) Meditation. Meditation is not thinking with your eyes closed. That's actually going to allow you to stay stressed and will not create any changes. Meditation is a fast from thinking. Focus on your breathing. If you find it challenging to get quiet. Follow a guided meditation. I have some free ones here.
3) Massage and touch. If you're home with healthy loved ones massage each other. If you have a pet, devote 10-15 minutes to just petting and connecting with them. If you're alone, use a pleasant oil and rub your own hands, arms, neck, and shoulders. All of these bring you into the present and help the body relax.
4) News and media fast: Smartphone use has been shown to increase heart rate and lower autonomic nervous system activity. Take a break from all electronics and get back in touch with living in the present without being bombarded with fear-inducing information.
5) As mentioned in another section of this note, exercise has a miraculous effect on relaxation, hormones, depression, and well-being. It's like taking anti-depressants. Find something that works for you at this time. Yoga (I do video classes on Youtube). Walking in nature. Stretch and do 20 push-ups, 50 squats, and 30 sit-ups (work up to this and take your time). Repeat 2-4 times if you're conditioned. Clean your house with passion. Dance. Get creative.
6) Get into nature. If this is possible for you, do it. Get out under the sky and trees. Breathe and let nature restore and ground you.
7) Cultivate pleasure. What makes you feel really good and has no negative consequence? Do that. This rules out barrels of bonbons and a 72 hour Netflix fest. Consider being creative. Do you like to draw, paint, write, dance, sing?
I can handle this moment.
When you sit and imagine the worst things that can happen you're triggering your stress response and futurizing doom. Fear and anticipation of the pain of the change are often worse than actually experiencing it.
When you imagine a change, your mind adds all sorts of emotions and terrors to the vision and you often experience it in a way that’s more intense than the actual event. Stop that.
No more futurizing. Acknowledge that one of the most inaccurate predictors of the future is you in a negative emotional state. Write this down somewhere: When I’m afraid, unhappy, or upset and I Imagine the future, I’m mind-fucking myself.
Sorry for the language, but it's one of those times that the F word is the most accurate.
I consciously eliminate toxic influences.
These are toxic for your wellbeing because they undermine your sense of safety and uproot you. This sets off a cascade of stress chemicals in your body and your body experiences the fear as though something real is happening to it right now.
Read a credible source of information relevant to you or your loved ones once a day. Practice good prevention and turn your attention to healing, helping, grounding, and settling ideas and actions.
Before the world saturates you in fear, each morning set the tone for your body and mind:
I allow and accept my feelings.
This often reduces these feelings and allows others to help you. It’s the difference between the massive scariness of "He Who Must Not Be Named" and Voldemort in Harry Potter. When you identify what’s scary and admit that you feel vulnerable and receive understanding and support, you’ll feel a bit stronger.
I understand that my happiness is a choice and I must work to grow it. (no more toxic pie)
I had the tremendous good fortune to stumble across the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky, the genius extraordinaire, who did us all a huge favor when she took up the study of what it takes to be happy.
Sonja has written two outstanding, research-based, books (links below) on the whys and hows of becoming and staying happy. Her insights and conclusions blew my mind, and they’ve changed my life. It’s entirely rare for me to have one of those “aha” moments everyone seeks. Sonya’s work gave me several.
Here are 5 things you need to know if you really want to be happier:
1. THE 40% SOLUTION.
Sonja considered this as the title for her book, The How of Happiness. Imagine that your happiness is represented by a pie (mine would be cherry). 50% of the happiness pie is determined by genetics. I hated reading this, happiness is not an abundant commodity on my European mother’s side, and I never got to know my father or his family, but the fact that they’re part black and from the south makes me wonder about slavery and inherent misery. But the reality is I can’t do anything about that. Onward.
Sonja says that only 10% of our happiness pie consists of getting more money, attractiveness or other life circumstances. Moreover, she says this sort of happiness is fleeting and offers diminishing returns. Here’s the amazing part: a full 40% of the happiness pie is under your control. This malleable piece of unlimited possibility pie is made up of your behavior.
“What makes up this 40 percent? Besides our genes and the situations that we confront, there is one critical thing left: our behavior. Thus the key to happiness lies not in changing our genetic makeup (which is impossible) and not in changing our circumstances (i.e., seeking wealth or attractiveness or better colleagues, which is usually impractical), but in our daily intentional activities.”–Sonja Lyubomirsky
2. HAPPY IS EARNED.
Becoming happier, like all things worth having, takes daily, consistent, effort and work. Happiness doesn’t just bloom inside of us like a prairie of wildflowers. Becoming happier comes from efforts more like maintaining a Royal Garden. There are no days off, and if you fail to tend it, it withers. It’s work, beautifully rewarding work.
3. OPTIMISM IS TRAINABLE.
Happy people see the world more optimistically. They seek out silver linings, higher plans, and more compassionate interpretations of events. You might think that being an optimist is a fixed attribute. It’s not. I often speak about the importance of our environments and habits. We become what we immerse ourselves in and practice, for better or worse.
“All that is required to become an optimist is to have the goal and to practice it. The more you rehearse optimistic thoughts, the more ‘natural’ and ‘ingrained’ they will become. With time they will be part of you, and you will have made yourself into an altogether different person.” –Sonja Lyubomirsky
4. RECIPE FOR TOXIC PIE.
Ladies, we have to talk. You know those hormonal times when you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed and physically wrecked? How do you handle them? Do you turn off the lights, grab a bag of chocolate, and ruminate over your misery? Never again. That’s the recipe for a toxic 40% of your pie. This isn’t limited to hormonal times either. When you’re feeling stressed, it’s NOT the time to fixate, analyze, and turn things over and over in your mind. It doesn’t make things better, and it makes your inner state much worse.
“The combination of rumination and negative mood is toxic. Research shows that people who ruminate while sad or distraught are likely to feel besieged, powerless, self-critical, pessimistic, and generally negatively biased.”–Sonja Lyubomirsky
5. IF THERE’S NOT ONE THING TO BE GRATEFUL FOR THERE’S ANOTHER.
If you’re reading this, it’s true. Your brain is working. You have access to technology. You’re an interested and eager learner (you made it to the 5th point). You’re living, breathing, and thinking. (Losing two relationships to neurological illness has made this clear to me). If you want to be happier, count your blessings. Don’t do it just because the good books say to, do it because oodles of research has proven it works.
“People who are consistently grateful have been found to be relatively happier, more energetic, and more hopeful and to report experiencing more frequent positive emotions. They also tend to be more helpful and empathic, more spiritual and religious, more forgiving, and less materialistic than others who are less predisposed to gratefulness. Furthermore, the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.” –Sonja Lyubomirsky
So what do you think? Are you willing to take your happiness seriously? I am. I’m on fire to see how far I can travel on my happy path.
Want to join me? Here are the books.
I know that my sound mind makes better choices and creates better outcomes.
Hypervigilance and worrying do not stop events from happening in the future. They rob you of present joy, sap your mental capacity, drain you emotionally, and undermine your health with stress hormones.
To thrive in the face of challenge and go on to better days, you must assert authority over your inner world and all that you can control.
Mental discipline is key here. If you tend toward spiraling out of control, interrupt the pattern by taking your attention completely off of the crisis. You do have the power to do this. Do the breathing exercise at the top of this page. You cannot successfully do this exercise and continue to ruminate or analyze in your mind.
Remind yourself often that by remaining gripped by negative thoughts and imaginings you are reducing your ability to make good choices and handle challenges. Further, your upset doesn't change the events at all.
It is as though you've shown up to a battle with an opponent you have a strong chance of defeating and instead of dealing with them, you attack yourself.
Don't empower the challenge.
I distinguish between what I can and can’t control.
Do something about what you can control.
What you can control:
- CDC’s recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus (click here to see them). It’s wise to be informed and to take proactive precautions. Take them for yourself and for your fellow humans. Accept them. Practice them. Move forward.
-Your emotional and behavioral response to this event.
-Who you talk with about this event.
-Your mental diet. This includes what you watch, read, and think about. Choose a reputable source of information and check it once or twice a day for information that may be relevant to your area and situation. Do not leave the news running, repeatedly check it on your phone, listen to news radio shows or other mediums that deplete and incite fear. Listen to my podcasts and radio shows here. I promise to leave you better off at the end of every show.
-Your physical diet, activity level, sleep hygiene, and internal well-being.
-The kindness, care, love, generosity, and compassion you give yourself and others.
--Your ability to find positive ways to use this time at home. Clean up. Organize. Exercise. Write. Read. Learn a language. Grow.
What you can't control:
-The media and its scare tactics
-Panic-stricken and hysterical people. Your best chance to change them is to model being genuinely grounded and centered. Invest in you.
-Events outside of your home, family, or business. Let go.
-Politicians and community leaders. Do vote for what your calm heart and rational mind tell you.
-The daily shifts, surprises, and changes inherent to this event. Let go.
I stay socially connected.
Get creative and stay socially connected in safe ways. Facetime, talk on the phone, play electronic games together (from scrabble to MMORPG's). If you're not sick, go for a walk outside with someone else who's not sick.
Tell people three things you admire and appreciate about them.
Join my online Facebook group. Our community will welcome and love you through this.
I do not give my power away.
If you fall to stress 99 times, get up 100 times. Tire fear and stress out by returning to sound reasoning and empowering thinking.
Note: I am not a mental health or medical professional. My writings are opinions, not medical advice and do not replace the care of mental health or medical professionals.
PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic UPDATED!!!
Dr. Fauci Answers Trevor’s Questions About Coronavirus | The Daily Social Distancing Show
Vitamin D and Viruses
The study concluded:
For individuals who have deficient (<25) levels of Vitamin D – Taking 400 IU daily of Vitamin D reduced the probability of a bacterial or viral infection spreading to an individual’s airway by 79%.
For individuals who do not have deficient levels of Vitamin D – Taking 400 IU daily of Vitamin D reduced the probability of a bacterial or viral infection spreading to an individual’s airway by 19%.
I shared this information with my Chinese medicine doctor and she agreed with it adding that we also need Vitamin C and A.
10 Reassuring Facts About The Coronavirus
This interesting and calming article is written in Spanish by a Professor of Microbiology in Spain. Most browsers have a translator function to let you read it in English. Here's a copy of the translation:
You can also read a copy of it already translated here: 10 Reason Why You Should Not Panic
Hara Hachi Bu
Help your body and your mind by refraining from eating out of boredom or stress while you're spending more time at home. Check-in with your sense of real hunger before eating. Choose nutrition over comfort. The benefits are both in the quality of your physical health and emotional well-being.
Sleep and Immune Function
Several studies are now showing how sleep contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system.
One such study concluded “Prolonged sleep curtailment and the accompanying stress response invoke a persistent unspecific production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, best described as chronic low-grade inflammation, and also produce immunodeficiency, which both have detrimental effects on health.”--Sleep and Immune Function
When you don’t sleep enough you increase the stress response in your body which increases inflammation and lowers immune function.
Sleep in a quiet, dark room with no electronics (TVs, Computers, iPods etc.), every night for at least seven, preferably eight, hours.
How to get your body to make anti-depressants
"Exercising starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body's feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the "runner's high" that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. "In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression," explains Dr. Miller."---Harvard Health Publishing
Here's a podcast to dive deeper, click the image.