The intensity of the last year has pushed all of us into re-experiencing our fears and traumas – and finding supportive survival strategies. Now as we are (hopefully) coming out of pandemic, we are still in a healing process of adjustment, recalibration and settling.
The unarticulated question throughout this time has been, ‘What makes you feel safe?’
There never was a singular ‘normal’. Now it is time to find your own unique thread of self-love and self-care, to feel safe, confident, resilient and emotionally intelligently adaptable.
We are all uniquely wired. We’ve all lived individually storied lives. What triggers our fears and traumas is not the same as our siblings or our neighbours. It is not even the same as some of our close friends! Or partner!!
And what helps us all to feel safe is also a unique set of rituals – perfected over a lifetime – perhaps it is manicured nails and coiffed hair, flashy new devices or vehicle, reading tarot cards or being vegan.
For some people safety is careful conformity to collective rules while for others it is individual rebellion. For some it is relying on the authority of scientific and medical information, while others feel safe and trust in natural wellness solutions. For some people safety is in a smile, hug and social contact – while others need to keep a very isolated distance from others.
For each of us, safety is signalled and negotiated in a different way…
Many of us responded tolerably well to the first lockdowns with self-care maintenance amidst the shock. But subsequent lockdowns had became familiar now, and self-care became for many more challenging.
Now we are being asked to be true to our own selves, to what enable us to feel safe for our own physical and mental health, and safe in our conscience that we are taking the right best steps forward.
Can we do this with respect and compassion for others who are making different choices with their best intentions and practices for individual and collective survival too?
The pandemic story is not yet completely over. There may yet be more suprises in store for us… How can we best cope with the still evolving and changing landscapes and goalposts?
When we are in a flap, agitated and panicked, our nervous system is dis-regulated. We need to have a small set of rituals that will enable us to make the journey back from fear and shock, back down and into our bodies. I can recommend really simple things, like eating, having a warm shower and taking a nap. Reaching out to connect with other people also really helps. As does meditation, walking in nature, looking at, listening to or smelling something beautiful. And it can also be brushing hair, changing clothes, putting on make-up. Or of course going for a run, doing yoga or kickboxing or dancing. Or zoning out for a while with Netflix. These (and more options) are simple life-hacks we can all do. Nowadays, we all need to know what self-care works for us, and to do one of them, or several of them, or have a good friend remind us to!
It is helpful for us to go slowly and kindly now. Firstly towards ourselves and our out-of-practice-at-normal-life habits. Secondly towards others, who may have a different ‘safe’ perspective and practicality. And thirdly towards ourselves for maybe judging harshly.
Kindness is a being gentle and slow, not according to predefined ideas of how we should be, but responsive to in the moment arising experience. Often we surprise ourselves with our own responses and behaviour. We are not machines, but quirky feeling sensitive beings.
We have learnt that instead of hours commuting, we can usefully use our time and energy for perhaps exercise, learning a new language or hobby, or being with our children… An imminent change in office location is to be negotiated with care and consciousness.
Accessing Embodied Intelligence
With more and more time spent staring at screens, and with the constantly changing news parameters and the threat of circulated false information, staying grounded is essential. This means being able to be in good contact with the many sensations and emotions of the body.
When we are in good contact with our body, we can access the spontaneous instinctual wisdom that it houses. Faster than rational thought, the body communicates wisely with us via impulses, hunches and urges. It can often prompt us in a healthy and useful direction.
Behaviour sourced from our embodied experience is often more ‘in reality’ and relevant, than our old ideas about how we ‘ought’ or ‘should’ behave. In a rapidly changing world, access to this kind of bodily intelligence is essential. It reliably responds well in the moment to the immediate situation.
But in order to access it, you will need to already be able to calm yourself and relate with kindness to both yourself and others. Then sensual physical wisdom will reveal itself.
Get to know your own fear responses and your own best self-care kit– with a dollop of kindness when you slip-up and kind determination to renew. The reward will be accessing a new kind of intelligence founded on your bodily response that will naturally keep you safe amidst uncertainty. It is our sensual security system.