Staying Connected During Times of Stress

The global pandemic has made this a very surreal time to be on this journey. As a rather organized person who loves to PLAN, simply existing in such a state of uncertainty has been trying for me in many ways. While I am grateful that my family is safe and financially stable, I am struggling (and I know I’m not alone). And the best tool I have for getting through each day is… surrender.

There are several things I am doing on a regular basis to help me feel more grounded and connected (to myself, to friends/family, and to nature).

Embodying Gratitude

I’m taking a long-term online class about tapping into the wonder of life, and the very first exercise is a gratitude practice… but not a mental one. This gratitude practice is about feeling gratitude in the body… the heart-melting, chest-opening, expansiveness of being grateful. And I’m not exaggerating when I say this practice has literally saved my mental health these days. Because to surrender to the feeling of gratitude… for a warm cup of tea, for the breeze or the sunshine, for the breath in my lungs, for the present moment… is the one consistent thing I can count on, every day.

It’s a very different way to approach a gratitude practice, but give it a try… I think it can be incredibly helpful, even when it’s not very deep or profound. In fact, it’s interesting to note which kinds of things spark a feeling of gratitude… sometimes it’s not the things we think we should feel grateful for; sometimes it’s not the big things (like the roof over your head) but the small stuff (like the taste of your favorite chocolate). There’s no qualifying gratitude, either… whatever sparks that warmhearted feeling is the thing to focus on, because it’s all worthy.

Resetting Energy

A few years ago at healing retreat, I was introduced to Donna Eden’s 5-Minute Energy Medicine Routine. Each summer, I go to this retreat where we do these exercises every morning as a group (usually outside, barefoot on the grass) and it’s a lovely way of setting a positive tone to my energy for the day. Of course, as soon as I leave the retreat space, I promptly forget about these exercises until the following year. You can see a video of Donna Eden teaching the exercises here.

Last month, when feeling frazzled and frustrated, wanting to shake up my daily routine and set a more grounded tone to my days, I returned to these exercises. I find it helpful to do them outdoors (even if under a covered patio or in my slippers rather than bare feet), but anywhere I have time and space works just fine. After several summers of doing the whole routine, I no longer do every exercise every time but prefer to tune into what my body needs and what would feel helpful at the time. 

Letting Emotional Energy Move

One day last week, when I felt particularly stressed and tense, I decided to take a few moments to sit in the sun next to my backyard garden to try and recharge. As I lay on an extra yoga mat and tried to clear my head, I realized I was shrugging my shoulders. Then I noticed the tension in my back and jaw. And then I realized how I was holding all kinds of tension throughout my whole body–trying to “clear my head” when what I needed to do was clear my body. It was like I was putting up this energetic barrier… trying to keep the emotions and overwhelm of the outside world at bay, but also trying to keep control over my emotions and overwhelm, like this protective energetic coating was going to make it all okay.

Yet, I know from experience that emotional energy doesn’t work that way… trying to tense my body to keep my emotions apart from those of the rest of the world just adds more pressure to everyone, and it never holds for long… eventually my little barrier breaks down; sometimes with a million tiny leaks and sometimes with one big explosive release, but it eventually crumbles in one way or another.

So that sunny afternoon next to the backyard garden, I put down my phone and I let the energy move through my body… I opened my jaw and relaxed my tongue, I let my shoulders fall, and I let my neck and hips tremor as needed to get the energy moving. And now I try to do this more regularly (sometimes several times a day, if I have the time), but especially before bed. If you would like more info or guidance on how to get emotional energy moving through the body, check out this helpful newsletter and VIDEO by my teacher, Rebecca:

How Are You (Re)Connecting?

Are you finding any specific practices that are helping you feel connected to yourself, your family/friends, or to nature? Or have you tried any of the above techniques? How did they go for you? Please share by email! I’d love to hear from you!