As the Corona Virus lurks around us, along with the drastic life changes it has caused, it is easy to feel highly emotional. These are real threats to our existence, our way of life, and our family-systems. Our collective fear and helplessness are a normal part of living during this strange time. For some people, who have a history of anxiety, depression, insomnia, lack of interest in physical activity and problems with memory and decision-making, these harrowing experiences can only serve to exacerbate an already fraught nervous system.
The Corona Virus is an invisible invasion; one that our military cannot extinguish and we cannot spray enough Lysol to feel it is eradicated. We can defend ourselves by listening to the experts we trust, employing best hygiene practices, exercising, eating a good diet, supplementation, getting sound sleep, and recognizing that our immune system can be a primary force against this virus.
Our immune system is comprised of killer cells that seek and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses. It is a defense system that is ever ready to attack and demolish any protein that it does not recognize as friendly. A well-coordinated balance between our endocrine system, nervous system, and emotions maintains this stealth defense system. Keeping your nervous system in balance, keeps the immune response healthy to fight disease.
Stress is a normal part of life and can even be good for us. Dealing with life’s demands can make us more resilient. But when stress is severe or chronic it needs special attention. Due to the pandemic, the public is being exposed to frequent threats to their survival. It could be someone standing too close without a mask and sneezing or feeling you are touching something with the virus on it. Every time this happens, the nervous system can be signaled to flood the system with cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones quickly stimulate the fight flight or freeze response to keep us safe from danger. A healthy reaction would be to flee the scene, think how to minimize risk and then to recover from the shock of the experience. The problem is that we are dealing with the effect of this virus for the better part of a year now. Our nervous system and emotions can begin to fray from the continual release of stress hormones. This chronic and sometimes severe stress can have a huge impact on our minds, our bodies, and spirits. Hyper arousal and negative feeling states arise because Covid’s threat is real and dangerous, we don’t know when this plague will end, and although we have learned a lot, there are still unknowns about this virus.
Luckily, if we find ourselves suffering from nervous fatigue, we can allow our nervous system to rebalance and recover which gives our immune system the best chance to mount its most powerful army to fight the effects of long-term Covid 19. The key to balancing our nervous system is to let the sympathetic branch, which activates for threat, to lie in retreat. The parasympathetic branch, which stimulates body recovery, rest and renewal to become more dominate.
So what should you do if you are suffering from the continual arousal of the nervous system? Find some time each day to allow nervous system to rebalancing to take place. Find a quiet space to sit or lie down for 10-20 minutes where you won’t be disturbed. Allow yourself to feel safe, knowing that you have done everything in your power to eradicate the virus in this space. You can lock your door and turn off the TV or radio to keep you from alerting to danger from outside news. You can use this time to do some slow abdominal breathing, as you let tension melt away. If your mind starts thinking (because that’s what minds do), gently bring your attention back to your breath and let your thoughts float away like leaves down a stream. As you relax, visualize your nervous system calming and restoring and your immune system army strengthening.
If you find you are struggling with unresolved issues that get in the way of a relaxing practice, please call my office for professional assistance. My office is inviting and comfortable while highly sanitary conditions are maintained. I offer sessions over a secure server, as well. Best wishes for staying safe and healthy. Lauren A. Salani, LCSW, BCB Stress Relief Services Atlantic Executive Center 107 Monmouth Road, Suite 104, West Long Branch, NJ 07764, Call 732.542.2638, visit StressReliefServices.com or email LaurenASalani@gmail.com