When the level of uncertainty is heightened, like it is for all of us at the moment, here are some ways you can help soothe anxiety that might be mounting in others and assist others to keep their nervous system as regulated as possible:
1. Don’t shame anyone’s reality and response to corona virus (or anything really). Do your best to listen and understand another’s reality and the coping strategies they are employing. Honour the person’s right to respond in a way that in their world, has worked for them. If you find yourself judging or shaming another, then this is an opportunity for you to do your own work on what’s been activated in you.
2. Be aware that a threatening event like this will trigger repressed material that may normally lie dormant at the subconscious level. If you see that someone is struggling with anxiety or conversely they have gone into a form of freeze and denial in response to the reality that surrounds us right now and you are not the right person to hold space for them, suggest that they seek support.
3. Events that threaten survival will also likely bring up unresolved Attachment wounds. Being asked to isolate and keep social distance in itself can trigger abandonment wounds, loss of contact and grief. Organise regular online and phone checkins with loved ones. Listen to your instincts and reach out to someone if you’re called to and let them know you are thinking of them and want to know how they are. This kind of attunement can be wonderfully healing for those who were emotionally neglected in their childhoods and can provide an emotionally-corrective experience that has the potential to rewire patterns of aloneness and isolation into that of being cared for and lovingly regarded.
4. Be mindful that one of the main symptoms of trauma is self-isolation. Actually being asked to self-isolate can be a trigger for those who already suffer from mental illness. Take extra care and give love and attention to these people. They may already find it excruciatingly hard to reach out to others, so be the one that bridges that gap if you can.
5. Sharpen your communication skills. Anxiety requires containment and one way to do this is to be very clear in your communication. Make decisions and follow through. Spell things out clearly to others. Provide clear timeframes. Don’t leave things open-ended that can be contained and/ or completed. If plans change and they affect someone else, communicate the change to them.
6. Let people know your boundaries too. If you’re feeling too much anxiety mounting and can no longer be in presence with another, consider letting them know how you are feeling and / or ask if they have space to hear you. Kindly let them know you can’t be there for them right now but you will return to the connection by a set time that you communicate to them, or if unknown, when you can.
7. Support people to articulate and make contact through their body with their feelings, rather than staying in the detail of the outer events. This doesn’t mean you push or force that but rather that you create a safe space for that person to open up if they feel to. Discharging the tension through tears, voice, even movement whilst staying TOGETHER with them through their experience is one of the most direct ways you can help regulate and calm their nervous system from a space of love, care and attunement. ****** Please note this does not take place through advice-giving, fixing, logic or offering them medicines or remedies. This is an attuning to their whole energetic system and emotional body. If you don’t know how to truly do this you risk retraumatising someone who is already activated. Know your limits and don’t aggravate someone with advice or remedies who is already past their edge and requires emotional soothing and containment.
I could write so much more about all this but I’ll leave it there because the most important aspect really is the relational piece and that takes a certain degree of your own embodiment to be able to hold that deep safety for another. If you need support please book a Somatic Psychotherapy session with me, which is available via Skype. I’d love to help you regulate your nervous system, safely make contact with the emotions that have surfaced for you and help you integrate this experience.
Holding you all in warmth and compassion.