All of us have experienced massive change as the world comes to grips with this pandemic. We’ve seen people hoarding toilet paper, people stuck in their homes, and family members sick and dying from this virus. While this is a lot to take in all at once, this is what we train for. We train to be the beacon in the storm and keep our heads high when all around others are losing theirs. This is why we sit in the ice, we learn to use our breath to control our state, and we push ourselves in the gym. We are training the mind for life more so than the body so we can thrive in times like this.
While the collective stress right now is higher than we’ve seen in a long time, learning how to handle it in a productive manner is essential. We must focus on what we can control. We can’t control when the “curve flattens,” when we can go back to work, if we or a loved one gets the virus or when our kids will go back to school. We can control our own actions by social distancing, game planning for what the future holds, helping out as best we can and how we respond in these stressful times. Our ability to handle these situations in a calm and collected state will improve our success rate.
What can we do to improve our response?
This is where the cold and the breath come into play. In the ice, we must let go. When we first step in, our heart rate increases, our breath is taken away and we begin to increase our breath rate out of panic. Our self-talk turns negative, “get out of here, you’re going to die!” This can become a vicious feedback loop of negative self-talk and a stress response in the body. It is no different than the anxiety we’re experiencing right now.
However, you can learn to recognize this response in your body and stop it in its tracks with your breath. The first step is gaining control over your breath rate by slowing down your breathing, inhaling through the nose, and exhaling out of the mouth. After 3 to 5 breaths, your heart rate begins to slow, your breath slows down and your thoughts slow down. The tension in your body releases and you are now calm and focused. With each successive stressful stimulus, it becomes easier and easier to recognize what is going on and take control of it before it happens.
All of these practices are designed to make you more resilient. They are tools to have in your tool kit to improve your ability to handle situations like we are going through today and to handle the typical stresses of life. Over the next couple of weeks, you will have more time than you typically do. Spend a few minutes each day journaling out your thoughts and feelings about this pandemic. Get it out of your head and onto paper. It will help lift some of the burdens. Then, spend a few minutes focusing on your breath. If you need help please reach out to someone. I am here to help you through this time. I am here to make you more resilient. We are all in this together.