December Reflection on the year that was 2020

self care for nervous system pandemic

We’re almost there! Breathe in, out…repeat.

To say it has been ‘quite the year’ is a tad of an understatement.  No matter what our individual and varied experiences have been this year, I know I’m not alone in saying that we are all pretty ‘2020’ weary.

During 2020, the part of our brain responsible for the reactions of ‘fight’, ‘flight’, ‘feeding’ (especially during lock down baking stints), ‘fear’, and ‘freezing up’ – was more likely to be running the show.  As a result of this, many of us have had less access to choiceful and thought-out deliberate responses. We have been in survival mode…or, know others who were in danger and survival mode, which also affects us deeply.  Perhaps you noticed yourself being more combative or argumentative; or being withdrawn or freezing and blanking out because there were no words or actions you could find; or feeling chronically fatigued or with physical symptoms & pain; or even eating or drinking alcohol to excess to sooth or numb out the daily events.

Whatever it may have looked like for you or a loved one, it is not a personal defect to be stuck in one of those reactions.  It is just how the brain operates when under constant threat.  This part of the brain (the limbic system) wants us to survive no matter what cost.

Ironically, the perceived threat may have even been your beloved children or family members who were home more often during this year. Or the general lack of certainty and relentless bad news that 2020 brought with it.

This year the threats were even more magnified to us in our brain due to not having our usual connection with resources that sooth us.  In particular, our tribe of fellow human beings, which help to regulate our brain and nervous system through what is called the ‘social engagement system’ (see Stephen Porges work on Polyvagal Theory for more information). 

Again, I want to say, it’s ok.  This is your brains reaction to wanting to survive, AT ANY COST.

So, with this in mind, it is important to do any little thing to help regulate your body and nervous system. 

Perhaps you can become aware and curious (without self-criticism & with some tender self-compassion) about how we get stuck and what it looks like for us as individuals.  We often need some help from a mental health professional to fine tune this process.  But perhaps you want to take some time to get curious?  Be still.  Go within, notice your breath or lack of, and do some refection, perhaps some writing or journaling.   

Some offerings that I find helpful when feeling dysregulated:
This is the time your body & gut bugs need focused nutrients, less junk foods, more sunshine and nature, and being around other humans (or pets) with friendly faces.  This gives our brain the needed feedback, that we are safe, secure and not under threat.  This will allow your nervous system to calm down and regulate. 

Some ideas:

– moving your body to music (at least 1 song per day).  Be as daggy as you dare.

– humming to a happy song (1 song 2 x day at least) – good in the car or as you cook.

– gargling water for 1-2 minutes (or again to the length of a song)

– 1 x day lay down on grass and feel the earth’s grounding effects

– allow your eyes to see early morning sunshine (not directly of course)

– some cold water therapy (whilst remembering to breathe) – either in the ocean or ending your shower with cold water

– reduce social media and screen use

– connect with at least one person per day that feels friendly and you feel fond of (this even could be your local friendly barista)

– focus on getting good healthy sleep as a basis of nervous system restoration.  See here for healthy sleep hygiene tips.

– go easy on sugar intake (alcohol also), so your blood sugar levels are not constantly dysregulated (which can mimic anxiety, depression and feeling threatened) see blog on blood sugar

Plus, the basics of high-quality magnesium; herbal medicines which nourish the nervous system & also reduce cortisol (stress hormone) saturation; and making sure you are replete with the right B vitamins and minerals for your individual nervous system.  Please talk to me if you are not sure what this means for you.

And a beautiful Buddhist prayer I love….

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be safe
May you live with ease
May all beings be happy, healthy, safe and live with ease.

With love
Yours sincerely

Categories: energy, gut, gluten free, pandemic, brain gut connection, immunity, mental health, depression, anxiety, auto-immunity, auto-immune.

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