By Margot Schulman
These are some crazy times we are living through now. Could anyone possibly disagree? We are all facing stress and struggles for which we are quite unprepared. Whether you are quarantined alone or with a spouse, partner and any other family members or pets, the strain of the situation is intense and can be overwhelming.
In our isolation, it’s easy to spend an entire day watching the news, talking about the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases and letting yourself over-steep in panic, worry, anxiety and fear. Unfortunately, our human brains are strongly attracted to stories and situations that spark those emotions, and it can be extremely difficult to resist the temptation to swim all day in that emotional pool.
But there is hope! As an experienced love, sex and education coach, I want to share a simple and specific tool called “The Ding” that will help you intentionally shift your mental and emotional state from negative to positive. Like any new habit this becomes easier to use over time and with regular practice.
“The Ding” is a favorite among my coaching clients during normal times because of its simplicity and efficacy. The name comes from the chime or bell sound one often hears at the beginning of a meditation practice or recording. It is the signal that relays the message, “Time to begin your meditation practice, focus on your breath and come back to presence and awareness.”
I like to bring this “ding” into the real world as well. At this time, think of a situation or sound that always annoys you, gets you worked up, angry or irritated. Have one in mind? Great! That becomes your own personal meditation “ding.”
Confused? To explain further, I will share an example from my life. The sound of my two kids arguing over something inconsequential is guaranteed to ignite intense irritation and frustration within me. When I hear that they start getting into it, I now remind myself that this is my “ding.” Immediately, I close my eyes, focus my awareness on my breath and take a few deep, slow inhalations and exhalations. I stay focused on my breath until I feel my calm and peace returning. From this place, I then am better able to decide how to respond and react to my squabbling children.
I have been using this same tool in the past few weeks when I find my nervous system starting to slide into a feeling of overwhelming anxiety. This can happen when I am alone reading a news article, scrolling through Facebook or in a Zoom call with loved ones in which everyone starts swapping depressing Covid-19 or quarantine stories. When I am alone, I remember my “ding,” close my eyes and focus on my breath.
When I am in a Zoom call with loved ones, I must adjust the practice a bit. I don’t close my eyes, but I do mute myself for a moment and take a few deep, slow breaths. When I feel calm and centered, I turn my sound back on, wait for a break in the conversation and then chime in with, “Hey guys! So, let’s talk about things we are doing to make ourselves feel good during this difficult time. I would love to get inspired by your coping mechanisms and maybe I can help you with mine too.” Obviously, you can adjust the language to what feels natural for you, the above is just one of my examples. Try it out on yourself so you are ready to share specific coping strategies that seem to work for you.
To that end, I offer another tool that helps my kids and me all return to positive mental states more easily. We each made two lists when the quarantine began, and we refer to them often:
- Spark-Joy List: These are things that make us happy and are accessible to us now, even quarantined. They can be anything from watching a video of snuggling otters to eating dark chocolate or a kitchen dance party.
- Quarantine Projects List: These are projects that we will work on and/or complete during this period of quarantine. We might plant seeds in our garden for three veggies. I have never tried to grow anything before, and it seems a great time. Or we might paint three amazing dragon pictures. Both are part of my family’s list.
During these most difficult times, it is crucial to be proactive in caring for our mental and emotional health. It is all too easy to fall into an all-day emotional pattern of fear, sadness and anxiety. Of course, we should all push ourselves to feel everything and not shut down or numb the painful feelings. But we must also allow time and space for lighter, pleasurable feelings. This is the human dance that we all should move through--pain and the joy, sorrow and celebrations. Focus on bringing our nervous systems back to calm and peace is the goal. Doing so is an important skill to develop during this extremely scary roller-coaster time in history. And don’t forget “the ding.’
About the Guest Blogger
Margot Schulman is an author, speaker, facilitator and love, sex & relationship Coach with more than 16 years of experience coaching individuals to create peace, freedom and love in their lives. Margot is the author of “Choose Love: A Simple Path to Healthy, Joyful Relationships” (Author Academy Elite; 1 edition (July 22, 2019) She is based in Wappingers Falls, New York.