The Real Invisible Bear: On Your Pandemic Nervous System
If you take a deep breath right now, close your eyes, and bring your focus to the sensations of your body, what do you feel? Pick one dominant sensation. Where, in your body, are you feeling it? Can you describe the feeling?
Now, direct your breath specifically to that spot. Fill that sensation up with your inhales. What happens now? Does anything change?
Whether you're relaxed warm & fuzzy, tense hot & anxious, somewhere in between, somewhere else entirely, I'd bet your nervous system has been taken for a bit of a ride lately. When we're taught about the nervous system, we're told that when we experience immediate threats (a bear chasing us is the most commonly used example), we enter a state of fight, flight, freeze, or friend. On the other hand, safe situations cause us to rest and digest. For a long time the dominant narrative has been about avoiding the former state, not letting the regular stress of our daily lives make our bodies believe we're being chased by a bear.
Perhaps you've noticed that things are different now ; ) Our daily lives are turned on their heads. There's a real bear chasing us, and it's invisible.
If you've been practicing the skills that used to bring your nervous system into regulation, like meditation, yoga, getting good sleep, herbs, etc, and they're just not working like they used to, that's ok. Regulation may not be a realistic goal, or even a desired goal, these days.
You can take the pressure off yourself to stay grounded and calm all the time. Your stress response is adaptive, it's rooted in wisdom, and it's helping you take necessary action. Your rest/digest and fight/flight responses exist on a spectrum, you don't have to be simply one or the other. Keep doing the things you do to take care of yourself. Take extra special care of yourself. Move your body to give your tension a place to go, but you don't have to conquer your tension. You have permission to become an observer. It's ok just to notice what you're feeling and breathe into it.
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