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Mother Nature & Covid-19

Covid-19 brought the world to a standstill. Psychotherapist MELISSA ST. JEAN explains why self-introspection was the pandemic's legacy.

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As we continue to shelter in place a silent yet important opportunity presents itself. The 2019-2020 Coronavirus Pandemic limits our interpersonal connections and poses an interpersonal challenge. Anxiety, stress, and other mental health concerns can be exacerbated by the loss of day-to-day routines, relationships, and reality. The quiet inner workings of the mind are beginning to protest our static external world.

How you’re responding to this crisis can present either a challenge or a change. We all have our own unique and individualized stories, especially during these uncertain times, and your capacity to access and attune to your needs for grounding and self-regulation are within reach. Whatever you are going through, I see you. While the tools are basic the work is robust, and sheds light on the emotional growth we’re enduring, and a remarkable spiritual path that lies ahead.

While working with clients during this unprecedented self-quarantine, I observed an interesting phenomenon: The unconscious mind was called to the forefront of everyday thought, feelings and emotions. I observed, again and again, clients responding to the shutdown in one of two different ways: Maladaptive Coping and/or Healthy Coping strategies. These are predictable behavioral response patterns, but only the latter offers useful directions and needed resolutions. Healthy coping strategies were mapping a new reality.

I encouraged my clients into a deep state of reflection. Mind + Soul needed to connect and joining them in this exercise enabled us all to commune with our subconscious minds, and to discover a collective surprise of consciousness. The Natural Environment — safety, food, shelter, and health — was shifting to become the primitive focus of our physical and mental survival.

How does one commune with nature during a nationwide lockdown? The answer lies in excavating an unfamiliar space within ourselves. Nurturing primitive skills enables us to survive, but healthy coping strategies ensures how well we actually live. I watched in awe as healthy coping strategies began to alleviate anxiety, ease worry, reduce nervousness, and practically annihilate stress during the pandemic. Like our prehistoric ancestors, they may be the very survival skills of our new world.

Finding healthy coping mechanisms during self-isolation requires strategy. Consider these tenants of mental health to help guide you:

Gentility You’ve presented yourself to the world today and are doing your best. Listen, trust and learn what your body and mind is telling you. Go at your pace.

Nutrition Whole food, nutrient dense and anti-inflammatory, is the premium fuel for the mind + body expedition.

Organization An organization is mobilized by a goal > leader > action > communication.

Creativity Explore a new activity; dance, music, writing, drawing, painting, reading, cooking, etcetera.

Evaluation Schedule Check in with yourself through a creative process like meditation, writing in a journal, or prayer.

Movement Is critical to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. When we cultivate calm in body + mind, we’re able to enhance our capacity to remain within our window of tolerance, handle stress better, and act from a place of self-regulation. Yoga, pilates, dance, walking, and any other form of physical exercise.

Commune w/ Nature Take a walk outside with your bare feet, witness the movement of the trees, feel the sunlight on your skin, or enjoy the sounds of a running stream or birds chirping. If not accessible, open a window to catch the breeze, listen to audio ocean and/or nature’s sounds, watch videos of waves crashing or sun setting while attempting to relax and breathe deeply.

Rest Consistent nighttime routines, early bedtimes, and waking at the same time every morning will help to enhance your sleep quality. Simple, sustainable bedtime strategies including dimming the lights, limiting screen time, lighting candles and ensuring routine.

Community Connecting with the external world is vital to well-being. While audio and virtual technology can fulfill an immediate connection, a weekly handwritten letter to a friend, parent, colleague, even your spouse will enhance that relationship immeasurably.

The light — at the end of the tunnel — shouldn’t depend so heavily on re-opening our society, but rather shed light on what type of society we wish to return? From our darkened classrooms, office space, and communities throughout the world — a light is ignited within. A glow around which we’ll rebuild the foundations of society.

The natural world has driven us into smaller, esoteric communities. From the four corners of the world, is it possible we’ve been called home to rediscover ourselves within our own remarkable cultures? Will introspections and healthier coping strategies ultimately serve the new normal? Or has mother nature yet to remind us of our place in her world.

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