Two weeks ago, it felt like we were in a hurricane watch. A week ago, we’d been upgraded to a warning, with an ominous sense of impending doom looking at the reports out of Italy. This week, we are hearing reports of landfall in North America. 

We are now at the beginning of the sharp rise in the curve, seeing a few notifications on Facebook of people who have died of Covid-19. Even with such poor testing, there is the predicted and alarming rapid increase in numbers. More people have it who are not travellers. The virus is clearly in our communities. Too many people are still in denial of the risk and are not practicing social distancing causing many governments to declare a state of emergency. Landfall.

There was an odd sense of adjusting to the new normal last week. Many companies set up work from home. We figured out how to minimize risk at the grocery store and who will deliver to our doorstep. People with children at home found educational and entertaining links for everything from live streaming from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to virtual tours of museums. Singers took to Facebook, offering concerts. There is an abundance of free yoga and meditation classes online. 

When a freshwater river reaches the ocean, it mixes with the salty tidal waters. The sense of “maybe I can handle this” alternates with moments of primal fear. We see this in sudden catastrophic thoughts and we feel it in our body. We don’t sleep as well and wake up with our heart pounding or tight neck and shoulders. This is a normal response to threat. Our body is doing its job by alerting us to danger.

We know how to calm our body and reassure our nervous system. Some of us have a baseline of calm and steadiness through years of practice. Others are newer. Go to the Emergency Practices on my website for simple, powerful ways to stay grounded in the body and to work with catastrophic thoughts. Come to my free daily practice at 8AM Eastern. Walk. Get as much fresh air as you can. Nap during the day to compensate for restless sleep at night. With this high level of threat, we need to do more to down-regulate so fear doesn’t take over.

We are asking some people to walk into the danger. Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers including cleaning staff. The people who work in grocery stores so we can buy food. Families of front line workers. We are requiring that everyone else stay home, which can also be difficult and sometimes dangerous depending on your home situation. 

There is an intense opportunity here to look at what is important to us. What do we value? The stock market or grandparents? What kind of a person do we want to be when we are faced with life and death stakes? Without shaming ourselves for our survival instincts, we can see the impulse to selfishness. That is here. 

Can we also feel into connection with neighbors and a sense of shared agency? There are things we can do. We can cultivate our willingness to help. To touch into gratitude for who and what we love. To practice kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. To find meaning.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl 

I am committed to helping people heal from trauma. This is a foundation in my life around which I organize my time. I try to be decent and encouraging with people, even the ones who push my buttons. I relax my shoulders, again, and breathe. I remember my higher purpose and it helps.