We've been dealing with this pandemic now since the beginning of 2020--yet, if we look at the news, it continues to be front and center of the news cycle. Division, infighting, fear--we have all seen it all erupt around us, and for many of us, in our own families.
Chronic stress happens when we've been exposed to a heightened level of perceived threat over time, so that our current coping strategies don't work anymore. Even if we came into this pandemic with exceptional coping strategies, many of us have found ourselves suffering from burnout, that sense of weariness and wearing out. We feel emotionally exhausted, with puttering of anger and grief and helplessness thrown in there.
How to cope??
Our brains are built to cope with immediate stressors--those that trigger our fight, flight or freeze systems. They developed to mobilize ourselves to mitigate threats--and then, in short time, calm down. When we are bombarded by constant stream of stressors--in the 24 hours news cycle reporting pandemic deaths, for instance--our brains sense threat over, and over and over. We don't get a chance, on a physiological level, to ever really calm down.
We humans have an amazing relaxation response, built into our hardwiring, that is easily used when we find ourselves in stress response. Yet we often don't have a chance to use our relaxation response until after we realize we're stressed.
So how do we prevent our stress response from moving into chronic stress?
Resiliency is the ability to bounce back after meeting with a stressor. We know resilient people--those people who "roll with the punches". The thing is--resiliency is a trait that isn't inherently built into our personality. We can foster it.
And one of the best ways? Social connection.
In this world we're living in, with social distancing and quarantining, most of us has seen our social engagements plummet. Yet research on resiliency shows us that we are more resilient--mind and body--when we engage with others socially. It especially helps when those friends and loved ones are people who you can rely on, feel safe with, and "be yourself" around. Where do you find this kind of comfort?
When we foster our connections--and allow ourselves and our relationships to be nurtured--it changes our brains. They become calmer, our bodies become calmer, and perceived threats diminish. We feel as if we can cope. We are resilient.
A challenge to you, today--when you look at your schedule---do you see safe socializing on it? How can you foster your resiliency?
In health and wellness,