Last weekend I went to my very first group BBQ at someone else’s house since March, when COVID began. I was not my usual optimistic, contagiously positive girl self. I found it exhausting! It was mentally exhausting because my mind was in overdrive. Is there enough space? What if someone wants to hug, or shake hands, am I okay with that? Do I bring my own food and drinks? Do I take a drink offered from someone? Will there be too many people and not enough space to distance? And all the conversations and debates about it not being a real virus, the conspiracies, etc., just drained me. By 9:00 pm I was no longer just mentally exhausted, I was physically wiped and just wanted to crawl into bed.
Instead of just being in the moment, I allowed my mind to get the best of me. It prevented me from fully enjoying myself and embracing my first real outing out with friends. I was judging myself and than I thought, “fuck girl, you are only human! So what, you had an imperfect moment.”
Thank God for hindsight so next time we can have foresight!
In comes hindsight, a couple days later as I thought about what I could have done differently, I realized exactly where my mind went off the rails. I went from zero to hundred and never even gave myself a moment to pause and stop the momentum of my negative thoughts.
If this is resonating with you, I wanted to take this week to talk about what we can all do to prepare ourselves mentally so that it doesn’t have a negative emotional and physical impact on us. I’m using examples based on my past experience, but these tools can be used in any situation.
1. Before the event (or stressful situation), meditate. I know there is some resistance here with meditation, but had I just sat for twenty minutes to meditate, clear my mind and calm my nervous system, I would have been able to quiet my overactive mind. I would have felt connected, calm, and turned down my overactive nervous system (basically turned off the alarm bells so I could hear my own intuition).
2. Set an intention. I say all the time to program your brain to work for you, instead of against you. My brain was not my friend that day because I allowed it to be my enemy. Setting an intention that I was safe, that I was excited to finally be with my friends, and that I had nothing to fear or worry about would have triggered not just my mind, but also my nervous system to be calm and safe. My mind was fearful, it ignited an emotional response, which triggered my fight or flight – and after a couple of hours of this all I wanted to do was run. In a calm state, my fight or flight response wouldn’t have been triggered and I would have felt safe, happy and my usual laid back self.
Set the intention of how you want to feel and what you want to experience before you go.
3. Prepare before you go. If you are not going to be hugging, or shaking hands, prepare what you are going to say before you even go to the event. You can even tell your friends and family before you even get there if you are worried about any awkwardness. Honestly, I bet most people are feeling the exact same way. We all just spent four months being told to basically fear touching anyone, so of course we would be confused and worried. If you don’t want to eat the food, bring your own. It is okay for you to do what feels right for you.
Something that is really important here is that fear and panic is not the same thing. Normal fear helps you be cautious, but out of control fear makes you panic. And we do not make the best decisions when we are in panic mode. Remember the toilet paper shortage? That was panic.
As soon as your mind sounds the alarm bells that you are not safe, your fight and flight response is kicked into high gear. To let your brain know that you are safe and have it covered, do whatever you need to do to prepare yourself. This will keep those alarm bells from sounding off.
4. Check in with yourself. You know what is best for you. Ask yourself how you feel about going to the event. Ask yourself what you believe about COVID-19 (or whatever it is that you are stressing about). Really check in and say, “What are my thoughts and beliefs about this? Am I comfortable hugging? Am I comfortable being inside? Am I okay with more than ten people?” All the thoughts going on in your mind turn them into inner questions that you can reflect on. At the end of the day, YOU KNOW BEST.
I didn’t check with my inner guide that day. I’m human and even with everything I know, I ignored all the signals and my mind worked against me. Now I know better, so I will be so much better prepared for my next outing. In fact, I went for lunch with my husband the next day on a patio. It was my first time eating out since March 12th. I checked in with my inner guide and knew that I had nothing to worry about. There are only four cases of COVID in Ottawa, my immune system is strong, and I have hand sanitizer in my pocket. It was the most amazing, present, fulfilling lunch I have had. I even bumped into an old friend I haven’t since in years and she said something that really resonated with me. She said, “Doesn’t this make you feel like a human again?” OMG, YES! I had never thought of it like that, but of course it would. We are not meant to be alone without our community and tribe of loved ones around us.
I hope this serves you and shows you that you are not alone. Navigating this the past four months has been a challenge and sometimes we are going to go off the rails (like I did). Not just during this pandemic, but in life. So we shake it off and do better next time.
Let’s take the share above to our journals.
Do you have any fear that has turned from normal cautious fear to panic?
Where are you not feeling safe and why?
If there is, go into a meditation for 10-20 minutes and ask yourself this question, “How can I turn off these alarm bells of panicked fear so that I feel safe?” When you get out of the meditation, grab your journal and free-write what came up for you.