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A note about fear


Greetings friends,

I hope this note finds you safe, healthy, hunkered and not stir-crazy. Is that asking for too much? I don’t want to be greedy these days, but all of those things would be nice. (Also, in case you’re reading this: whoever has been sneaking into my building and making my apartment smaller every night, could you please stop, Brian and I can’t get any closer!)

How are you holding up? I know this isn’t a direct email, but any of you are welcome to write or call and let me know. It has been a busy time of phone calls, applications, and general getting my ‘house’ in order. I am working on an organized infrastructure to progress with some telehealth appointments that I’ve done for some of you. There’ll be upcoming communications about how that will all work once it’s set up. But things are now calm and I am here for you if you need anything.

I found this story in an article online and made it into an image to share with you. It is a nice compliment to what I'd been thinking about this week:

As you know, we’re on a national shut down until April 30th, and many wonder if it will continue past that. It has required us to confront ourselves in ways we’ve not been asked to before. Putting aside the viral danger that we are all well informed about, what I would like to talk about is fear and the danger it presents.

Right now, fear is a symptom that we all share. We can catch this symptom even remotely. And I’m not sure it’s being discussed enough. We fear catching the virus because we don’t feel we have a handle on who is at risk; we fear how often therefore we should go to a store and expose ourselves, so we hoard items like toilet paper because it feels like the only proactive thing to do in this crazy situation. We also fear the economics of this situation and what it will mean for our society on the other side, or in the near term, how we will pay all our bills. These fears are justified and at the moment there isn't much we can individually do about those things. The only thing we can control is ourselves.

More than ever, a daily grounding practice is really important. Some way to anchor yourself and sit, without the glare of screens and the noise of the news. I can’t stress enough how important this is right now. Fear and stress raise our cortisol level which directly attacks our immune system. But there are things you can do to control that! Nothing fancy, but incorporating these into your life will make a difference:

First, things to take away or limit:

  • News. Find the daily updates you like best (I like Governor Cuomo’s press conferences around 11am most mornings) and read the paper once a day. Then stop.

  • Social Media. I have found that this both adds too much news to my life as well as too much fear or dark humor and often misinformation. At a time when we need connection, social media seems to highlight disconnection even more. The now-old adage about never reading the comments on internet sites basically applies to all of social media. Despite the fact that I will continue to post updates there, I would say check it once or twice a day to see what your friends are up to then give them a call instead.

  • Take breaks from screen in general. It adds to the noise in your head

  • Try not to buy all of something at the store. There will be more. We want everyone else to have clean hands (and other parts) too!

Now to add:

  • Gratitude. Take time every day to think about things you are grateful for. We know what these things are, but sit for a moment and think about them. Focus on those things and what they have brought to your life. Do this until you smile :)

  • Think about the medical professionals from all over the country who are traveling TO New York to help on the front lines, at great personal risk to themselves. Like Mr. Rogers told us, look for the helpers in a crisis. It’s been inspirational. 20,000 health professionals came here. Wow.

  • Breathing. I’ll add some more techniques in further notes, but to start here’s two tips:

  • Sigh like Scartlett O’Hara… heave a big ol’ sigh with the force of your diaphragm. Do this about 8 times in a row when you’re feeling anxious.

  • Practice expanding in all directions. Feel your ribs push out to the side when you inhale and work on feeling your back push out as well. As I write this at my dining table, my diaphragm/lower ribs are pushed against the table which restricts the front a bit and this helps me feel the sides and back expand as I breathe in. I no longer need the table to do so, but it’s great practice.

  • Crafts: Coloring, knitting, crocheting, drawing, jugsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles. Something to help you zone out.

  • Reach out to someone who might be quarantining alone.

  • Applaud healthcare workers outside the window at 7pm.

Do some or all of these things every day. In these circumstances, it literally can make a difference for your health. Please feel free to email me to either get information on the above or to set up a time to chat on the phone. I'll close with one last quote on fear that resonated with me:

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Be safe, stay home,

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