Episode 34 – Navigating Uncertain Times with Jess Winnicki
written by Jessica Winnicki (Social Work / Art Therapy) on 02/04/20
Let’s feel the feelings we are experiencing and rely on old ways and perhaps discover new ones of expressing these emotions.
During my quarantine I have gone through waves of being productive and creative as well as feeling overwhelmed and mournful.
Through all of these feelings I have tried my best to stick with a mantra “there is no “right” way to feel, we are going through something new and as a community / world we are experiencing it together”
For me there is a sense of calm / holding when I think about my community, here in Manitoba and all over the world – that we are in this together and that from day to day, from moment to moment I (we) are not alone in our feelings even though we may be physically alone in our homes. Do what you need to do to feel a shift in your emotions / be present with them. Drink water, feel the sun on your face, take time for yoga (or another practice of moving your body as you are able).
I know that some of what I have said and some of what we will discuss today is harder for some people more then others and to that I say, do your best, in each moment, whatever your best is showing up like for you. Reach out – there is healing and holding in connection.
We are here – sending love and support.
Let’s talk about fear…
Fear and anxiety are attempts to get our attention so that we can overcome, heal, grow, and move forward in life. The longer we avoid their nudging, the louder and messier they become. When we can bring our awareness to that which calls our attention, instead of fighting or fleeing, we are drawn into health, freedom, and courage.
Fear and the neuroscience behind our responses to it can help us put into context what we may be experiencing currently with COVID19 or what we have experienced in the past.
- Fear response is a reaction to a threat perceived unconsciously or consciously in the amygdala that triggers a fight, flight, or freeze response.
- Amygdala is situated in the limbic system, the amygdala consists of two almond shaped structures that set off the sympathetic nervous system’s stress response Amygdala reactions play a role in implicit processing of emotion (especially fear) and memory.
- Fight, Flight, or Freeze response is a rapid sympathetic nervous system reaction to threats or stressors. The body is prepared for defence or escape by norepinephrine and epinephrine release.
- Norepinephrine is a stress hormone central in the maintenance of alert-ness, drive, and motivation. Integral to the fight, flight, or freeze response, it directly increases heart rate, triggering the release of glucose from energy stores and increasing blood flow to skeletal muscles.
- Epinephrine / adrenaline is a neurotransmitter released by the sympathetic nerves and the adrenal gland’s medulla. Epinephrine mobilizes fight, flight, or freeze response by accelerating body responses that facilitate emergency functioning while decelerating nonemergency functions.
- Short term (acute) stress response Rapid fight, flight, or freeze reactions to threats and/or stressors that galvanize the body for instant action. It also shuts down unnecessary bodily functions.
- Long term (chronic) stress response is a slow, more sustainable endocrine response to threats and stressors. This reaction modifies body functioning so that ongoing stress or survival challenges can be managed.
Hass-Cohen, N., & Findlay, J. C. (2015). Art therapy and the neuroscience of relationships, creativity, and resiliency: Skills and practices (Norton series on interpersonal neurobiology). W. W. Norton & Company.
The emotional response to fear is highly personalized.
Fear is incredibly complex. Some fears may be a result of experiences or trauma, while others may represent a fear of something else entirely, such as a loss of control. Still, other fears may occur because they cause physical symptoms, such as being afraid of heights because they make you feel dizzy and sick to your stomach.
Cultivating new attitudes around fear and fear responses can be powerful. Knowing the neuroscience around what is happening in our brains and bodies and be powerful and empowering information. Our behaviour reflects our attitudes (ways of thinking). Putting into practice things that can shift our mind / attitudes allows us to give fear and anxiety close attention. They allow us to cultivate our inner capacity to be non-judging of ourselves and our processes and see clearly the hear and now.
Re-frames around our thoughts can help:
“Isn’t that interesting? I am having quite a reaction to ______, I wonder why / lets explore this further” “This current manner of reacting is not serving me. What can I try that might be different”
What are some other ways we can cope right now?
Self-care / self compassion strategies (what does that even mean / look like right now?)
- walks (while practicing social distancing)
- exercise / moving your body as able
- connecting with on-line classes
- making art
- collecting items from nature
- create an area in your home / sacred space
- add markers to your daily routine as able (tea, bath, reading, meditation, screaming into a pillow with frustration and overwhelm)
- play games (with those in your home or on-line)
- allowing yourself space to ask for help
- free yourself from the idea of perfection
- taking time when you need to be in the absence of ‘doing’
- take breaks as needed, this is new territory
- spontaneous writing for 5-10 minutes
- how am I today (checking in with self)
- what can I do to support myself today (as I am able)
- what can I do to support others today (as I am able)
- list of options / things you enjoy (so you can take a look an pick one when you might be feeling overwhelmed)
- how do I calm myself while this “storm” passes
- how can I be gentle with myself today / in this moment
- what have I done / am doing that feels right / validating
Ways to connect during social distancing:
- video chats with those who you feel seen by
- phone calls
- going for a walk and smiling at a stranger
- connecting to writing, exercising, yoga, art groups on-line
- write a letter (a letter to yourself as an option as well)
- reaching out to a therapist
- moving your body in a way that feels right in the moment
- joining an on-line community you feel a connection with
Art Directive (all you need is a paper and a writing utensil, but if you have your favourite art supplies available to you please go and get them)
Creativity has the power to both initiate and terminate, giving rise to a new cycle. Creativity represents the ability to develop new concepts, ideas, and useful intentions, and to make objects or art. In this moment, in the way you are able be open to the unknown / what might arise through this directive and the creative process.
- create symbol of self in the center of the page (literal or abstract)
- in the space around you create a forcefield, a semi-permeable layer (that you determine what enters and exits) around you (with some space for other items)
- once you have created that think about the things / people / feelings you want inside the space with you and what you are working on keeping outside of your space (even if during this moment in time you cannot physically have all that you want inside the semi-permeable layer with you)
- as you feel called create these things with colours, symbols, or words
- you can use this as an image to meditate on, an image you can come back to as a place of grounding and control and power
- you can recreate this image as needed / as part of a daily or weekly practice
- this is a time of change, stretching edges, uncomfortable feelings, and growth
- remember that everyday is a process and we bring different versions of ourself to each day / moment of the day
- be gentle with yourself, strive for effort and intention as opposed to perfection