• Dr. Vin

Inside



BACKGROUND: We are well into our second month of quarantine in California and much of the USA. Our food delivery routine is now working smoothly, as we get eggs from the chicken lady and vegetables from the farm, both delivered by kind neighbors. My younger sister delivers our other groceries. But I cannot hug her when she comes to the door. I feel sad watching her walk away. Once I close the door, we are inside the house, where most of us are spending almost all our time.

PROBLEM: The U.S. just passed the 20,000 mark in number of coronavirus deaths. Most citizens are doing a good job sheltering at home, which we all know lowers the infection rate of the virus. People are revealing their mental status in this time of crisis. Here are a few examples:

I’m an anxious mess. I am exhausted. I can barely focus on work. I feel drained…

I want to call her, but I feel like I need her more than she needs me…

I hear a siren. Is a neighbor being hospitalized for the coronavirus?...

I feel like the walls of this apartment are closing in on me…

I just want to crawl under a blanket, but the kids are yelling for me…

Even in our safe houses, we know we are hiding from the big bad wolf, who is waiting to pounce, to maim and to kill. Those who must venture out are in stealth mode with all their personal protective equipment. Those more susceptible, like medical professionals, the homeless, prisoners, border detainees, delivery personnel, and anyone else interacting daily with strangers, are in more danger. People are out of work and scared about money. All of this increases stress. What can we do?

CONCEPTS:

It is helpful to understand that we are in survival mode, and what that state does to the brain and body. It keeps us on high alert, which raises our cortisol levels, making our bodies ready for fight or flight. Most of us have some history of trauma. When we were victims of trauma, we had no power to change a horrifying or terrifying outcome. The current epic event is re-activating old traumas in a way that we may feel the old powerlessness. Some people are short-tempered, acting out anger as a way to feel power by fighting. Others react though depression and immobility. Both responses are ways to reduce overwhelming stress. These are the body’s natural responses.

SOLUTIONS:

1. When you feel you will explode in anger, hike to the top of the hill, where you are alone and sing or scream your protest to God or the sky. Write, play music, or exercise.

2. When you are scared, depressed or exhausted you need outside soothing. If you do not a have pet or person you are sheltering with, call up friends or family. We all have more time for each other. We all need each other.

3. We need to have compassion, not only for others during these difficult times, but for ourselves, including the states inside our heads.

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