God remians a presence in our lives even, or especially in times of trial. We can draw strength from Him to help us face the uncertanties present at this time.
Prayer places us in contact with Almighty God, and we should expect almighty results, whether or not He chooses to grant our petitions or deny our requests.
Whatever the answer to our prayers, the God to whom we pray is the source of the power of prayer, and He can and will answer us, according to His perfect will and timing.
If you’re having a wobble, you may have noticed all sorts of weird stuff going on. Are you arguing more, talking faster, struggling to sleep, restless, desperate for information?
Or are you teary and overwhelmed, perhaps feeling a bit sick? Struggling to make decisions? Just want to stay in bed? Tummy upsets? Having palpitations, butterflies, headaches?
Ranting, picking fights or getting into arguments? Laughing unexpectedly or saying random, inappropriate things? Developing Very Strong Opinions on epidemiology overnight? Or have you just completely gone to ground?
If you are feeling any of these things: good news! You are not going mad, you are infact a fully functioning normal human being who is living in a time of hyper anxiety.
We’re in the middle of an unprecedented crisis that has showed up unexpectedly and which presents a mortal threat to ourselves and everyone we know and love. It’s frightening and it makes us feel totally out of control.
When we are exposed to threats and need to deal with them, our brain springs into action. Specifically a tiny, innocent-looking thing buried behind your ear called the amygdala (fun fact: it's the size and shape of an almond). It’s the bit in charge when we are frightened and right now, it’s in full tin-hat klaxon mode.
Unfortunately, it’s a very ancient bit of kit. It came into being when threats basically consisted of being eaten by large scary animals like bears.
Have you evern noticed that when you have have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail?
Well, to the amygdala, everything looks like a bear. It’s also pretty basic, so it really only has two settings; these are, no bear and BEAR!!! and it preps you accordingly.
There are really only two reactions to a bear about to eat you: fight it, or run away really really fast. It’s called the Fight or Flight response.
The amygdala does this by flooding your body with chemicals like cortisol, and adrenaline. Your heart rate goes up, you feel super alert, your breathing goes shallow, your muscles are ready for action.
In a group fear situation like a pandemic, this tends to happen whether you think you're scared or not - anxiety is even more infections than COVID-19. Your body reacts even if your conscious mind doesn't.
Obviously this is all great if you really are running away from a bear. But we’re now in a situation where we’re being asked to do the EXACT OPPOSITE of running away. We are being told to sit tight. Literally stay still. Process large amounts of information, make complicated decisions, and stay calm.
All while a bit of your brain is running around yelling BEAR! BEAR! BEAR!
This isn’t easy. The result is an awful lot of stress and anxiety, you may end up feeling really overwhelmed and having all sorts of reactions.
The good news is it is possible to calm down. We can turn the amygdala from BEAR!!! to no bear, and not just by distracting it with cake and tea.
Here are some solid, scientifically proven things you can do.
BREATHE. It’s so basic, but breathing exercises are basically magic. They work in minutes and you can do them anywhere. They work because of all the physical reactions the amygdala triggers, rapid breathing is the only one over which we have conscious control. Control your breathing and you are basically telling your body: it’s OK. There is no bear. Your body will then start to dial down the adrenaline and cortisol and all the other reactions will slow to a halt.
CALL A FRIEND: Don’t suffer alone. Call a mate - someone who’ll listen while you have a bit of a rant, or a cry, or a general wobble. Someone you can trust not to judge you and who’ll just sympathise; and if you get one of those calls, just be nice to them. You only need to be kind.
LAUGH: it doesn’t matter what is funny – laughter is a huge releaser of endorphins.
DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR HANDS. Cook. Tidy. Knit. Draw. Bake. Garden. Mend things. This is what nice middle class therapists call Mindfulness.
TREAT YOUR BODY: We hold stress in our bodies at least as much as our minds. Take a bath or a shower. Put on things that feel good on your skin. Use nice smelling body creams. Stretch. Skip. Do yoga. Dance. All of these will help calm you down.
SUNSHINE...amid this horror – enjoy it. If you can’t go outside, open the windows and feel it on your face. If it’s safe for you to go outside (maybe you live in the country) do it, while of course observing social distancing rules. Go for a walk. Being outdoors, connecting to nature, is hugely calming.
STEP AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA/THE NEWS: All it will do will scare you more and make things worse. Turn off the telly and avoid the psychopathic digital wild west that is Twitter. Stick to sensible sources and limit yourself to short need-to-know bits a day. You’ll feel better immediately.
STEP AWAY FROM TERRIBLE COPING MECHANISMS: They will all translate as BEAR!! to your poor brain. Especially don’t get drunk, especially if you’re alone (BEAR!!), take drugs (BEAR!!), stay up all night reading (BEAR!!), get sucked into conspiracy theories (BEAR!!).
BE KIND: to yourself and others. Now is not the time to go on a diet. Nor is this the time to start on Proust or makeover your life. You'll probably struggle to concentrate, fail and make yourself feel worse. Don’t make this more stressful than it already is.
Think comfort books, comfort telly, comfort everything, oh and eat more cake. Cake makes everything better.