We recognise that the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects has brought about much anxiety and fear. Furthermore, government measures of self-isolation and social distancing have removed much of what we used to rely upon to regulate ourselves; close contact with our loved ones, friends and our daily routine. Everyone reacts differently and it may be that you’ve had a reaction to this pandemic.
It is normal for people to experience a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions. This list* includes:
- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
- Anxiety, worry or fear
- Racing thoughts
- Sadness, tearfulness, loss of interest in usual enjoyable activities
- Physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, stomach upset, fatigue or other uncomfortable sensations
- Frustration, irritability or anger
- Restlessness or agitation
- Feeling helpless
- Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
- Feeling disconnected from others
- Apprehension about going to public spaces
- Trouble relaxing
There are many helpful ways to cope with stress.
For now, I would like to explore the healing power of dance!
Culture and history have shown how integral the movement of dance is to the fabric of our existence. We’ve used dance in our religions, our socialising, our entertaining and also for our exercising to.
Dance as a therapeutic tool is powerful because it uses our body to express our inner voice and requires us to be fully present. Dance increases our energy levels, our consciousness and awareness.
Let’s explore using dance to express any anxiety or stress through what we are feeling currently, or unconsciously holding onto.
Understanding why you have had an emotional reaction to Covid-19
For the last couple of months, living in a pandemic, we have not any certainty about anything! We’ve only been able to live day by day, not being able to plan ahead much, adhering to measures put in place by our government and watching the toll it has taken on humanity. At the beginning, we weren’t sure if the government measures would work, and now we’re unsure of how the new future will look like. This pandemic has been a life marker.
As we slowly navigate our way out of this, I have been wondering about how to readjust back to a life with less restrictions, but still with social distancing.
Reflecting on this question, has made me appreciate the emotional impact that self-isolation and social distancing has had on me. The anxiety, stress, fear, and annoyance I’ve felt during these last couple of months (as I went from reluctantly having to panic buy and stock up), plus the enforced working from home rules, has led to the feeling of loneliness and longing for the comfort of being able to see and touch loved ones. My body recognises these emotions as a trauma. Trauma is when you don’t have the inner resources to meet the event. Whilst my mind has processed the understanding of my emotional reaction and rationalised this, my emotional self still feels like it needs a gentle guiding hand.
Why has this event been traumatic?
Our most basic need is to stay alive and our nervous system is hardwired to keep us alive. This is mostly out of our control. We are familiar with the ‘fight or flight’ response to trauma; Professor Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory on our nervous system develops this further. Very simply put, our vagal nerve (tenth cranial nerve) is linked to both physiological and behavioural states. When we are threatened, our sympathetic system (‘fight or flight’) kicks in and our parasympathetic system dials down. Our parasympathetic also homeostatically regulates us and is linked to our social engagement. When we’re rested and relaxed, we socially engage with each other and co-regulate. When we’re under threat, this shuts down and we lose our capacity to socially engage, our ability to co-regulate and our homeostatic functioning is disrupted.
Using our body to process trauma
We use our body to track what we’re experiencing in our life. During Covid-19, our body detects a threat without an awareness of where that threat is coming from. Our bodies are in acute stress. The problem is how long can we exist in this state before it become chronic.
We have been told to self-isolate, to socially distance ourselves, yet human beings are social creatures, we are meant to relate to others. Our brain is getting mixed messages. Organisational bodies, the media and our workplaces have all provided us knowledge and tools to help mitigate this. Please see my resources list below if you would like to know where to seek help.
Whilst you can rationalise your emotions, sometimes, without knowing, you can become emotionally overloaded, and whether you’re aware of it or not, the body holds onto this. So now, we’re going to explore releasing that emotional pressure valve just a touch. We’re going to tap into our body’s innate wisdom, allow our body to be our intuitive guide so we can heal our emotional self.
I invite you to move; to give yourself permission just to be curious as to where this exploration of self-dance will take you. Allow yourself (without judgement), to notice, dance and vocalise out any pent-up emotions. Unfurl and unwind whatever emotion you may be holding onto and shake this off.
I encourage you to seek the wisdom of your deep primitive self. For this, we need to turn off our linear, cognitive rationale. We’ll use music and breath as a guide to access our innermost primitive emotional self. We’ll use movement to generate energy to shift the locked emotion in your body.
If we’re able to turn down our internal noise slightly, we can hear better, and give ourselves more space to allow calm in.
How to dance?
The exercise is simple, so in a clear space and barefoot, just let the music guide you.
We begin first by transporting ourselves to the wilds of Africa. In your mind, allow your imagination to roam: smell the hot, arid air, then feel the sun scorched land beneath your feet. Allow yourself to explore how your body wants to move. Allow your body to shake off any fears, worries or anxieties. Go hard in your dance _ breathe hard and really activate your lungs. Feel the power of your breath; breath for your health, your mind. The freedom of your breath is powerful.
Dance with freedom and raw power. Dance with your hands and use your facial expression to scare away your fears. Feel your body. Feel the strength and resilience in yourself.
Return to calm
This may be a bit slow to start with, but stay the course and be patient. This is also a practice of mindfulness and of listening inwards.
Do this for as long as you need to as your body will know when it’s time to stop.
At the end, allow yourself time to come back to the present; listen to your breathing and notice how it travels in your body. Begin to connect your mind to your body, bringing into awareness perhaps the warmth of your skin, the beating of your heart. Anchor yourself in your self-experience.
We’ve successfully used movement to let out some of your built-up emotional pressure, we’ve used movement to connect to your natural self and to ground you. Now let your body be your resource and reservoir of strength.
The more you explore and engage with this, the easier it will be to hear your inner self and to have this as a guidance in your life.
Below I list the collection of ‘Feel The Sounds’ by Cee-Roo. There are a number of countries to explore after Kenya, Africa; choose whichever would be the most poignant to you.
Let’s take a couple of minutes now to hit one of those links above, and rhythm and dance our way out of our Covid-19 blues.
As we enter May, with the possibly of easing further restrictions, (and whilst we still have to be cautious and prudent as life has not yet returned to complete normality), let’s take a moment to care for our emotional self. This will stand us in good stead to manage the next coming weeks and months of slowly returning to ‘business as usual’ with social distancing.
In my Rolfing® Structural Integration work, we engage our body mind connection. Understanding how our autonomic nervous system affects our co-ordinated movement and posture is one of the lenses through which we see the whole body. Should you wish to learn more of what I do, please visit my website: www.mystructuralintegration.com.au.
Other resources to help:
- Head to Health (Gov)
- Beyond Blue
- eheadspace – Wellbeing support for young people (12 – 25 years)
Photo thanks to: Lee Pigott and Patkowski on Unsplash
*Resource: University of Melbourne