Try these strategies to calm your body when a fight-or-flight response kicks in.
Seeking a form of escape is a natural response of the body (“fight, flight or freeze”) to threatening situations—such as an aggressive wild animal in the forest, or a pandemic. In this threatening context, the body produces a hormone called cortisol, which has several benefits for the body and facilitates a quick response.
However, when nothing is done immediately to fight or escape from the threat, this hormone accumulates. It has a detrimental effect on health, causing memory loss, difficulty concentrating, depression, anxiety, and even hair loss.
So, in a situation like this in which we have less control over the threat—a virus, the economic crisis, etc.—and we’re dealing with an invisible enemy, it’s important to resort to other methods to keep us present in the here and now and not let the threat eat away at our thoughts. Here are 4 tips for dealing with anxiety during the pandemic (or any time).
By oxygenating our body and our brain, we send a message to our body that the situation is under control. We activate the parasympathetic system, which brings us sensations of calm, rest, and satiety.
By actively focusing on our breath, we stay more grounded in the present and therefore less concerned about the threat. A good technique is to count to four when breathing in deeply, and then breathe out for another four seconds, repeating the procedure until you feel better.
2Mindfulness and prayer
Mindfulness is another way not only to keep us present, but to focus on our breathing, body sensations, and external or ambient noises, thus leaving negative thoughts outside. Prayer can also be very helpful; putting ourselves in God’s hands and contemplating His goodness and power, for example, helps bring spiritual peace and calm our heart.
No activity is more efficient for making us focus on what we’re doing and taking our mind off our worries than dynamic physical exercise. This includes team sports such as volleyball, basketball, etc., and individual sports such as squash and martial arts, as well as aerobic training and Crossfit. On top of that, endorphins, neurotransmitters released by the brain during prolonged physical activity, are a natural calming agent.
Rituals—religious or not—can bring us a sense of warmth. Repetition of a series of actions creates familiarity, and this conveys calm and a sense of welcome. A simple ritual like drinking a cup of tea or taking a relaxing bath with aromatic bath bombs and oils can become a way to savor the moment and forget about our problems.
Praying the Rosary calmly in our home’s prayer corner or before the Blessed Sacrament in a perpetual adoration chapel, besides connecting us with the Blessed Virgin and with God, can evoke memories of praying in our childhood and help us feel part of the great family of the Church with its eternal rites and traditions.
The important thing is that we choose rituals that calm and anchor us.