Millennials, or Gen Y, the generation born between 1977 to 1994 and currently 26 to 43 years of age, maybe one of the hardest-hit generations in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. My clients in this age range face myriad challenges: financial uncertainty, aging, and vulnerable parents, child-rearing and schooling, and relationship issues resulting from close confinement with their partners and kids.
After months of sequestering, watching, and waiting, Robert, a 37-year-old entrepreneur and father of a two-year-old, recently commented on the emotional fatigue he and his demographic feel. With no end in sight, he experienced something he didn’t usually feel or have a name for. As we discussed it, he agreed that it could be anxiety. He’s coming to terms with the reality that we may be “in this for the long haul.”
Before the virus, his life was segmented into his home, office, and network of family and friends. Those boundaries are now blurred. In adjusting to life in this much smaller space with none of his usual respites, he has to find new strategies for how to deal with anxiety.
First Step: Reframe How You Think About It
COVID-19 is a very real existential threat. This moment in history can be viewed as either an overwhelming stressor or a developmental challenge and opportunity for growth. Robert’s anxiety was wearing him down. He wasn’t sleeping well, he’d gained 20 pounds, his energy was taking a nosedive, and he experienced constant worry.
I asked him, “What about reframing this time as a challenge to grow internally so that you develop more emotional strength and resilience?” We talked about how anxiety and stress compromise physical and mental health. “Rather than contracting with anxiety,” I told him, “it’s possible for you to grow your capacity to handle stress more positively and build a better relationship with yourself, your partner, and your son. This will conserve your energy so that you can better face whatever life throws at you.”
At first, Robert looked at me as if I was out of my mind. He asked disbelievingly, “I barely have time to sleep at night, and you’re telling me to develop my relationship with myself?” I laughed and said, “It’s simple, but it’s not easy, and yes, that’s what I’m saying. Let me walk you through it.”
Second Step: Notice How You May Be Heightening Your Anxiety
I challenged Robert to reflect on the ways he feeds his anxiety. I told him, “One sure way to heighten anxiety is to treat yourself like an object.” I asked him, “Do you ignore your inner voice – your body voice – when you’re hungry or need exercise, rest, and sleep? Do you push past your healthy limits?” He admitted that his healthy diet and exercise habits had “gone out the window,” and his social media screen time had increased by two hours a day since the pandemic began. He was justifying this time by saying that he needed to keep up with the news. This doom scrolling was happening first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, affecting the length and quality of his sleep.
Third Step: Know the Difference Between Anxiety and Wellbeing
Among the greatest gifts of Integrative Body Psychotherapy (IBP) are its practical tools for calming anxiety, creating a sense of inner stability, and developing a way to face life’s challenges with an inner calm.
I told Robert, “You can take charge of your emotional life. Notice the sensations of tension in your body when you become anxious.” I guided him through some breathing exercises to activate his parasympathetic nervous system, which heightened his relaxation and his energy at the same time. Similar to a great workout, it snapped him back into the core of his being. In this heightened energetic state, he was able to feel a sense of empowerment rather than fear.
Once Robert entered this state of greater energy and wellbeing, we worked on what happens when he collapses into anxiety, negativity, and fear. At the heart of it was his feeling of being alone and feeling like he’s not good enough to navigate himself and his family through this challenging time. As he recognized this old theme replaying itself, I noticed his posture begin to collapse and his energy drain away. I pointed out that he abandons his core self – his inner source of energy and wellbeing – whenever he lets his old theme play out. I urged him to take another round of breaths to charge himself up and connect inside again.
The next breathing cycle anchored Robert into his core so that he was able to stay present, connected, and grounded. I encouraged him to notice what comes up to interrupt his core and his sense of inner stability. He left the session with some concrete ways to stay present and centered inside.
I’m working online with clients like Robert to bolster their inner stability and resilience through Integrative Body Psychotherapy. IBP asserts that you are strong and resilient at your core. It’s your natural state. In our sessions together, Robert was learning to access his resilience and wellbeing at his core rather than remaining stuck in his learned patterns of anxiety. IBP recognizes that you can’t change your mind unless you change your state of being. It also identifies how most of the ways you fall out of your core have to do with old themes and patterns – old ways of being, doing, and relating.
Fourth Step: Develop Your Resilience with Simple Self-Awareness and Breathwork Tools
Discovering your core self and learning strategies to stay there will help you to overcome anxiety and balance all of life’s challenges. We are living through a time that requires us to rise and reinvent ourselves. Essentially to become more of who we are at our core. This can be thought of as a developmental challenge rather than a stressor.
Make the Giant Reset of the Coronavirus Pandemic Work for You
Whatever your situation is during this challenging moment – either wondering what to do with all of the free time on your hands or trying to keep several balls in the air at once, it’s possible to amp up your self-care and deepen your self-awareness. Rise to the challenge of this time by placing a priority on your wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. This moment is an opportunity to develop your resilience and become someone with more capacity to stay in your core. Your children, your partner, your community, and our world need you to face this moment and grow from it in unexpected ways.
You can take charge of how you feel on the inside. The Core Self Transformation is an introduction to the Integrative Body Psychotherapy approach to experiencing Core Self. It incorporates a body-mind-spirit awareness while embracing your whole life experience. Now, more than ever is the time to begin your journey toward greater wellbeing, connection, presence, and resilience.
Small Steps to Take Charge of Your Emotional Life
Notice. Become aware of the sensations in your body when you feel anxious. Anxiety feels like tension in your muscles and can cause a rapid heart rate and shallow breathing.
Breathe. When anxious, do a two-part inhalation through an open mouth. Breathe deeply into your belly and feel it push outward. Then take a second sip of breath and lift your chest. Hold your breath at the top of the inhalation for a count of two, then soften from the inside and gently release your breath. Be sure to breathe through an open, relaxed mouth. Repeat three to five times.
Get Present. Use your eyes to look at colors and objects in your field of vision. Out loud, say what you see, i.e., black phone, white bowl, green basket, etc. Keep taking deep breaths.
Soothe. Take some time to soothe yourself. Walk outside, continue breathing deeply and use your eyes to identify colors and objects.
Journal. Be curious. Write in your journal and explore what triggered your anxiety. It’s easy to blame your upset on your kids, partner, or the coronavirus. However, it’s not about what happens on the outside. The truth is that you deal with life’s challenges on the inside that keeps your anxiety spinning.