Don't forget to Breathe
We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic and it brings up so many questions about how we live, act and interract as humans. I can taste a bittersweet irony of how far we have advanced on certain technological and intellectual levels, but then again on some basic human ones, we are still somewhat neanderthal.
A case in point is the mass panic buying that has resulted in empty supermarket shelves in countries around the world, not only of toilet paper and sanitary gel but also of non perishable foods, resulting in the lack of provisions for the needy. I opened my phone this morning to a personal email from a supermarket CEO urging us to only buy what we need, to ensure there is enough to go round for everyone. Of course people are very anxious in this tense climate of uncertainty and fear around coronavirus, and when we’re stressed we lose a lot of our prefrontal cognitive abilities and emotional regulation.
But not only does this stress eventually rot our brain (literally our brain cells are killed) which can lead to neuropsychiatric problems such as depression and alzheimers later on  , it also weakens our immune system. When we are anxious and stressed, our bodies are flooded with chemicals and hormones such as adrenalin (great when we needed to run from an attacking bear like our ancestors but in this case, the intruder is a lot more subtle), and cortisol which suppresses our immune system, lowering the number of lymphocytes or white blood cells we have. In other words, the lower our lymphocyte level the more chance we have of contracting catagious diseases and viruses…
Practicing consideration and compassion are now more important than ever, not only to extend caretaking to others who may be very isolated, but to improve our overall good health through toning our vagus nerve, dubbed our nerve of compassion. On a basic level we need to at least remain mindful of healthy breathing; allowing the breath deep into our bellies and taking long, full exhalations out, especially when we are feeling fearful.
It is surreal times…almost as if this is just a bad dream that we will all soon wake up from, and life will return to normal. I will finish on an optimistic note with a true story that illustrates both how quickly events can turnaround and also of the fundamental goodness of human nature, although granted not comparable in anyway to the gravity of the current situation.
I was driving home at about 6pm one cold, dark winter’s evening from my Dance Therapy course in Bristol, with my then 2 year old in the back. We were stopped at the traffic lights of the large roundabout down from Temple Meads train station. When the lights turned green I tried to change gear and my clutch cable broke. I was in five lane traffic in full rush hour.
As the traffic tried to move on, we were grounded and irate commuters honked and drove around me in their frenzy to get home. At this point my son, naturally sensing the difficulty of the situation, considerately decided to exercise his lungs at full throttle in distress. Lo and behold, that particular morning, in my rush to get us out of the house in time I had forgotten my phone. At that point, I was ready to get on my knees and pray, not only for a miracle to happen but also for forgiveness for being such an irresponsible mother and getting us into this situation in the first place.
Within minutes, two gentlemen had helped moved my car to the side (before a more serious accident occurred), a phone was whipped out and the AA came. Within an hour, with the help of a strategically placed rubber band car fix we were both safely at home. As I sat there watching my son happily playing again, I had to pinch myself to check I was in the right dream.
So yes I do believe in angels and miracles. And having faith does not have to be blasphemous. In fact, it is probably quite essential right now.