When I saw this SNL clip (New Normal-SNL) the other night it made me think: Ah, yes, this is exactly what stress looks like under COVIN (yes, I know its COVID but you’ll get the joke when you see the clip). Meltdowns, and less resilience to stress and trauma, are symptoms of social isolation.
Not to mention the wine-drinking.
In astrology, connection (and shared pleasures) are ruled by the planet Venus. Venus offers soothing balm to life stressors, the ahhhh that allows for relaxation and release of tension. Here’s something you don’t often hear: Venus also helps us to feel safe and secure.
Connection & love doesn’t just make the world go ‘round. Our social nervous system requires connection to self-regulate, feel safe, calm.
Feeling safe, relaxed, secure largely relies on our ability to connect with others, our environment, the world. When we get a mismatch, we get nervous! There was a famous experiment that showed cooing, happy babies being received by expressionless faces of caregivers. They started to cry!
Reliable forms of ongoing connection create a baseline for our nervous system to return to after stress. Whether we get it from Zoom, text messaging, social media interactions or in person, we all need to experience nourishing connection. When we regularly hear the sound of a soothing, familiar, voice, and we are around people whose nervous system(s) resonates with ours, these things offer a feedback loop of connection that, according to polyvagal theory, stimulates our vagal nervous system — the part of our socially evolved nervous system that helps us feel relaxed, safe, at one with others and within our self. That lovely self-aware and relaxed experience of seeing your life with possibility and curiosity is facilitated through our social nervous system.
Since social distancing isn’t going away anytime soon, and we’ve entered the holiday season, a time we’d normally see family but this year less, and possibly some not at all, I’ve been asking myself: How can I stay connected? Do I want more experiences of connection with certain people (and less, with others)? How will I create that cozy and connected feeling?
It’s good to think about your anchors. In her book Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection, Deb Dana says certain people in our lives serve as reliable supports who hold a connection to safety when experiences threaten to pull us into stressful responses. Different people serve different needs (professional support or personal, for instance) which by naming we realize we have support to draw on. We also have non-human anchors that bring us back into that desirable relaxed state- even simply remembering them creates resilience. For instance, a time of day (early morning with our hot beverage), cuddling with a pet, preparing a meal for a child, or looking through old photo albums can be anchors. Acknowledging and relishing in these anchors, times we experience that lovely sense of self-integration and calm, is helpful.
More ideas to build our capacity to withstand stress and create resilience:
-listening to music, humming a tune to oneself, playing music. Hearing pleasant sounds and self-vocalization stimulate the vagal (calm) state.
-being in calming, beautiful, still environments and opening our senses to them.
-smiling. When you are smiling, even if it is just a cheesy fake one at first, your nervous system receives the message “I’m okay.”
-creating art, cooking, eating -any activity that brings you into pleasurable presence.
-somatic experiencing (committing to being in the body, with ALL of its sensations and feelings). All stimulate that nice feeling of ahhhh….
One anchor that has helped me through this Covid time is dressing up for dinner. Initially, I felt sad that I had nowhere to wear all of my lovely dresses. I missed the ritual of transition from mundane things of daily life in to a more relaxed, social time. When I started changing into a different dress every evening before dinner I began to feel more centered in myself, and more like myself (Downton Abbey? Yes, please!). Over time, this ongoing ritual has become an anchor that signals the transition from day into the evening, elevating my sense of Self and mood.
Who, where and what are your anchors during this time? Is your nervous system feeling tuned-up with adequate levels of pleasure and connection? Are you feeling safe and cozy? If not, what will you do about it? These are Taurus (Venus-ruled) Full Moon fueled questions, and since it’s a Taurus Full Moon don’t be surprised if these questions are “up” right now!