Facing Hard Times with a Sensitive Heart

As I sit here writing this to you, what I hope more than anything is that you are well, that your loved ones are well, that all the people around you are well.

It’s a troubling time. Just as we finally begin to move out of the grips of winter towards the freedom of spring, we find ourselves wending into worry about the impact of COVID-19. It’s hard to get clear information. It’s hard to know what to do. I was surprised when Justin got home from work the other night and told me that our grocery store had been cleaned out of toilet paper, paper towels and more. All of this has me taking my spring cold rather seriously, even though I have no tangible reason to be concerned.

But everyone is concerned.

Conferences, schools, borders are closing. People are stocking up. If you’ve watched zombie movies and the like, maybe those fictional scenarios keep running through your mind. Not the zombie part, per se, but the way a crisis plays out, the desperate and horrible ways that people are said to behave. Those are the stories in our psyche and they are not helpful.

In contrast, this week I listened to a wonderful interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner, who wrote (among many other books) When Bad Things Happen to Good People. So much of what he said rang out into the darkness, particularly his exhortation to…

“Live bravely in an uncertain world.

As creatives, many of us have highly tuned sensitivity. It’s one of our best attributes. We take things in deeply. We revel and rattle in response to the world. As highly sensitive people, we can find crisis, chaos and confusion overwhelming. The jangling of our nerves makes us want to retreat, to shut down, to stop listening to the news.

We sensitive creative hearts mustn’t abandon the world.

Yes, take care of yourself. Sleep more. Eat well. Soothe your spirit with quiet and music and meditation. Journal your worries, fears and gratitude. Read what strengthens and inspires you. Stretch your body. Meditate. Hydrate. Create. Breathe. Let your practices support you beautifully and well.

Stay informed. Use this as an opportunity to hone your skill of discernment. Do your best to rely on simple and clear information resources not sensational stories or emotional tirades. Accurate information and helpful guidelines work wonders in the face of overwhelm. Check in with your resource once a day and then approach your day wisely and well.

We are connected. Don’t let this virus drive a wedge between us. Yes, for a time, we must keep our distance. We will hug less and we will stand further apart but, make no mistake, we are in this together. Do what you can to contribute. It can be as simple as diligently washing your hands. Make it even more powerful by infusing this act with positive purpose: “As I wash my hands, I help create safety for all.” This approach can apply to any of the recommended behaviours, for example, “As I keep my distance, it’s not because I don’t care about you. It’s because I do.”

Isolate – and reach out. We are all being encouraged to socially isolate and to self-quarantine if we’re not feeling well. Thankfully we live in an age where we can do this while also staying connected. Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime (even *gasp* phone) friends and loved ones. Look for ways you can help out in your community – and if you are the one who needs help, don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Take action. Send love. Whether it’s the current pandemic or something else that is flooding your nervous system with worry and stress, I encourage you to engage in the practice of sending love. Overwhelm thrives when we feel like there is nothing we can do. Even the smallest actions can give our energy a place to go and make us feel more settled. When I notice myself getting caught up in an emotional spiral of fear, worry, anger and anxiety, I get very still. I take a couple of deep breathes and become present in my body. From my heart centre and my belly, I send love. I send it to myself. I send it to others who are similarly suffering. If I am feeling very strong, I send love to what or whom I perceive to be the cause of the suffering. (If I don’t feel it, I don’t push it). This practice brings me ease and comfort. It makes me feel less alone. In my deepest heart I also believe that somehow it helps others feel less alone too.

You are not alone.

If you are feeling stressed out, worried and overwhelmed, if you or your family members are feeling unwell, know that right now I am here, breathing deeply and sending you love. I know that out there, someone, maybe you, is doing the same for me.

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