Staying Grounded in Uncertain Times
“The only constant in life is change.”
This quote has come to mind many times in my life during times of transition and change, but never has it felt more relevant than it does now.
Over the last few weeks, life as we know it has changed drastically for the vast majority of people on planet Earth. Because of the spread of the novel coronavirus, we have been asked on a global scale to stop in our tracks and radically shift the way we go about our days.
For some that means losing work, or working in environments that may not be safe. For others, it means having kids at home, working to juggle a new structure to family life, or not being able to see loved ones at all. For many of us it means canceling plans and social activities and staying at home until further notice.
No matter what these changes look like on a personal level, I think most of us would agree that life has just become increasingly uncertain.
The Opportunity to Slow Down and Reconnect
With the uncertainty that arises when our usual structures and routines fall away, it is natural to feel ungrounded, anxious, and thrown off center.
Ayurveda defines health as svastha, a word that means “to be established in the self.” I love this definition because it does not necessarily mean that we have to be impervious to disease, free of pain, or in perfect physical shape in order to be healthy. Rather, it points us towards a place of connection to ourselves and to our hearts—a place of deep inner trust and stillness—even when the world around us becomes chaotic and full of unknowns.
In my experience, the crazier life gets, the more simplicity we need to invite into our lives. We can turn to the wisdom of Ayurveda for that very thing—simple tools to help us stay grounded and centered in the midst of challenging and unpredictable times. Here are some of the ways that I have been finding calm within the storm. I hope they can be helpful to you as well.
Establish a Daily Routine
The nervous system loves to know what to expect. Creating a dinacharya, a structure of daily rhythm and predictability, allows the body and nervous system to relax. This provides a sense of inner security, even when there is not much security to be found elsewhere.
Start by going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day and eating meals at regular times. Then play with adding a few of these daily habits when you wake up in the morning:
- Scrape your tongue. Use a tongue cleaner to help remove excess toxins (ama) and activate digestion, which in turn helps to keep your immune system strong.
- Swish with oil. Use Daily Swish to draw toxins out of your mouth and exercise the muscles of your face and jaw. Swishing for 5–20 minutes will help to relieve tension and help the nervous system to relax.
- Practice self-massage. Abhyanga, or the practice of self-massage with oil, is one of my favorite ways to stay nourished and grounded. Not only does it lubricate the tissues and calm the nervous system, but it is also an excellent way to give yourself the gift of loving, reassuring touch. This feels especially important right now, when many of us find ourselves with much less physical contact than we are used to.
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Move Your Body
Exercise that gets the blood and lymph moving is essential for overall health and immunity. It is also a great way to get out of your head, reconnect to your body, and create a positive energetic shift.
Move in any way that feels fun and energizing to you. Practice yoga, go for a walk if you are able, or do some jumping jacks. My favorite way to move has been to put on some tunes, take some deep breaths, and dance around my room like no one is watching—which they aren’t!
During this time, it is easy to get caught up in the barrage of noise that is available in the form of news, media, and entertainment. While it is important to stay connected and informed, it is equally important to take time to get quiet and connect to yourself.
Meditation is a powerful way to pause the noise and reconnect to a place of inner calm. Try this simple So Hum meditation, or any meditation practice that is familiar to you.
Feel Your Emotions
In times of so much uncertainty and suffering in the world, it is natural for our emotions to shift and change many times throughout the day. Some of the emotions that arise may not be comfortable, such as grief, anger, or fear.
Many of us have learned to push these emotions aside in an attempt to feel more comfortable and composed, but the more we try to override our authentic emotions, the more they can actually get stuck in the tissues of the body and wreak havoc on our health.
Working to express our emotions is not an excuse to lose control or take out our emotions on our loved ones, but it is an opportunity to learn ways to channel emotion into healthy forms of processing. Get out your journal and write, sing a song when you feel grief, or just lay down and let yourself cry when tears arise. The more we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, the more quickly they will shift.
Connect to Nature
I know that many people do not have the option to get outside right now. If this is your reality, try bringing nature into your home. Open your drapes and let in the sunlight, find music with nature sounds, and enjoy uplifting aromatherapy. These are just a few ideas.
If you do have the option to get outside, take it as an opportunity to reestablish your relationship with the natural world around you.
So get up and go for a walk, work in your garden, or simply sit outside and soak in the sunlight. Take some deep breaths, listen to the birds singing, notice the leaves budding out as winter turns to spring.
Whether you’re inside or out, allow the natural world around you to remind you that you belong to something so much bigger. And in this very moment, everything is okay.
Give Yourself Permission to Rest
Our modern world is full of obligations, deadlines, and demands. We move at a pace that is often faster than we can keep up with, and it can sometimes feel like life is just one never-ending to-do list. The commodity of time has become a rare and precious gift—one that most of us would happily accept more of.
For many, the novel coronavirus pandemic has dropped a sudden and unexpected window of time and space into our laps. If you are lucky enough to have a little extra time on your hands right now, enjoy it! Give yourself permission to be less productive than usual. Let this be an opportunity for less doing and more being. Take time to care for your body and care for your soul.
Think of this time as a sacred pause. Do more of what brings you joy. Whether it is making art, playing with your kids, talking to loved ones, or cooking new recipes, trust your instincts and choose with your heart. Let this time lead you back into svastha—into true connection with yourself.