Have you ever gotten stuck? Physically stuck, wedged, trapped, unable to move?
Many of us feel stuck right now. Our physical movement is limited to essential travel only with potentially heavy consequences for going about our normal lives. It’s very stressful. This situation can also cause us to get emotionally stuck in cycles of fear, anger, anxiety, apathy, and depression.
We’re getting cabin fever!
During one of my counseling internships a mother brought her teenage son in to talk. She practically pushed him into my office, sat him on the couch, sat almost on top of him, and began to explain everything that was wrong with him and why she was convinced that he was headed for a lifetime in prison. The son sat, arms crossed, staring angrily out the window, barely breathing while his mom went on and on and on.
He was stuck.
I was sure he was sitting in the same position, wearing the same facial expression, hearing the same words, stuck in this same state of living for the past several months – if not longer. He wasn’t going to talk to me. Not while his mom kept talking, not in this space she had shoved him into, and not in his current state of mind. We had to make a change. We had to move.
So, I gently interrupted his mother and asked if I could take her son for a walk. Both of them looked at me like I had grown a second head. “Come on, I’ll buy you a soda,” I told him as I stood up and opened the door. He followed me out, and I let his mom know we’d be back by the end of the hour. He picked out a Gatorade at the vending machine and sat down at a table in the cafe area. This time he was sprawled across the chair, looking much more relaxed, and almost smiling. “Your mom sure had a lot to say.” I started. “Oh man! Le’mme tell you,” he took off talking and didn’t stop until I opened up the office door after we returned about forty-five minutes later.
Sometimes we get stuck, but we have to move differently in order to break free. We have to make a change.
How long have you been sitting, all clenched up, barely breathing, scared/mad/sad/etc… while the news/social media drones on and on and on and on about the pandemic? Even if you are moving your body, how long have you been in the same state of mind?
Which brings me to the lizard.
Lizards bask. They lay in the sunshine until they get uncomfortable. Then they move to the shade. When they get too cold they go back to the sun. Cold-blooded reptiles that have to change their state to regulate their body temperature, 3rd grade animal science, blah blah blah, what’s this have to do with anything, Sara?
Well, we can lizard.
Yes, lizard is a verb now.
We can practice self-awareness so we recognize when we need to make a change to regulate our emotional temperatures. We can break out, get free, shake it loose, and mix it up internally even while we are limited externally.
Here are some ideas:
- Turn off the news/stop scrolling your feed for a set amount of time.
- Open up your posture – stand up, or lay down, and stretch out your arms and legs like a starfish – the opposite of how you tighten up your body when you’re scared and angry.
- Walk backwards to the other room.
- Laugh at yourself and notice how good your face feels now that it’s not all scrunched up.
- Start a list of things you’re thankful for. Intentionally practicing gratitude is one of the most effective ways to break a negative emotional state.
- Pray. Now, I never want to offer over simplified cliches so here is some specific direction: grab a drink or a snack and some paper, go somewhere different (even in your house or porch or wherever, just not where you’ve been sitting for most of your day), imagine God opening up the conversation like “So this corona thing is pretty intense for you…”, and start writing your “Oh man! Le’mme tell you…” response. When you run out of words thank God for hearing you out and ask him what he wants to say to you. Write down what comes to your mind and see what you discover.
- Get some vitamin D. Seriously, soak up some sun (or a supplement) like a lizard. A 2010 study found that 42% of Americans do not get enough vitamin D. And more recent studies suggest a correlation between vitamin D insufficiency, depression, and other mood disorders.
- Take a walk (most places still allow walks outside as long as you practice social distancing), walk around your yard, or around the inside of your house.
- While you walk look up, down, right, left, and even pause to look behind you. What do you see that you would have missed if you hadn’t turned your head?
- Become aware of other people. Are your spouse, significant other, kids, neighbors, friends, etc… stuck? Challenge them to a backwards walking competition. Take a video. Laugh!
- Help where you can, when you can, with what you have. Serving others is another great way to break a negative emotional state.
What else is helping you get through these crazy times? Let me know in the comments!