From the moment we wake up and log on to our day, we are flooded with news about people whose days started off much the same, with an expectation of going from point A to point B, to lunch, to point C and then back home.
But something happened. A tornado touched down in the neighborhood. Or a train derailed in a cousin’s hometown. Or, like now, an invisible killer stalks the globe, threatening to take our life or the life of someone we know.
Within seconds, we are flooded with horror and helplessness. Unable to stop the cascade of acute stress hormones, our bodies shift into fight-or-flight mode or leave us frozen like deer in the headlights. Whether we see what is happening online, on screen or in real time, we feel unsafe in our own skin. Although disturbing images can be swiped away, when something bad happens to us, we don’t know what to do. We can’t change the channel.
Even during these tough times, we can find opportunities to develop new strengths and grow individually and together. To start with, we need emotional first aid to help us find calm quickly. We can do this by locating the tension points in our body and asking them what color would help them feel calm. Then we can inhale that color, letting it find its way within to soothe our cells, and exhale our stress by breathing out a different color. We can repeat this technique as long and as often as needed. Teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, report that this really works for kids, too.
To heal means to make whole. It doesn’t mean to make something go away. Hardship is part of life’s journey. Even this global pandemic can serve as our spiritual wake-up call to learn how different spiritual traditions heal from life-shattering events. Five gifts offer us the keys to wholeness:
- Humility helps us accept what we cannot change.
- Patience takes the edge off when the hurt lasts longer than we want.
- Empathy keeps us connected for the long haul.
- Forgiveness means forgiving ourselves, our leaders and God.
- Growth lets us look back with thanks for what we learned when the journey of life was anything but comfortable and easy.
Let’s journey together.
Laurie Nadel, a Manhattan psychotherapist, is the author of The Five Gifts: Discovering Hope, Healing and Strength When Disaster Strikes.