Campus has re-opened and the snow has melted from Winter Storm Uri last week, and yet for many of us the impacts continue to linger in many ways.
If you’re having brain fog, tearfulness, fuzzy memory, a hard time making decisions or thinking clearly, feeling disconnected from your work, fatigue, on-edge or just malaise and off, these are common, normal responses to overwhelming events.
Please be gentle with yourself.
Our brains and bodies have been taking a bath in stress hormones for too long. Living through a pandemic for almost a year, racial trauma, an election cycle, and then an emergency weather, power and water crisis, takes a toll on the nervous system.
In order to mobilize to respond to these numerous threats, our brains had to secrete the pituitary hormones that raise our cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine levels. When these stress hormones are in our bodies for lengthy periods of time it commonly expresses itself in the symptoms named above. (Even if you and your family did not experience immediate dire circumstances during Winter Storm Uri, seeing others in pain and suffering through multiple crisis activates our stress response systems, too.)
It’s important to name too, that it’s not a short-coming or failure of resiliency to be experiencing symptoms. The symptoms are a result of our body protectively finding a way to cope with scary events and keep us safe. Our bodies are so very wise and are communicating with us.
It will take time and intentional care to help our bodies take in a felt sense of safety and help metabolize all the stress hormones floating around inside. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to slow down to notice what is being communicated internally—what are we feeling, thinking and sensing in our bodies. When we tune in to what is going on in our inner world, we can then ask what might be needed to bear the intensity of the feeling—to offer care and look for ways to meet the need.
We’re all so uniquely wired, but some broad categories we might be needing are:
- space for feeling
- space for comfort or connection
- space for action
- space for distraction
For some of us we may need to move by walking, jogging or bicycling to help our bodies metabolize the stress hormones. For others it might look like engaging in breathwork, yoga nidra or meditation to help us rest and feel more grounded. Connecting with trusted loved ones can help our body remember the world is and can be a safe place. Crying is a physical expression that can allow our body to release emotions. Creating something via art, writing or music might allow us to externalize what might be feeling difficult internally. Drinking extra water or using a weighted blanket can be supportive.
For some of us the crisis may not be over yet, so our protective stress response systems may still be online continuing to help us mobilize to meet challenges such as obtaining clean water to drink, repairing our homes, finding a place to shower, or potentially even having to find new places to live. If we’re still in the crisis, even more gentleness and self-compassion can be a really helpful starting place to support our bodies and brains as we attend to our basic needs—drinking water, nourishing our bodies with food, helping ourselves have a safe and dry place to sleep.
Even though most of us are back to work now, it is everything but normal. We at the EAP are here and available if you’d like someone to listen, to process wherever and however you are finding yourself, or to talk through what practices or coping skills might be a support to navigate what we are going through. You can reach out by phone at 512-471-3366 or email email@example.com to schedule.