Backing my car out of the garage one day this week, I thought of how automatically I perform the actions it takes to drive, all the necessary steps embedded in my brain.
However, I recall after my mother died, I went through a period where I could not recall how to operate the clothes dryer. The appliance was suddenly mysterious, inscrutable, the result of the trauma of that loss.
Last week, I watched a program on Trauma on Our Bodies and Brains presented by clinical psychologist Dr. Betsey Stone. She talked about the impact of months and months of the stress of various aspects of covid—uncertainty, restrictions, isolation, illness, death—on the brain. In a time of fear, she said, our “lizard” brain (the amygdala) “hijacks” the blood supply from our “rational” brain (the prefrontal cortex). We are actually receiving a reduced blood supply to the part of our brain that thinks rationally. Because of this, we are less able to think clearly, to make sensible decisions, to evaluate danger, to regulate our emotions. Dr. Stone attributes increased violence and lack of impulse control, such as that frequently demonstrated on airplane travel in recent months, to be due in part to this decreased blood supply.
The ongoing stress of living in this time of pandemic highlights a need for greater attention to caring for our bodies and our brains. As Sid Garza-Hillman has said, “Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one can not be healthy without the other.” (from Approaching the Natural: a Health Manifesto)
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: How to deal with stress and build resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Increase your sense of control by keeping a consistent daily routine when possible — ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic.
⁃ Try to get adequate sleep.
⁃ Make time to eat healthy meals.
⁃ Take breaks during your shift to rest, stretch, or check in with supportive colleagues, coworkers, friends and family. (from CDC website).
I would add to drink plenty of water. I have read that under stress the body produces a thick, paste-like blood, making adequate circulation more difficult.