“There is a part of each if us that would like to miss the point – a part of each of us that wants to believe there is no magic, no mystery, that our own life is not blessed and sacred, that our days are not a miracle and that we are not connected to all living beings as a leaf is to a tree. In response to this predicament, we have created yoga” Rolf Gates
Health is in the spotlight. The importance of being physically healthy, sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, has never been so clear.. but what about our mental and emotional health?
This crucial aspect of health often gets overlooked or neglected but really needs a lot more of our attention, especially within our new social distancing reality that looks like it is here to stay for some time..
Fear and anxiety have been a big part of the shift in the lives of many of us.
-Fear of a disease that no one seems to understand and a government struggling to to get a handle on it.
-Uncertainty about how long we will have stay in our homes and what will happen to our economy.
-Fear for our own health and the health of loved ones.
-Big adjustments in how we live and share our space. ..home can suddenly feel like a very small space when you have to share it with with many others all working at home and kids schooling at home as well.
-The strain on parents trying to homeschool while also doing their jobs.
To name a few.
As Ram Das says: ‘if you think you’re enlightened spend a week with your family!’
In addition to experiencing a complexity of emotions arising from the circumstances we are in and the narratives surrounding it, is the fact that we are forced into our own little units so much more, causing stuff to be triggered and relationships tested. It can also make us feel lonely.
We’re really wired as social beings.. we have evolved that way. From the times of our early ancestors we depended on each other for safety, to have enough food, to watch out for each other and help with childcare. Being separated from the tribe caused a person to experience a raised threat level and created a stress reaction in the body.
Loneliness impacts our bodies in the same way – it puts us in a stress state. This is a message from our body that we are lacking something we need for our survival.
When we are connected to each other out threat levels and stress levels are lower and the opposite happens when we are lonely.
According to Dr Vivek Murthy, former surgeon general of the United States, chronic loneliness is associated with a reduction in lifespan. Its impact on mortality is similar to smoking to 15 cigarettes a day!! and is greater than the impact of obesity and sedentary living.
It can go unseen because it can look like depression or anxiety.
It can increase our risk for addiction. The founder of AA even said loneliness was at the root cause of so many people’s struggle with alcoholism and needed to be addressed in order for them to get into and stay in recovery.
In kids it affects their ability to learn in school. In adults it affects performance and productivity in the workplace. We can’t bring our full self to out tasks if we are in a state of stress.
It creates polarisation and division in society. If people feel isolated they communicate with others much less and so the ability to experience and understand different points of view diminishes.
Our connection with each other is one of the most powerful and important resources that we have. With strong social connections we do better in all areas of our lives, with our health, in our work, how we play and in relationships.
It may be a time of social distancing but its also one of solidarity. Usually, when people are having a hard time, they might be hesitant to talk to other people about it, thinking they might be alone in their experience. Right now all of our lives are being turned upside down and so this is an experience we all share.
Because everyone is struggling there are lots of people who need help and support and being of service to others can be a great antidote to loneliness.
Serving others, Murthy said, can also be a way of staying connected and feeling good.
“I think those small acts of service will have a large impact on how connected we feel and how much solidarity we experience,” Murthy said. “And that ultimately I think can help us come out of this whole experience more deeply connected than when it all first began.”
Keeping our connection with people in our communities is really important for our mental resilience, emotional wellbeing and spiritual health… all of which we need for human health.
Its the thing that is going to mitigate the stress and the fear that so many of us are feeling thanks to the changes we are seeing and experiencing in our world.
Brene Brown in her book “The Power Of Vulnerability” says in her opening line that what she discovered through her work as a shame researcher is that we are hardwired for love and belonging.
I remember listening to a very well respected American physician on a podcast talking about cancer, who was saying that when a cell loses its communication with the cellular network and becomes isolated, it becomes confused about its identity, which then causes it to become cancerous and self destruct.
We are all interconnected – part of a large planetary ecosystem – and when the individual organisms are living harmoniously and in a symbiotic relationship with each other , the whole organism is healthy, abundant and alive. Nothing in the universe exists alone, everything is in relationship with everything else.
Whenever there is a cause, there is always an effect. This current cause of separation can have a devastatingly negative effect unless we can consciously turn it into a positive effect by putting greater importance and intentionality into how we connect and relate to others in a new way.. Rather than isolate lets move towards each other for the love and belonging that’s hardwired into our DNA.
We are stronger together.