,

SMT – Coronavirus as a prompt to discuss typical life issues

As we all know, our community is currently facing the health threat of novel coronavirus, an apparent pandemic. While it could be argued that the level of concern is largely driven by excessive and potentially misleading social and other media, this raises the topic of fear and anxiety as these reactions apply to typical life issues.

Being human means experiencing the joys and the ‘messiness’ – the good, the bad and the ugly matters of life. Being human also means that we can’t personally choose one or the other or predict possibilities. We may well experience an amalgam of both joyfulness and messiness all together. One thing is for sure, there will be times when that amalgam will challenge us with what we recognise as stress. And as we know, stress increases anxiety from which a range of associated and common symptoms may present themselves. I have chosen four typical issues that present regularly at this Centre:

• Insomnia
• Grief
• Panic attacks
• Social phobia

Insomnia:
Insomnia or sleeplessness is almost always included among the symptoms noted when first we consult with new clients. Insomnia is and has been for a long time, an extremely popular topic for discussion in glossy magazines or newspaper columns. Insomnia is also high on the list of symptoms presented at visits to the GP. Insomnia means broken sleep, restless sleep or long hours through long nights feeling frustrated, lonely, isolated and desperate for respite. It’s probably fair to say that there is no one who has not known the experience of a restless night. But for some, insomnia becomes a major problem and a habit that interferes with daily health and wellbeing. In many instances, worry has set the scene and prolongs the misery. How to change when mental overload is the primary source of poor sleep? Of course, there are practical steps one can take and general advice usually recommends lowering mental stimulus in the bedroom. The phone has no place on the bedside table. Nor should any device including TV enter that space – simply because a sleep deprived brain needs to slow down, and literally switch off. If work, or other challenging issues are foremost in your mind at bedtime, these may trigger wakefulness. It can be useful to make a list and prioritise worries to be dealt with next day. Other habit breaking tips include avoidance of alcohol, caffeine and high sugar. Replace these with milky drinks or camomile tea, read a relaxing book – real books are preferable to digital books – and consider counselling to resolve emotional issues. However, in our experience of many years, the regular experience of ‘stillness’ as we teach it, certainly calms the mind and brings ease from insomnia. It may take commitment to therapeutic sessions and time to change but results will be long lasting.

Grief:
One of the most frequent reasons for clients attending our Centre involves the matter of loss and consequent grief. There are so many levels of these highly charged occurrences and the individual emotional reaction that accompanies them.

Loss, whether of a loved one or a seemingly less significant part of life, can be an experience of desolation. Loss can be tragic and devastating. Loss can seem relatively minor, yet reactions can still be potent. In grief, memories, fears and feelings become mingled and magnified – sometimes out of proportion. Fatigue, loneliness, displacement and confusion and a range of physical symptoms are common reactions to grieving.

Regardless of the cause of grief or the length of the journey, within that time the heart, mind and soul need freedom from encumbrance. The experience of true stillness can provide that because it asks nothing but the practice of effortless rest. From regular therapeutic stillness sessions, regular daily practice and the passing of time, the nervous system will regain equilibrium. I have been privileged to hear extraordinary stories and positive outcomes that could not have been imagined on the client’s first visit. Grief, when travelled well, is the gift of personal growth.

Panic attack:
Panic attacks typically seem to come ‘out of the blue’ but this assumption is incorrect. For the sufferer, the lead up to a panic attack is indicative of a gradual increase in stress, tension and exhaustion. When the brain receives those messages through a surge of nervous signals, the amygdale, thought to be the fear centre therein, is activated. Just doing its job, at that point the body releases from the adrenal glands, the natural chemical, adrenaline (epinephrine) – our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in action. These days of course, the level of danger that once existed in earlier times is limited but, as a form of natural protection, the brain continues its work even though the signal we are giving it may relate to some far less threatening occurrence. Even a sharp rise in tension for a relatively simple reason can be sufficient to trigger amygdale reaction and a subsequent flood of anxiety.

And so, as adrenaline is released into an overloaded system, the body is prepared for action by raised heartbeat and the onset of shaking, sweating, churning in the stomach, irregular breathing, bowel or bladder reactivity or other alarming symptoms – and so a panic attack occurs.
Panic attacks really mean the occurrence of extremely high anxiety attacks. These will gradually cease when calming measures as indicated throughout this blog, are put in place.

Social phobia:
Social phobia begins with emotional pain – perhaps rejection, judgment or self-criticism experienced by sensitive people influenced by unkind, negative and controlling others. Usually formed within early childhood, such insecurity is heightened by stress and always by increased nervous tension. Whatever the cause, something in one’s life has raised anxiety to the point where social situations create for many people, the alarming symptoms of panic and a sense of losing control. Social interaction soon becomes something to avoid – painful experiences for the sufferer, for fear of ‘falling apart’ leading to the prospect of failure and rejection. Over time, such situational avoidance becomes a lonely way of life.
To assist people to gain or re-gain personal confidence, our first step here again is to discuss the influence of nervous tension. As we facilitate SMT sessions, we see tension gradually lowering and our clients becoming more at ease as over time they capture mental rest and the emergence of calm confidence. Again, from regular therapeutic sessions, regular daily practice and the passing of time, the nervous system will regain equilibrium.
In summary, when dealing with life issues we also need courage: the courage to step back from pressure and be present to ourselves and to others; the courage to seek appropriate help when we need extra support; and the courage to reciprocate hope and compassion to our ‘self’ and to others. And we need to nurture patience, without which, issues as discussed cannot be solved.

SMT offers a personal experience that calms reactivity. The repetition of this meditation regulates the nervous system and restores healthy mental equilibrium. Painful symptoms and despondency can lift and hearts can heal as we enjoy the gift that grows from learning to just be still. And it is well known too, that a healthy nervous system leads to a healthy immune system. Let’s not be excessively fearful about the coronavirus; let’s take sensible care of our health and address the matter of fear and anxiety in the bigger picture.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with any of these issues, please get in touch; we can offer an alternative that can help change your life.

Pauline McKinnon (c)
Melbourne, March 2020