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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Anti-Covidanxiety Toolkit #3

Here are links to Toolkit #1 and Toolkit #2.

Like many of you, I'm still dealing with lots of stress and anxiety, on and off. So I am still looking for ways to dislodge that anxiety, melt it, shake it loose, or at least mute it down a little. Those of you with whom I am connected--friends, family, counselors and clients--have all offered various helpful tools, for which I am very grateful. I continue, as well, to draw on years of experience as a highly sensitive person seeking more calm and inner health. Here are my suggestions.

Even more zapchen. Here's a brief primer on zapchen, if you've never heard of it before.

  • One more thing about ahhhhhh. One of the best ways to do "ahhhh" (see Toolkits #1 and #2) is while you are looking at the sky. Don't strain yourself if it is hard to see it from where you are, but if you can, sit and stand or even lie down, straight but relaxed, look at the sky, and voice or whisper "ahhhhhh" while you take in and enjoy all the openness that sky can offer.

Yawning. Yes, feeling a little bit better can be as simple as a yawn. Yawning can increase your oxygen intake, stretch and relax various head and facial muscles, irrigate your eyes and throat by producing more tears and more saliva. Plus it feels good. If seeing a picture, or reading or saying the word doesn't elicit a yawn, try imitating one. Relax, open your mouth wide, gently lift up the upper back part of your throat (your soft palate) and make yawning noises... ooooohhhh.... aahhhhhhhh...hah-hah-hah. All animals, including humans, do it frequently, and quite naturally. If you need some inspiration or some good examples or just a good laugh, check out some great photos at

  • Playful retching. This one is one of the sillier zapchen exercises. But it works so well to help us voice objections to things that going on around us without getting all tensed up with anger. (You can also use it with memories.) It is just what it sounds like: open your mouth, make retching-type sounds, while generally pushing up and out with your diaphragm, pretending to throw up....just pretending. If you want you can pretend to put your finger in your mouth, like a kid might do. Do this a few times. But don't overdo it--"playful" is the key word here! Rest a bit and see how you feel. Do it a few more times, if you want to. Julie Henderson, who developed zapchen, says playful retching is helpful "because we put up with so much. Because we stuff so much....It lets you get rid of whatever you may have [metaphorically] swallowed without wanting or meaning to....This exercise is fantastically effective even if you have simply studied too long or worked too hard." And it's another one of those things kids know how to do almost automatically. And it's fun, in part because you probably haven't done it since you were a kid.

  • Mix and match. There is no prescribed order to zapchen. If you've been doing any of the exercises I've described in the toolkits, you may have found yourself doing a little bit of ahhhhhhh, then maybe a little humming and then found yourself yawning (before you even knew it was a zapchen exercise). That's great. You can do just one, or several exercises in a row, or mix them all up--whatever feels best to you. Just remember: Don't overdo it! This is not a contest. Zapchen is a way to feel a little better, not an exercise regimen. And remember that more is not necessarily better.

  • If you have the taste of metal in your mouth, stop! Apparently zapchen can help release toxins stored in the body, but you don't want to release too much at a time, as that may lead to some flu-like symptoms--not something any of us want to feel right now, for sure.

A pause that refreshes. This is a repeat from Toolkit #1, where I called it "a space of grace." I am repeating it for three reasons: (1) pausing, or taking a mini-sabbath, is so not a cultural norm here in the good ol' USA, so if you do it you are going against your enculturation, (2) it will be quite difficult to do if you and your kids are all working/playing/going crazy from home, so you are going against your circumstances, especially if you are caring for someone who has the virus; (if you are in that very tough situation, our thoughts and prayers are with you, especially those of you who are health care workers) and (3) it is really important and will only take a minute--literally. Even 30 seconds would be worthwhile.

This is what I mean by a pause that refreshes:

  • Just for a few moments stop thinking about your job, your kids, your parents. Or the pandemic. Or your elderly neighbor. Or the fate of the world. Or anything else.

  • Take a deep breath, then let it out, slowly and gently.

  • Do that again.

  • Be still and rest, just for a few seconds.

  • Now, see if you can allow in just a tiny bit of peace, or the beauty of nature, or your child's smile or your dog's silliness, or anything that gives you calm pleasure or a smile, remembering that when you are literally thirsty, it is okay to stop and take a drink.

  • The same is true here, figuratively. If you are thirsty for a bit of peace, it is okay to stop and take a drink. Of peace. Of not doing.

  • If your monkey brain starts in with criticisms, fears, and worries say, "thanks for sharing," and then ignore it as much as you can.

  • Let yourself be refreshed. Just for a few moments. Or longer if you can. You deserve it.

  • Do this as often as your circumstances (and your inner critic) allow.

Back in the 90s I had a support service for new moms called New Life. My slogan? "If you take good care of yourself, you'll take better care of your baby." In the middle of this pandemic, that is still true. If you take good care of yourself, you'll take better care of your family, your friends, your job, your patients. So if you can't take a pause for yourself, please do it for them.

Emotions follow body. This cartoon helps me laugh at my own tendencies.

There is a growing body (no pun intended) of research that gives credence to the idea that you can help change your emotions by changing your bodily postures and facial expressions. I talked about that briefly in Toolkit #2 in the section entitled,"A important note about why zapchen, power poses, etc. might work" (about halfway down the page). My suggestion is, of course, to do the opposite of what our friend is doing here in the comic. If you are interested in this concept you could check out lugubrious ha-ha," my blog post from early February on laughing and smiling,

Fasting...News fasting, that is. Just give it a try. Our journalists are doing a yeoman's job of keeping us informed, warning us, warming our hearts, and sometimes tickling our funny bones, and I commend them for it. And while the rest of us want and need information now more than ever, a constant diet of news, and therefore stress, is not a good idea for the immune system. So here's a proposal: try going for a day, or a half-day--or even two hours if you are a real addict--without reading or watching or listening to anything related to the coronavirus, or any other bad or difficult news, for that matter. Give your nervous system a chance to calm down and recoup. It will thank you--it might even kiss your feet.

The lake meditation. Mindfulness. A great antidote to anxiety. There are many websites with a lot of information about how to practice mindfulness, and most of them explain it a lot better than I can. But here's a link to a lovely mindfulness meditation that takes just 15 minutes. Here's a link to a transcript of the meditation as well. I did a blog post on this meditation back in November 2019 if you are interested. And here's a link to the University of Virginia's Mindfulness Center.

Inspiration from our ancestors. I am finding myself quite inspired by the memory of my parent's generation, who survived World War II. If they could manage to make it through that horrendous period in our history, perhaps we are more resilient than we think. I am not focusing on the actual events--that would add more stress--rather on the general way they managed in such dire circumstances. You, of course, could pick a different era, a different challenge.

We will be okay. We can do this thing. "You know this is gonna end, right?  This will not last forever." (See the last section of Toolkit #1 for the story behind this quote.)

Here are two articles I have found to be very helpful in dealing with covidanxiety. I've shared both of them with various ones of you but wanted to offer them in the blog as well.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

The Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief

I Spent a Year in Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share

Take it from someone who couldn’t: Go outside.

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The last laugh. I thought I'd close with a good laugh. This is one of the silliest photos I've seen in a while. Author/actor/lifestyle guru Bruce Littlefield posted this on what he calls his weekly cribsheet, Dinner Party Talk. Thanks, Bruce! We all needed a good laugh.

Oh, and his title for the photo? Pure bread dog.

Until next time,


Photo/illustration credits:

Bogdan Todoran, unSplash (cover photo)

Daniel Lincoln, unSplash

Charles Schulz

Kazuend (?), unSplash

Bruce Littelfield (presumably)


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