The frontline of the Coronavirus pandemic is a fast-changing, loud and even compelling place to be. The danger is that if you don’t have some strategies to filter the intensity you’ll get burnt. 

I write this for you if you are stuck at home and finding it difficult to step back from the constant stream of coronavirus news feeds and updates. 

What is pulling you to the frontline of the coronavirus? 

Ask yourself why…  Is this situation triggering a trauma for you? Do you lean towards intense experiences?  Or is it a form of morbid voyeurism for you?

Every video you watch, article you read, tweet you digest, news bulletin you listen to has the potential to trigger your fff-response.

I relate the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic to being at a very full-on music gig.  Right at the front you will have the greatest intensity of experience. You’ll be closest to the action, in the highest density of people, with the most sound coming at you. You can be crushed in a mosh pit, thrust against and bruised by the stage and unable to escape easily. 

Is this truly where you can add greatest value?

As we move through the greatest collective trauma we have experienced in living memory (in this country)  we are invited to consider how we impact and support each other.

Being at the front line is not always about physical presence, sometimes this is about your attention. Placing the majority of your attention on social media, news channels and other updates can feel the same to your nervous system as being in the emergency room.

How does the frontline affect us?

As the coronavirus pandemic reached the UK  I found myself absorbing news and updates at a higher rate than I had ever done before. This sudden increase in intense and at times traumatic  information started to affect my well-being. I was listening from my own home, nobody I knew was ill, and I am in a low risk group. However, my body kicked into to a fight-flight-freeze response (fff-response)

The fff-response (also known as the stress response) evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling us to react quickly to life-threatening situations. These near-instantaneous sequences of hormonal changes and physiological responses help us fight the threat or flee to safety. Unfortunately, the body can not tell the difference between non-life-threatening situations, such as traffic jams, work pressure, family difficulties or reading about people you do not know dying tragically, and ones that pose a real danger 

Every video you watch, article you read, tweet you digest, news bulletin you listen to has the potential to trigger your fff-response. Your body and brain may not notice that you are receiving these updates from a safe place, and flares up into stress.  

Sustained activation of the stress response negatively affects your health, leading to emotional exhaustion and even burnout. 

Symptoms include;

  • Your heart rate and blood pressure increases
  • Dilated pupils, tunnel vision (not noticing others around you)
  • You’re on edge
  • Memories can be affected
  • You’re tense or trembling
  • Your bladder might be affected
  • Less appetite &/or not digesting food well

The mechanisms and symptoms of the fff-response are explained brilliantly in this short animated video: The Fight Flight Freeze Response

How can you step back from the coronavirus frontline?

If you do not need to be at  the front line, here’s how you can step back, stay healthy, and serve those around you more deeply.

1: Step back to the mid-point

Stepping back does not mean stepping out. From here you can still see and hear what is going on. You can choose which frontline people you tune into, and when you tune into them. Choose people who reflect intelligently, fact-checking the information before they share it. Choose people who share with empathy and humanity. Choose people who share with humour – even gallows humour can relieve tension in these times. 

Whoever you choose let their content nurture you as well as inform you. 

Here’s some people and organisations I follow;

  • Gina Martin: Activist and all-round humanist, follow for beautiful reflective insights
  • Nova Reid: Anti-racism coach and wise woman – follow for how this is impacting minorities
  • W.H.O: World Health Organisation – follow for their up-to-date safety info
  • W.E.F: World Economic Forum – follow for their compassionate and clear messages
  • H.B.R Harvard Business Review – follow for worldwide impact of the pandemic
  • BBC News: For up-to-date headlines on the UK situation
  • BBC comedy: The Now Show, The News Quiz or Breaking The News – follow for gallows humor as well as updates 
  • Grimegran: Hilarious older lady doing videos about #lockdown (warning, very strong language!) 

2: Connect authentically & playfully with others

As we all observe physical distancing rules it can leave you feeling isolated, lonely or disconnected. Connections don’t always have to be deep and meaningful conversations. Learning, laughing and moving together is as conneting as a good chat.

Have your Friday curry night with your mates via video link. Watch a film at the same time as some friends, having an interval call together in the middle.  Create silly videos, doodles or stories for each other on how you defy the boredom of being stuck at home. Start a book club and check-in every few days.

The trick is to get creative, and reach out. There are lots of new groups and opportunities to connect beyond your immediate circles. 

This has brought me a deep sense of joy, connection and even empowerment in a very challenging time. 

Some of my faves (all done via video link)

Public access

  • Rollerskating: Group online roller disco and skills classes from your own kitchen with Playtone
  • Choir: Weekly virtual drop-in choir. Sing your heart out with The Nest Collective
  • Exercise: Daily exercise video for the whole family by P.E with Joe. Such a lovely guy!

Inspiration from my own networks 

  • Martial Arts film club Weekly lecture and screening with my Tai Chi school
  • Breakfast club 2-3 times a week with some friends 
  • Lunch together 2-3 times a week with some colleagues 
  • Empathy Space An open-to-all structured listening space
  • Open Mic Night Monthly event to share songs, poems, musical performance 
  • Improv Music Collective Sharing and remixing musical ideas all via whatsapp 
  • Win – F*** – Learn Friday reflections on the week just gone

3: Create space for deep-calm every day

Deep-calm for me is a place where all the updates and notifications are turned off. You slow down your breathing, and go inwards. Retreat from the external stimuli for a while and ground yourself. This brings you down from the heightened fff-response that may be in your system. Even if you are not feeling stressed this will help you feel even better. There are so many different ways you can do this. I promise you they don’t all involve meditating.. 

Here are some ways I access deep-calm

I sit quietly in the garden and notice the birds. Have a cup of tea on the sofa and listen to some of my favourite music. Read a book in bed. Meditate or do some tai chi. 

Some other ways… 

Play a musical instrument for a while. Draw or paint. Write a story or poetry. Go for a walk (without your phone/airplane mode). Make something. Have a long bath. Play with your pet.

Open the door when you are ready to receive.

I want to be clear that I am not advocating tuning out completely. This is an invite to consider if placing all your attention on the frontline when you are not physically there is healthy for you. 

This situation is changing so fast, and updates are 24/7. It is so easy to feel that it’s vital to know every detail in a constantly shifting landscape.

By stepping back from the frontline I have been able to consider where I can add greatest value. From this more grounded place I can better support my clients as a communication coach, and also better support my friends or family. This has brought me a deep sense of joy, connection and even empowerment in a very challenging time. 

Ask yourself; Where can I add the greatest value? 

Share your thoughts with me via twitter, linkedin or insta

Go well, stay safe and look after each other. 

Check in with eachother, and those who are finding it tough right now?

Go well.

Sources & References

Cover image supplied by Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash (altered)