As the pandemic was slowly revving up, I was in Ottawa, Canada completing the last module of a 3-year intensive training program on trauma and somatic awareness. I’ll never forget being directly outside the United States, not knowing if I would make it back to Washington, D.C,, healthy or even if I’d make it across the border altogether.
My body was not relaxed at all. I had tension in my shoulders, a tingly feeling in my back, and my appetite did not exist. Imagine being excited about finishing a program that supports practitioners to track, identify, and pay attention to pain and discomfort in clients, and your own body is not well. I was quite confused and overwhelmed, which is how I figured out how to help my clients to get through this highly unusual period in our lives while maintaining their mental wellness.
In Greek, the term sōma means body. As the name suggests, a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, also known as SEP, can understand a person’s mood or problem areas by observing their physical presentation symptoms throughout the body. The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, or SETI for short, is the established entity that supports more than 120,000 practitioners and me throughout the world in knowing how a person’s physical health and mental health present in the body and mind. So, if it reads like we have psychic abilities, that makes sense.
I feel like I completed my training at the right time because the pandemic has impacted us all in ways that we cannot see. If it did not hit you in the first wave of Covid-19, you might experience some body-related symptoms during the second wave and when your office starts having virtual town halls about post-COVID workplace culture—feeling nauseous yet? What about stomach rumblings or that “dropped” feeling that you have when there’s unexpected turbulence on an airplane? Yep. That’s your body telling you that something is not quite right or something is shifting around you. You may notice nothing at all except a numb or empty feeling.
Whether you are preparing to go back to the office or preparing to settle more into your home, there are some practical things you can do to protect your mental wellbeing in the workplace.
Hear me out.
Cleaning anything is one of the most therapeutic and productive exercises that you can do. Not only are you protecting yourself from allergens and germs, but you’re also protecting your peace of zen. I’m sure that you have heard people say, “you feel better in a clean house” or “your car drives better when it’s clean.” I know having daily dishes from 5 small meals to wash, children’s toys to pick up, masks to wash, and cleaning supplies to organize can all feel overwhelming. So, pick one thing to do every day. That’s it. You can pick the one task that you enjoy or hate the least and focus on that one every day. You’ll be surprised at how accomplished you can feel. That confidence will spill over to your job and will give you that boost you need to get through your 389th Zoom call if you’re keeping track.
The reality is that those pandemic pounds are not going to lose themselves. Being sedentary is also not helpful in maintaining your health. When you plan your meals for the week, you give yourself and your family the gift of time and meal options that can be portion-controlled. Running back and forth to the refrigerator between calls is a lot easier than trying to time a Postmates arrival. Meal prep also gives you the sense that your workday is normal. It can be an anchor for your schedule. Running to the toaster or microwave at lunchtime and having a water cooler talk with your partner or children is reminiscent of simpler times in our world. It’s almost nostalgic and can be just what your mind needs to trigger that happy, productive place that blocks out your neighbor’s construction project that keeps you moving around the house with your computer.
Check Your Energy
If your mood has been off or you’ve not been sleeping, your mind and body may be on different pages. You’ll know it because your supervisor will ask you to do something, and you’ll see her lips moving and not hear her words. You’ll also know because you’ll get dressed to do HIIT, and you will get a text that makes you lie across the bed instead. Checking your energy means to notice what you’re experiencing. It’s a language that many of us SEPs use with our clients. You can literally sit in a comfortable chair and scan a part of your body and notice the sensation there. Doing that for 5 minutes a day can go a long way in making small steps towards reconnecting your mind and your body. It’s okay if you don’t feel much because we will talk about increasing your body awareness in later posts. Of course, symptoms like sluggishness, fatigue, sudden weight gain, or weight loss could mean that there are more serious mental health problems that you’re experiencing, and you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or local mental health clinician.