Today we welcome Laura Geiger to our Sparkle blog. She is a somatic practitioner and educator blending neuroscience-based modalities with the intuitive, creative, ancestral, cosmic, and unknowable. She helps individuals, couples, and families develop the capacity for reliable and deep connection via her online courses, in her studio in southern Sweden, and, yes, on Zoom.
She's written wonderful post chock-full of tips for dealing with the lack of movement and connection due to Covid lockdown and the communication challenges of wearing masks. We hope these tips help your family.
Even though our minds understand why we are at home, why we are separated from other people, and why we are wearing masks, our bodies struggle to make sense of it all. For adults who have cognitive impairment and for children, the situation is even more severe. In many ways, our bodies are still animals whose top priority is the assessment and maintenance of safety in our environments. Unfortunately, the changes we are implementing during the pandemic run counter to those most basic mammalian measures of safety. The good news is that we know enough about our evolutionary physiology to be able to interrupt some of the impact on our systems.
TIP ONE: INCREASE INTERPERSONAL CUES OF SAFETY
One of the major ways we neurocept cues of danger and safety is through the facial expressions of the people around us. Signs of safety include crinkly, warm eyes, broad smiles, and expressive, soft movement in the facial muscles. When masks block us from determining if other people are feeling relaxed and open, our systems see red. We have a visceral response of activation and fear. Unfortunately, it does not matter if our minds understand why everyone around is wearing masks. The mind says, "It's good! Masks make us safer!" but our bodies are not getting that message.
What can you do?
- Amplify the conduits of safety that are still accessible by communicating kindness with your eyes and actually smiling under your mask!
- Move your face more than you normally would.
- Speak more than you normally would. Add extra prosodic (melodic and softly rhythmic) elements to your voice in order to communicate safety to those around you.
- Audibly hum a lullaby.
- Make eye contact.
- Try to be extra present to your experience and beam out good feelings of openness and care. This will create a domino effect in your community.
In a video call, we receive a fraction of the sensory and energetic input. Our eyes are seeing a rendering of a human face. Our ears are hearing a rendering of a human voice. Group video calls can feel deeply problematic and vulnerable because we unnaturally face directly forward and meet many other faces looking back at us. Even if our video is turned off, or even if we are in speaker view rather than gallery view, our brains can still perceive that we are being watched. Our natural micromovements and small gestures around posture, mutual connection (and consent for that connection), eye contact, peripheral vision, and our cycles of focus/distraction are all altered in a video call.
What can you do?
- Acknowledge that it’s okay and normal to feel drained, depressed, or on edge after a video call.
- Try a regular phone call and notice if you have different sensations in your body.
- If you live with other people, make your time together count by including more touch, physical closeness, eye contact, and smiling.
- If you live alone, take out a mirror after a Zoom call and connect tenderly with your own expression. Ask how you are and answer. Your literal reflection can provide a space of self-witnessing and reassurance.
Spontaneous and non-transactional interaction is vital to well-being. In isolation, our relational selves can become reduced to predictable transactions: buying essentials at a store, learning/teaching online, ordering food or medicine, etc. There becomes very little room for things like presence, silence, body language, spontaneous discussion, unplanned activity, the dance of liminality, or random sparks between strangers. When we interact in online spaces, we tend to get to the point much more quickly than we might when face-to-face. Reducing the majority of our interpersonal contact to transaction encourages a minimizing of the concept of self, narrows our ability to withstand stress over time, fosters loneliness, and generally makes the world feel more dangerous.
What can you do?
- Incorporate as much spontaneity, empty space, and agenda-less time with other people as much as possible, both online and in real life.
- Use your voice and body in ways that do not center around giving or receiving items or ideas. Sing, read poetry, test out your rusty foreign language skills, re-enact a wordless commute to the office for five minutes with a colleague.
- Call someone up without planning it in advance. Interrupt predictable encounters with a spark of playfulness and creativity.
TIP TWO: LISTEN TO YOUR OWN NEEDS
We need people. We need relationship. We need nature. We need a variety of movement. We need sensory stimulation. We need risk. We need real life engagement with the world around us in order to be healthy and whole. By default, a restriction on our freedom of movement and assembly will ultimately cause us to override our most basic need for connection and safety. Add to those restrictions the unknown time frame, uncertain future, and looming pandemic questions of "Is the world safe?" and "Will I survive?," and we have a recipe for nervous system tumult. It becomes crucial to address this months-long pattern of need-deprivation in the best way possible. We must actively work to honor the pang, that spark of need-expression coming from within us, so that the pang stays active and vocal. Sufficient ignoring of our needs via binge-watching or other dissociative behaviors will eventually tell our needs that they are unwelcome or unnecessary.
What can you do?
Give yourself micro-attention. Honoring small needs with your loving response and care builds trust between your inner and outer experience. Every time you say yes to your body, you magnify your perception of your own worth. Answer every whisper of physical or emotional need. Hungry or thirsty? Do not wait. Have to pee? Go right away. Sleepy? Sleep. Have tension? Try self-massage or take a hot bath. Lonely? Call a friend. Uncomfortable in that position? Change it.
Do not self-diminish. Your pleasure, your needs, your satisfaction, and your stability are important. Period. You matter. I know you are willing to sacrifice for the health and safety of others. I know you are willing to put your needs on hold for the needs of your community. But your body does not know what the heck your mind has agreed to do. So lean into your body. Find more pleasure. Run soft materials over your skin. Send love and gratitude to your body parts. Dance imagining that your limbs stretch out for miles. Take up space with your voice by being loud and making a ruckus. Listen to a song that reminds you that you are big and powerful and strong. Use your muscles by lifting and carrying something heavy. Tell yourself through action that even though life looks different, you are alive.
TIP THREE: RETURN TO THE PRIMAL SELF
Covid-19 responses, both collective and personal, evoke foundational memories of ancestral plagues, pre-birth and childhood fears of safety, mammalian herd threat responses to assess the level of danger, and more. When so many unpredictable events are unfolding around us, we can lose our sense of groundedness and identity. We can forget that we are sovereign people, whole and free. It can help to meet the scared animal or tiny baby inside of us with love and understanding.
What can you do?
Increase your level of tactile input via touch, being held, and feeling the resistance of a stretchy fabric (or even just rolling yourself up in your bedsheets). Womb-like conditions can help us remember a time when "lockdown" was interchangeable with safety.
Direct your voice and movement abilities into a more primal expression: roll, crawl, cry, howl, growl, hop, leap. Sequence through the evolutionary movements and sounds of the fish, lizard, dog, monkey, and human. This helps remind us that we are made of more than our thoughts and social expectations.
Use your eyes more. Threats to the herd trigger a visual response to check for the source of the threat. Pretend this is you by looking around your shoulder, looking near and far, using your peripheral vision, looking out your front door, etc. Orienting to the four directions and actually giving your eyes a chance to see what’s outside your home can often provide a calming effect on the nervous system.
Get dramatic! Play around with archetypal expressions of fear, rage, domination, and trickster energies. Kids love to “play Corona” and “infect” each other. Humans are hard-wired for acting out our fears in order to loosen their grip on us.
This may feel like a lot. Perhaps you haven’t been completely aware of the potential impact of quarantine and are wanting to check out because it is overwhelming. Here’s what I suggest: pick one thing that felt particularly pertinent to your situation and just try it. If you do, I would love to hear about it. I believe in you, and I hold space in my heart for your continued embodiment, even (and especially) during these pandemic times.
--- Need more?
- Listen to our playlist of Stories to Get You Moving
- Try out one of our sparkle crafts or games to Get You Moving!
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About the Author
Laura Geiger is a somatic practitioner and educator blending neuroscience-based modalities with the intuitive, creative, ancestral, cosmic, and unknowable. She helps individuals, couples, and families develop the capacity for reliable and deep connection via her online courses, in her studio in southern Sweden, and, yes, a touch reluctantly on Zoom. You can find her at thelaurageiger.com or on social media @TheLauraGeiger.