Coping with Covid Archives - Embodied Living

When I sit back and think over the last 10 months since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. And when I think about myself and my client base. I can see that many of us have faced, or are facing, an epiphany. If we listen to this, we can begin to face our worst fears and develop resilience and a more complete sense of self.


We all have difficulties in the pandemic

Covid has affected all of us. With the chronic uncertainty, our anxiety has shot up. For many, three lockdowns later, a certain kind of depression is starting to kick in. The lack of social contact and inability to pursue things that once gave us pleasure, is taking its toll.

Our basic needs are not being met

Many are angry. Our basic human needs are not being met. We have an innate drive for meaning, satisfaction, pleasure and connection. And the pandemic is stealing many of the means for meeting these. Yet when we cannot change the things around us, the only thing we have left to change is our self.


Covid is helping us to face our worst fears

And for those that have realised this, I am seeing that the coronavirus crisis is helping us to face our worst fears and complexes. When our normal defence mechanisms and coping strategies are stripped away, anxiety ensues. However if we listen to that, as a symptom of something deeper that needs listening to, we can begin an important and vital journey.


We need help

Those brave enough to do this, seek help. For we cannot do this alone. Our problem is operating at a deeply unconscious level and we need another to see into that particular window of our psyche.


I’m not feeling like myself

So many have come to me, saying “I am not feeling like myself, at all”. Do any of us. We might be getting more angry. Or lack motivation for our work, despite feeling grateful that we still have work. Perhaps we are having trouble sleeping, or are drinking too much. We might be getting more obsessive in our behaviour or habits. Whatever it is that we notice that is not normal. This is our system calling for help.



For those that have listened and decided to do something about it. They have noticed that they overcome old phobias or maybe increased their tolerance of others who are different to them. They have put things in perspective and been able to find more balance at work and in life. Or they have addressed traumas from their past that they buried and tried to forget a long time ago.

They feel more at peace than ever.


More information

Read more about Coping with Covid.

Access our free online course – Coping with Covid.

Contact me about one to one work.

How are doing ? No really, how are you doing? You may be bewildered about how to cope with the highs and lows of Covid. But one thing is sure as we head into lockdown again: none of us are feeling like ourselves.  I have had so many therapy clients say that to me. And I recognise it myself.

Look around you.  Some of us are quieter, others louder. Some are eating more; others are out running in the icy conditions. Some are being kinder, whilst others seem to be uncharacteristically mean. You might be ranting about how the government is making mistakes because of covid restrictions. I might be meditating myself up my own backside.


Defence mechanisms

Ultimately, whatever our way of coping – even if that is unallayed optimism – it won’t work all that well to help us cope with the highs and lows of Covid. We learn coping mechanisms early on in life. These strategies serve us well – they defend us from ‘life threatening’ situations. When we are young, that simply means parental disapproval. So we become the good girl or boy, or the clown, or we get busy. And it works; until it doesn’t. In fact, often our uncharacteristic ways of coping, are our last line of defence, and they only end up causing us more problems. We become so used to keeping our anxieties at bay by staying busy, that when covid strips away all our avenues of choice, we are forced to face painful reality.


Even stoicism doesn’t help with the highs and lows of Covid

Stoicism is the haven of many. But even that can create more problems. When its rationalism and objectivity become a defence mechanism, it can end up just being another way to avoid painful emotions.


A little help

Children often turn to a transitional object when things get difficult. Did you ever have a comfort blanket or a favourite toy from which you were inseparable? Only to be told by your parents that one day you put it down never to pick up again.

My transitional object, at two years of age, was a china dog. I remember it vividly. I feel my deep abiding love for the inanimate animal. This Christmas my dad saw the exact same dog in a local charity shop and bought it for me. I was so excited. Yet when I opened it, though I was delighted with its beautiful design, I did not get the comfort that my two-year-old clearly did.


Comfort in Covid

What can help us cope with the highs and lows of Covid? Give us real comfort and solace in these unprecedented times? We are living with a threat. This elevates our fear, fight, flight response – activates our sympathetic nervous system and causes our parasympathetic response to go offline.

However, this threat is different. It is chronic, persistent, and invisible. It strips us of control and activates a trauma response. Covid-19 is at risk of doing as much damage to our mental health as it is to our physical health. But we can become more resilient.


Developing resilience

True resilience is not Pollyanna optimism, or denial. Rather it is developing an ability to face the reality of the situation. As the Covid crisis (and its long tail of mental health problems, job losses, economic upset) is likely to get worse before it gets better. And undertaking activities and practices to help us cope; then we might be able to crawl back, rather than bounce back, to comforting normality.


Some ideas to help you cope

We are all different and what works for one of us, won’t suit another. You will know the best ways to cope in difficult times but here are some ideas that have worked for me or others.

  1. Walking (in nature) – we all know walking is good for us. But physical exercise that involves rhythmic movement and connection with the earth helps the body process trauma and helps with anxiety and depression. If we are able to be in nature whilst we walk, we start to benefit from tuning in to a healing frequency that sooths us on a deep level. Healing vibrations carried by the colour green reach into us and can even positively affect our DNA. And plants and trees have a type of consciousness that can touch us, if we let it. A daily walk is an important part of managing the highs and lows of covid.
  2. Yoga – whilst in the west we have deformed yoga into yet more body beautiful fitness regime, real yoga is something very different. It may not even include physical postures (asana) but mantra, chanting, service/work, breathing practices, and meditation. Stepping onto the true path of yoga can bring us closer to our real self and build enduring resilience. It can keep us balanced and uplifted, even as we enter our third lockdown.
  3. Satsang – this is something that we do in any kind of spiritual discipline. It is where we seek out the company of people where we can seek out, talk about and understand the truth. A group of like-minded folks committed to understanding the deeper meanings of life and question reality. Whilst being supported by belonging to a connected tribe.
  4. Cleansing practices – the coronavirus crisis is bringing up a lot of negative energy in the world and in each of us. It can manifest in radical changes in peoples’ behaviours, which can mean we get upset or hurt. Practices to clear out such negative energy can be useful. This might include yogic practices such as the kriyas or burning sage (smudging) or palo santo sticks. Chanting powerful mantras – such as OM or om mani padme hum – are far more effective for clearing the mind than affirmations.  I have been doing a weekly havan during the last 9 months or so. This type of fire ceremony uses thermal energy and sound to purifiy and harmonise the air and ourselves. There are more, but perhaps these are just some to help protect your energy during this crisis.
  5. Helping others – if each of us could commit to helping at least one other during these times it would have a tremendous impact, not just on the wider community, but also on ourselves.
  6. Enjoying a hobby – perhaps you already have something you love doing but haven’t had the time or inclination to do it. Or maybe you have picked up a new interest during this year of covid? Hobbies are a fantastic way to engage with something we love and keep our mind focused. They keep our brains and our selves healthy and can even end up benefiting others anyway.
  7. New channels for connection – keeping connection is probably the most important way, for most of us, to get through the highs and lows of covid. But we may have to be creative in looking into new channels to communicate or stay in connection with others. Zoom is the obvious one. But remember skype, and WhatsApp is fantastic for messaging, phone and video calls. Social media is healthy and positive if used in the right ways.
  8. Animals – whilst I am not advocating adopting a dog during lockdown, there are many ways that we can get animal companionship or inspiration. You could help a friend or family member with their dog (or cat)  – respecting bubbles of course. You could look into the wide variety of furry and non-furry animals that can be terrifically interesting to keep. Looking after something else, and having physical contact (even if they don’t have fur) can enrich your life.

Read more ideas about Coping with the highs and lows of Covid.

There are many reports of people having more frequent and more vivid and unusual dreams during this pandemic. Whilst I personally haven’t seen much of a change (mine are always offbeat), I began to wonder why this increase in COVID dreams might be the case for others.

The main function of dreams

I have always been interested in dreams. However, since studying psychoanalysis during the past year, I have more understanding of the depth that dreams contain. Freud called dreams the ‘royal road to the unconscious’ and said that the main function of dreaming is to keep us asleep.

During a dream, content from our unconscious can be presented in a way that is acceptable or digestible to the more conscious part of our mind. This partly explains why dreams can seem so weird. To ensure this presentability, our mind codes our dreams with symbols and other content is switched to ensure that the dream gets past our internal censor. Remember, the unconscious mind is far from middle class!

Night terrors – when dreams fail

If this process fails, we end up in a night terror and are woken from the dream. This is a sign that our capacity to dream has been overwhelmed by the indigestible stuff from the unconscious. This might partly explain the nature of our COVID dreams.

Creative acts

Freud said “ the function of a dream is fulfilment of a wish to appease a worry. When this works, an anxiety is satisfied, and you can sleep”. This is how dreams keep us asleep. Clever, eh? Today, we have elaborated on this understanding and dreams are seen as creative acts of psychic work to resolve conflicts or challenges, and even come up with something new. As a chemistry student many years ago, I remember being told about Kekule’s dream of a serpent devouring its tail (the ancient alchemical symbol of the ouroborus) which lead to his discovery of the benzene ring.

Understanding our dreams

However, these are not the only reasons to understand our dreams. Dreams are made of darker stuff sometimes, a wish to satisfy an instinct from the darkness of the Id. And our id holds the most ‘terrible’ instincts, even of ‘murderous’ intent. I am talking of the baby’s rage for a withholding breast. On thing is certain though, dreams have very personal meanings and you cannot look them up in a dream dictionary to understand them. Whilst there may be universal symbols at play within them, even these have deeply personal relevance.

Multiple layers of meaning

For example, I recently had an extremely upsetting dream that involved a snake. In part of the dream, the snake was cut into many pieces that were still alive and crawling around the floor. This dream would have different meanings for others, especially with such an ancient symbol of a serpent. However, I own a pet snake which I love dearly, and I have also taken up carving as an art form. One dream has multiple layers of meaning. But one (superficial) meaning of this dream for me, was a wish to not harm my pet whilst I am carving. It was a warning which alleviated this worry.

Why are we having covid dreams?

Overtly it seemed to me that the increase in vivid and strange COVID dreams was because of the trauma of COVID-19 that is around us on a daily basis. The content of dreams is often influenced by our day or recent events on our life – Freud called these top down dreams. Others are more ‘bottom up’ and come direct from the subconscious.

Knowing this explains our covid dreams another way. With less going on in our daily lives, more bottom up material is coming from the depths of our unconscious mind (if it can get past the censor in unusual ways) which is just weirder and more vivid. Freud tells us:

“Every dream that is in the process of formation makes a demand upon the ego for the satisfaction of an instinct, if the dream originates from the id, for a solution of a conflict, the removal of a doubt or the forming of an intention if the dream originates from a residue of preconscious activity from waking life. The sleeping ego is however focused on the wish to remain asleep. It feels this demand as a disturbance and seeks to get rid of it. The ego succeeds in doing this by what appears to be an act of compliance; it meets the demand with what is, in the circumstances, the harmless fulfilment of a wish and so gets rid of it.”

Interpreting dreams

So what chance do we have of making sense of such weirdness? It’s not easy, as you might guess. Despite what the abundance of dream dictionaries and the like seem to tell us. The manifest content is the story we remember and write down or tell our therapist. Yet it is the ‘latent’ content which we need to understand, the hidden message in the dream. By understanding this we have clues to our unconscious conflicts that, in a process like psychotherapy, can greatly aid in our self-development and progress.

To search for the hidden messages, here are a few tips:

  1. Look out for displacement – this is where the emphasis is moved from one item in the dream to another. So that something that seems meaningless is given great focus or there is serious anxiety in something bland
  2. Condensation – the free associations and the links that the dreamer is encouraged to make when thinking about the dream. Or perhaps noticing the play on words in dreams
  3. Secondary revision – how we wrap up the story of the dream (and maybe distort it). I did this with my snake dream (there was more to it).
  4. Symbols (considerations of representability) – this is the visual way metaphor and simile are represented in dreams (a way of by-passing the censor). It is usually an item that represents something completely different. But remember, these are often very individual.

Example dream

Maybe it would help with a recent example from a client. (I have permission, though am keeping all detail anonymous). My client dreamed he was walking down a mountain side. The path was winding and rocky and with big boulders and gaps to navigate precariously. The client found himself with a baby, there were onlookers who seemed to be family and friends and who were not threatening. The client had a dilemma – he wanted to get safely down the mountainside to the base, he wanted to do it for himself but in a way that kept the baby safe. In the dream was distracted by some beautiful pattern in the stones and rocks. The only way he could do it was to hand the baby over to the onlookers, for a moment while he negotiated certain rocks and treacherous parts. But he did not feel he could trust the onlookers with the baby. He wished he could trust them enough to hold the baby for a moment.

Mountain dreams

Overtly the client thought this dream represented a difficult patch in life that he was trying to navigate. But let’s look a bit more deeply, bearing in mind I am no dream expert. The client was going down a mountain, which might represent descent into the work into the unconscious that he was undertaking in therapy. There were onlookers who were friendly. Dreams often reverse things, so this could represent people in his life who he perceives do not have such benign or neutral intent. There was a baby that he was responsible for.

Beginning an interpretation of covid dreams

Notice how the client got more fixated on the beauty or preciousness of the pattern in the stones on the path. This might signify that the baby was something precious to him. What does the baby signify? It might be a symbol. My client is a young man and not yet a father, the baby might symbolise something precious to him. On one level, the baby might represent me, his therapist, and his wish to protect me (he recognised feeling something like this towards me at times, which is not uncommon in the client-therapist transference). I am something ‘precious’ to him and am going on a descent into his unconscious mind with him, he might fear for me of what we might find there.

Freud said that aspects or objects in dreams are aspects of our own mind. Babies are vulnerable but more importantly, dependent. So, given that my client was entering a very important phase in therapy where he was becoming more dependent on a benign caregiver (a vital and delicate part of the therapeutic process), the baby might represent this dependent part of himself. This of course is himself as a baby. And he fears of letting this baby go to others (me the therapist) whom he can’t trust in this crucial and delicate phase.

Play on words

Of course, another layer could be the play on words: in the double bind he experiences in the dream, he is ‘left holding the baby’. Which is a phrase that means “you are put in a situation where you are the sole person responsible for something, often in an unfair way because other people fail or refuse to take responsibility for it”. This might relate to people in his life and general pattern currently and in the past.

Layer upon layer

Remember that there are multiple layers of meaning in a single dream, and we can keep unpacking it. And in addition, the meaning may be different at different times in our life. Then there are traumatic dreams, which are less useful. Rather like the trauma response itself, these dreams repeat and repeat, often in very disturbing ways. This traumatic repetition is an effort to re-experience the trauma so that we can finally take control. However, it often leads to more trauma.

Hopefully this gives you a taste of the power of dreams to help us navigate our problems in life. In psychotherapy dreams can be a useful tool to initiate dialogue with the unreachable unconscious. Through this we can begin to understand the unconscious conflicts and anxieties that disturb our happiness. But there is no one size fits all approach. The therapist needs to do careful and informed work with the client to extract the personal meanings from dreams.


More help during COVID-19

Read more about what might help you cope in this pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis is forcing us to face something which human beings excel at avoiding. Death is the biggest taboo of them all and one which we spend a lifetime denying.

Many are writing about trauma during the COVID-19 crisis. We are in the midst of a trauma and that trauma is being triggered by many everyday things now. But I believe that what is even more important in our response to this crisis is our unconscious fear of death.

Read the full article on LifeLabs.

During a crisis situation, like Covid-19, our tendency to take risks can increase. Trauma can trigger states where risky behaviour has a kind of softening effect on the crisis we are experiencing. Invariably, it can also make us feel more alive. However cheating on our partner only brings us more problems in the long run. So why do we cheat?

Why do we cheat?

I have many people who come to me who are in an extra marital affair currently, or who have had one. And this situation invariably affects self-esteem. Yes the new relationship makes them feel loved and valued. Perhaps because these needs are not being met in the primary relationship. But close on the heels of that pleasure is the cauldron of problems that beleaguers the person. And for some the guilt and shame can be unbearable.

Who cheats?

According the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (9.8.2013) 57 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women will have an extramarital affair. So, considering the total number of marriages involved at least one partner will have an affair in approximately 80 per cent of all marriages. (stats here: With this many marriages affected, it’s unreasonable to think affairs are due only to the failures and shortcomings of individual ‘bad’ partners.

Why we cheat

Why do we cheat? It is always because of some need that is not being met in the current relationship. Perhaps your wife is cold and distant and doesn’t want sex anymore? Perhaps your partner is unable to express himself emotionally, or doesn’t do feelings? Or perhaps he is too needy and since the baby has come along, turns elsewhere for attention. We all have needs for connection, for intimacy. As well as for touch and for passion.

Things are different these days. Women in their 40s are doing a lot of the initiation. And divorce is on the rise for couples in their 60s. We change. And sometimes the other does not change so much. So we feel stuck or not understood. We need to be seen by another. We all long to be validated, and recognised on a deep level by another soul. This is especially true if we did not have these needs met in our childhood.


Attachment theory

And then there is attachment theory.  It is said that 40-50% of us are insecurely attached. We may be avoidant, with an almost obsessive need for independence as we had to rely on ourselves so much in childhood. Or we were abused physically, emotionally or sexually. Or we may be anxious-ambivalent (preoccupied) in our attachment. This is because we got inconsistent care in childhood. Needless to say, our ‘hope’ for love and care was dashed time and time again, by a mother who was unavailable herself (depressed, alcoholic etc).

So we cope. We are excellent at coping from a very young age, we have an inbuilt survival mechanism. The need for love and being cared for can feel like life or death. This desperate need for intimacy or sexual connection ends up making us fearful (literally) of intimacy or too needy and dependent on it. Both styles, I find, set us up for affairs. Insecure attachment style goes hand in hand with lower self esteem. So, the self esteem was already low, before the affair.

Intention and behaviour

I am not excusing the behaviour in any way. but the ‘intention’ behind it is positive (and to the limbic brain, can feel like life or death): to get the person what they truly, deeply need. This is not a conscious, rational choice (this need) it is wired into the circuits of the right brain, wired so deeply that it can override the superego’s objections to having an affair.

Nevertheless, the judgements of society and culture, pale in comparison to how we judge ourselves. Affairs can shatter marriages. And make the one who strayed, and the one left behind deeply unhappy. So, given that, the behaviour needs changing.


Healing the wounds

People need help to heal the underlying wounds in the relationship to change the relationship so needs are met. Surprisingly, 30% or more of marriages with a known affair, do survive. But usually both of them also need help in healing the underlying childhood ‘scars’ that created the impetus. The low self-esteem which is a presenting factor in most, has now usually gotten far worse post-affair thereby setting a sensitivity for more affairs.

Our relationship can survive an affair – with help

But the truly beautiful thing is, that for the bravest of couples, who honestly, authentically, courageously work through all this (themselves, the marriage) this crisis can be the catalyst for changing the relationship. The old stagnant relationship can be changed to one that is unrecognisable from the one that was decimated. It can be a route to individuation, differentiation, growth to self – for both partners. Although I am certainly NOT advocating an affair in the cause of ‘personal growth’. Given that most of us in the West today will have two or three committed relationships in our life, ‘for those daring enough to try, they may find themselves having all of them with the same person.’ (Esther Perel, After the Storm)

Resources: A Passionate Marriage by David Snarch


  1. More about relationships on our blog
  2. More about David Snarch and how sex inevitably dies in long-term relationships
  3. A wonderful video from Esther Perel

As we cope with the change of Covid-19 we might find our selves in strange states of emotional upheaval. Regulating our emotional arousal levels is a skill we can learn.

You might be coping and working, and perhaps you are even busy. But you might find yourself alternating between anxiety and tiredness, overwhelm and lack of motivation.

Here are some practices to help.

Watch the video on Psychologies LifeLabs

Find other resources to help you cope with a crisis here.

As we enter our eighth week of COVID-19 lockdown, fear is all around us. Not least is the concern about contagion and illness caused in humans by this strand of RNA that we have called coronavirus. Then there is the financial stress and concerns about our mental health during the isolation of the crisis.

We might have anxiety about going out, as lockdown begins to ease. We might not even feel safe in our own homes anymore. Nevertheless, in the midst of trauma we are deprived of the place of true safety. The safety of the present moment and the safety in our own bodies. This is a simple yet powerful technique to begin to break the hold that trauma has on you.

Read the full piece in my article on Psychologies Life Labs.


When we are in the throes of our problem, whether that be anxiety or depression or some other disturbance, it can be difficult to see it as something other than a terrible crisis that is afflicting us.

A ‘right brain’ way of seeing

In this respect our very way of seeing the problem perpetuates the problem. Being in the midst of the problem, consumed by it, overwhelmed by the right brain’s subjective negative experience, makes us blind to the real nature of things. This ‘veil’ prevents us from seeing reality. It is what yoga calls ‘maya’; the illusion that there is an objective reality.

Reality is projection

Maya is projection, it leads to partial understanding and wrong or false notions about our self, our identity and our reality.

In the Indian tantric myth of the rishi couple, Shiva and Parvati, who lived in a mountain village, the play of reality and illusion is brought out beautifully when Parvati asks: “the minds of people are full of tension and strife, suffering, pain, anxiety, difficulty … Why is there so much desire and craving in human beings … They constantly desire to acquire something which leads to more agitation and anxiety … Why do human beings get entangled in this vicious cycle?”

Inner disturbance is an expression of energy

According to tantra, this disturbance within each individual is an expression of the state of their energy and their consciousness. In this respect, disturbed mental states are projections of energy and consciousness. There is no reality, each of us lives in our own version of reality, which is largely a projection of our unconscious mind.

The end of an illusion

By understanding this we can begin to see our problems as simply the end of an illusion: a chance to expand consciousness to another level. But, as Jung said; “man will do almost anything to avoid facing his own soul”. When we ignore, deny or repress our spirit (our soul), in our obsessive over-identification with our body and/or our mind, the spirit only breaks through in the form of neuroses and mental disturbance.

Changing your problem

So how can you start to change your ‘problem’?

  1. Firstly, accept that your problem is a ‘gift’, a chance to overcome another level of illusion, an opportunity to learn and grow. Welcome your problem in as a cry from your soul to be heard and understood.
  2. Then recognise that you don’t ‘have’ a problem: you are the problem. This will move you from being at ‘effect’ (blame, victim, martyrdom) to ’cause’ (taking the responsibility to change the only thing you can: you!)
  3. Be brave, authentic and tender in exploring the unchartered territory of your spirit because this journey will only bring you to bliss.

In this respect, psychotherapy is ‘spiritual’ and yoga is psychotherapy, ‘all roads lead to Rome’ so to speak.

This piece was first published on Psychologies Life Labs

We are all in the middle of a trauma situation right now. Some are coping, others are not doing so well. This has nothing to do with how ‘strong’ or otherwise we are. This is about more than having ‘mental health issues’. Trauma has an effect on all of us and if we don’t have ways to discharge trauma we will be left with the after effects of undischarged trauma. This is called post-traumatic stress.

It may be that those who are coping better, have habits that help with managing trauma. Conversely, those not doing so well may also have a prior history of undischarged trauma and this might be being triggered every time they go to the supermarket or watch the news headlines.

Mindful of our triggers

I had a client say to me the other day “whichever way you turn, no one really cares about us as (certain type of healthcare worker). We never get mentioned, or noticed. That is the story of my life.”   (I have taken the profession out to protect confidentiality)

It goes without saying that my client was and is getting attention in their job. But this was their experience in their childhood, so they were experiencing current events through this lens.

Another client said to me “I feel abandoned. No one contacts me. No one cares and not one person is there for me.” Nevertheless, when we explored further people had been contacting them. This person had not been proactive in reaching out though, and was waiting for others to make the first move (which will reduce the amount of contact of course). This is another example of how our past traumas of emotional neglect, real or perceived abandonment and loss can mean that the current situation is more highly charged.

The trauma of Covid-19

Nevertheless, the trauma of COVID-19 is real and rife. These include at least three areas:

  • We have the risk of physical trauma of the disease’s impact on our health
  • We have the financial trauma of the effect the crisis has on our ability to earn
  • And we have the psychological trauma of being effectively locked in our own homes

Whilst some of might feel the adverse effects more than others, not least because of our triggers, we can help ourselves.

What causes the trauma response during the COVID crisis?

There are a number of pre conditions for trauma, boxes that must be ticked if you like, that need to be present for us to experience trauma.

  1. Lack of control – the definition of trauma is an event, experience or situation where we feel helpless and out of control. A situation with high levels of unpredictability or uncertainty where we feel powerless.
  2. Immobility – in a truly traumatic situation (think of rape) our physical actions have no effect. Our nervous system is naturally aroused to fight, flee or feign death/faint. But these actions have no effect (whatever we do the rapist overcomes us). We lose our physical sense of agency.
  3. Loss of connection – in the absence of an attacker, extreme loss of connection alone can result in trauma. Think of the torture experiences of isolation. As humans we are wired for connection and need some degree of it to sustain life.
  4. Numbing or spacing out – if we reach this point in a traumatic experience we are quite lost. Again we have lost our sense of agency and passivity has taken over (this can also be the experience of events like rape). This passivity is very bad for us. We might experience this as endless watching of TV or social media. But it can be a sign we are going into a trauma response.
  5. Loss of time – trauma steals our ability to be in the present moment. We have literally gone elsewhere. We have certainly left the here and now of our body. And are lost in the past triggers or future fears. We may find that we literally lose chunks of time.
  6. No sense of safety – particularly if we have previous triggers (unconsciously) coming up, we can react in a very ‘disorganised’ way. This means we can be ‘all over the place’ and even react in violent or other excessive ways. We can react and do things that we would not normally do and these actions may serve to make us even less safe.
  7. Loss of sense of future – in trauma we feel that our future has shrunk or disappeared. This disempowers us further.

How to cope with trauma and maintain our resilience

If we let ourselves sink into the trauma response, we won’t be able to cope. It is important to know that trauma is as much of a response from our body as from our mind. We might think of the experience of trauma as a ‘natural response from our body to a highly unnatural event’.  However if we don’t take action to mitigate these effects we will remain even more vulnerable.

Here are some things that really work to help you cope during this time:

  1. Order and routine – create schedules and some routine in your life. Have things to look forward to. A daily yoga class, a family meal (do it virtually if you are on your own!). Create a calendar and put some order into your day – get up a 9am to do some guided breathing or meditation, have lunch at a certain time, and your daily exercise. Try to make things different on the weekend so that you are maintaining some boundary between week days and weekends.
  2. Take effective physical action – remember the TEA model which I have taught? These actions are what we can do with our bodies (and our breathing). Certain actions can help counteract the loss of agency. And they can also help immensely with self-regulation. By standing up, moving we are sending signals to our self that we can stand up and take action to help our situation. Grounding and physical movement can be a very effective tool to mitigate trauma. Other mindfulness and breathing practices can engage the vagal nerve and parasympathetic nervous system to calm our arousal response. And do things: move, make music, make things – it gives you back your sense of agency. It counters the passivity which takes away all choice.
  3. Stay connected – make efforts to stay connected with those around you. Don’t wait for others to initiate, but make contact yourself. And texting or messaging or social media is not enough. We need to hear another’s voice, see their faces and facial expressions. So take time for face time, online chats and online calls. The tools are out there and free. Of course, if you are living with someone, get as many hugs as you can!
  4. Connect with yourself – time stops in trauma. Trauma steals the present moment and we feel that we are stuck in something that will last forever. Use guided practices to connect with your body, to re-learn that the here and now of your body is safe. Such practices help you to learn to move your awareness and notice that things do change. You can learn to be with whatever is there, tolerate discomfort and move through it.
  5. Understand what makes you feel safe – is it a certain type of music? Or being around your animals? Or wrapping yourself in your favourite sweater? Take some time to become aware of what resources you have. In the midst of the trauma response, we feel unsafe in our own bodies. So we need to have resources on tap to take us out of that. Cuddles with your pet or loved one can help. Equally important is having a safe place in your own home. This is somewhere that you can withdraw to where no one else is allowed to disturb you. If you don’t have a separate room, it could simply be a chair. You just agree the rules with the others in the house – ‘if I am sitting on this chair (or go into this room) you are not allowed to disturb me.


I hope these tips have been helpful. Please join my Embodied Living – Coping with Covid group to experience practical sessions to help with all of the above and build your own resources to cope with trauma.

In yoga we use breathing as a fundamental tool in both posture work and more overtly through the practice of pranyama (breathing practices). There is a way to breathe – known as coherent breathing – where we can synchronise heart rate and even blood flow, with respiration. This process happens when we are breathing slowly and deeply. Specifically, this needs to happen at a rate of 5 breaths/minute (yes that is a 12-second long breath!!). The average person breathes at 15-20 breaths/min (some are at 30 or more!!). This rate of 5 breaths/min brings about emotional and physiological coherence. However, it can only happen if we breathe using our diaphragm.

Unproductive breathing is the human condition

When we don’t breathe coherently we become incoherent (in thought, behavior etc).  For many of us incoherent, unproductive breathing is a lifetime habit, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) becomes dominant. We’re in the realm of fearing, fleeing or fighting. And the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) becomes redundant. The PNS is the side of our nervous system that induces the ‘relaxation response’. Without a doubt we all have inherent access to this deep internal calm state. However, through unproductive breathing habits our system becomes dysfunctional and is no longer able to counteract the stressed nervous system. This leads to a pretty negative and unpleasant way of being in the world.

Our terrible experience

With sympathetic nervous system dominance, caused by unproductive breathing, we experience:

  • poor circulation (cold hands, feet, tingling, numbness)
  • muscle tightness (particularly trapezius in neck and shoulders)
  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • pain (can lead to chronic pain)
  • increased rate of ageing

And a myriad of other symptoms!

Learn how to breath coherently

We can learn how to breathe coherently. This involves the following:

  1. Diaphragmatic action – the diaphragm is a strong sheet of muscle that sits in the torso separating the abdominal organs from the thoracic cage. It is the most important breathing muscle. It can move in a range of 10 cm. Yet in many people its range may be 1 cm or less. When the diaphragm is used to at least 60% of its capacity in breathing it brings mind and body into balance.
  2. Effect on the Heart – the diaphragm is connected to the heart and its action massages the heart. As much as 65% of heart cells are neural cells, identical to those found in the brain, your heart has thoughts and a ‘mind’! In addition, the heart is a powerful EMF energy generator (the electromagnetic energy that a coherent heart kicks out can be measured up to 15 feet outside of the body!!), and can affect the energy of brainwaves (a process called entrainment) and also of other people.
  3. Engage the parasympathetic nervous system – the diaphragm is connected to the vagus nerve, part of the PNS, and its action serves to increase the functionality of the PNS
  4. Entrainment – through coherent breathing we can entrain the heart into coherence (high HRV), and the brainwaves into alpha or even theta.

Powerful changes

These four points mean that when we learn how to breathe coherently, we notice changes in both body and mind. Nevertheless, it is important to realise that for some, to begin with we may simply feel MORE pain, more tiredness or exhaustion. This won’t last, it will pass quickly. Indeed this only happens because we are actually really exhausted and/or in pain. But this experience has been ‘hidden’ by the over active SNS. Stress hormones such as cortisol are at permanently elevated levels and serve to mask this. Without a doubt, in the long run this state of elevation will reduce our immune response.

Constant and consistent effort

But if we practice consistently and regularly these problems will diminish and we will start to feel the many benefits of coherent breathing:

  • reduced pain
  • more energy
  • improved sleep
  • reduced blood pressure
  • reduced symptoms of depression and/or anxiety
  • increased performance
  • improved emotional control
  • increased resilience and less stress
  • better decision making


Coherent breathing is the key to increasing our immunity. building our confidence, and achieving happiness and bliss.

You can find even more resources for accessing your most resourceful self on my Embodied Living podcast site.