Our bodies have been the first line of defense during the pandemic.
They have endured physical stress, tension, illness, isolation from other bodies, and many other environmental and social threats. Our bodies have also gone through a lot of unfamiliar instruction— guidelines telling us to keep our bodies six feet away from other bodies, shop during certain hours, work at home, learn at home and even worship at home—all to reduce both contracting and spreading COVID-19. Many of us have been diagnosed and treated due to our bodies being attacked by the virus. Others of us had to endure the physiological unrest and distress caused by anxiety in our bodies as we did whatever we could to avoid contracting the virus. Many of us have in some way felt the loneliness and sadness of our bodies being so distant from other bodies. And then there’s the vaccination—one additional intervention to and for the body. With all of these disruptions, our bodies had to find new ways to adapt. Here are just a few of the survival responses of our bodies:
- Increased appetite and loss of appetite
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Aggression toward other bodies
- Closed off and restricted muscle tone when next to other bodies
- Hyperarousal and anxious states
- Somatic dissociation, numbing and checking out of the body
The tools in this post will focus specifically on somatic dissociation, numbing and checking out as the pandemic elicited an exit from our bodies and also exposed our need for re-entry back into our bodies.
Re-entry into the body means addressing any ways we have exited our bodies and any adaptations the body has made during the pandemic. Exiting the body due to the pandemic stress may manifest as somatic dissociation. Under intense exposure to stress, trauma, and shock, the spirit and mind can disconnect from the body as a way to survive. When the mind disconnects from the body, it no longer interprets and communicates what is happening in the body. These are a few signs of somatic dissociation:
- Ignoring cues for hunger, thirst, rest and movement
- Spacing out
- Binge watching tv and mindless social media scrolling
- Desensitization to pain and discomfort
- Forgetting how to properly breathe
- Ignoring significant postural changes
The pandemic not only impacted our relationship to our bodies, but it has also impacted our beliefs about our bodies. Beliefs help us to make sense of our experiences and we pull them forward with us long after the experience is over. We then start to apply these beliefs generally to new experiences, whether the beliefs are rational or not—outdated or not.
Some persistent beliefs we may have adopted:
- “My body is not safe”
- “I can’t keep my body safe/I can’t keep my loved one’s body safe”
- “Other bodies are not safe for my body to be around”
- “My body/health is my business”
- “No one can tell me where my body can and cannot go”
- “My body is weaker than other bodies”
- “My body is better and healthier than other bodies”
- “Jesus didn’t heal my body like I believed”
These beliefs are not just stored in the cognitive brain—they live in the body and keep states of dis-ease active. Re-entry into the body also includes addressing any unhelpful beliefs and transforming them into truths that support the body and its inherent goodness.
In order to fully psychologically recover from the impact of the pandemic, the body must be included in the process. We must fully befriend and own our bodies again
The human body is a beautiful temple that embodies Holy Spirit. The coming together of Holy Spirit and body is a praise-worthy reminder that the body is designed to be a safe dwelling.
1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.” (NLT).
This is a great truth to combat any beliefs we may wrestle with regarding our bodies and a good incentive to return or re-enter our bodies if we have vacated them for any reason during this past year of crisis, stress and trauma. As we re-enter society, the hope is that we would do so fully embodied, grounded within ourselves, and led by Holy Spirit who will aide us moment-by-moment if our bodies wrestle with returning to community.
8 Practices to Safely Re-enter the Body
1. Befriend your body.
Offer gratitude, warmth, compassion and curiosity toward your body. Make a list of the ways it has let you down. Make a second list of how it has supported you in the past year and simply say “Thank you body”.
2. Release belief-burdens.
Make a list of any beliefs that you carry and may feel burdened by that are related to your body and its experiences during the pandemic. Meditate on a simple yet sacred way to release these burdens from your mind, body and spirit. Once unburdened, meditate on a truth you want to embody instead.
3. Listen to the Body Story
This simply means that you are building awareness of how your body has and continues to experience isolation, stress and re-entry by utilizing the language of sensations. You will first need to build your sensation vocabulary and learn the landscape of your body so you can more effectively map out and describe a) what is happening, b) how it’s happening c) where it is happening in your body and d) what is it that the body needs.
Once you listen to the body story, you will have learned of something specific that the body needs. The next five are practices that address the needs of the body:
4. Engage in safe touch.
Incorporate safe exchanges of touch daily with people, pets, plants/nature and self. Notice the experience of giving and receiving.
5. Feed the body nutrient-rich foods and water.
Incorporate at least one mindful eating experience into your day. Give your body at least one thing it will thank you for, including water.
6. Build a sacred sleep ritual.
Establish a ritual that is based on compassion for the body and its need for rest. This ritual could include spoken blessings for sleep, body-settling breathwork and movements, and calming sensory stimuli. Don’t forget to incorporate sacred and soothing elements into the bedroom space like soft pillows, plants, and desired décor.
7. Engage in movement practices.
Find ways to bless the body with the gift of movement each day through exercise, dance, walking, swaying, rocking or play.
8. Engage in spiritual disciplines that incorporate the body.
Make spiritual practices more holistic by engaging the body whenever possible. Examples include: prayer walks, placing a hand-over-heart while praying or reading scripture, breathing in scripture, or dancing to worship music.
With these 8 practices sewn into the fabric of your daily rituals, may you be blessed in this return and re-entry season. May any sufferings and dissociations in the body be made whole. May your body be a blessed body. May your body be a blessing to other bodies. And may you know the way of re-entry should you ever leave your body again.
Leatisher ("Tish") Granville, MS, LPCC-S
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Trauma Team Leader
With a B.A. in Psychology from Kent State University and an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from Walden University, Leatisher has been on the clinician staff at Emerge Counseling Ministries for 12 years.
She specializes in trauma/PTSD, attachment disorders, family dysfunction, and anxiety and depressive disorders, and also serves on the Clinical Support Team.
She is married and has two children.