Resiliency During COVID-19:

What to Do with the Sense of Urgency 


Dr. Lydiana Garcia 


Together, we are all going through a collective trauma during this COVID-19 pandemic. Though some may just be going through it and trying to flow as much as possible, it is still a moment where we are sharing this collective trauma that is impacting all of us in different ways. 

Naming what we’re going through is not to necessarily add any more stress into the reality. Rather, naming things by what it is gives us some kind of freedom because now we no longer have to be in denial. A lot of it had to do with that denial, of it being just a simple virus. But as we’re progressing into shelter in place and now, as we’re seeing and hearing of friends or family members being impacted by this pandemic, we are kind of moving together into a different stage. 

Having a Mobilize Response or Being in the High Mode

For some of us, we might go into a little high, needing to do X, Y and Z and having to mobilize ourselves into doing something. Others, on the other hand, are going into a shut down or having an immobilize response. For this blog post, I wanted to talk a little bit more about the mobilize response and the urgency of doing something. 

Many people are even confused of what they need to do but they feel that urgency and then that keeps on going, going, going. This impacts their sleep, their eating habits and their ability to connect with others. When you’re in a go-go mode out of a survival response, it’s like you become laser-focused on what to do next. And even though you become laser-focused on what to do next, sometimes you’ll get a little confused all the way into the mud of that and you cannot see something else. 

Imagine that there’s a tiger right in front of you, because right now everybody’s talking about that show Tiger King. Our nervous system knows it is there so we get mobilized into doing something. And many of you might say that this is a really good time for us to get mobile, and that is completely true. Our nervous system knows that the tiger is there and on a normal situation, that it’s going to attack you and that’s just it. But with our current situation, the tiger attacking you for several weeks doesn’t necessarily happen.

As we continue to move into this longer time of being in pandemic and sheltering in place with a lot of things to do, it creates a sense of wanting to stay in that go go-go mode which might not be completely helpful. There will definitely be moments that you have to be in that mode to determine right away if you are getting sick or if there are important things you need to do in terms of your job or some changes in your life. Of course, make those. But as soon as you’re done doing those things, you need to go back into that regulated mode because staying in that go-go mode is not going to be helpful for a really long time. 

How to Be Regulated and Taking Action to Move Forward

These are the different skills that I would definitely say could be helpful because we shouldn’t be in the everything-is-gonna-be-fine mode. In general, we are being faced with a threat and how we can stay regulated and problem-solve to move forward is really important.

  1. Learn to recognize it. For me, in particular, being in that go-go mode feels like being pushed to a race or just seeing everybody running and feels like I have to run. I feel that energy moving upward and outward to my extremities, and that’s how I notice that I am in that mode. The urgency is also very intense. There’s a difference from ‘I want to go there’ to ‘I need to be there, I have to go there right now.’ And when I hear my thoughts going there, I know that I’m not necessarily regulated. 
  2. Orient yourself to the present. Recognize it and orient yourself to the present in terms of ‘Do I need to do this right now?’ If the answer is no, then you can kind of do other things. The answer could also be that you still need it by tomorrow or the next day, but it’s not necessarily an urgent kind of in the moment situation. If it is a yes, then do it. Because that’s what your nervous system is there for.
  3. Notice what you sense. Notice what it feels when you’re in that mobilize response. I was mentioning my energy kind of moving upward and outward to my extremities. It could be physical sensations or a combination of your emotions and thoughts. Try to start having that inner reflection about how is that for you.
  4. Assess your level of distress and control. Then you can assess the level of distress and your level of control. For the level of distress, a simple rating from zero to ten, ten being the most in distress, can help you know your current level and what would be your threshold. For the level of control, it’s how in control you are to not be completely in a disregulated mode and still be able to do things. 
  5. Engage in some coping skills. This is where the coping skills from previous blog posts and many other coping skills that you can engage depending on your level of distress. Maybe journaling is one that really helps you but if you’re almost a nine or ten in the level of distress, journaling may not be the best in that moment. Maybe in that moment you need something more physical to snap you out, like putting ice in your forearms or in your legs. It depends and that’s why you have to put them in practice and you have to start noticing. 
  6. Problem-solve. Once you notice that you're a little calmer and that sense of urgency, or whatever you’re feeling, is lower, then that’s when your brain is trying to come back altogether and synchronize in terms on being aligned on all different areas. This would be one of the good times to start exploring, using now the power of our prefrontal cortex in terms of being able to problem-solve and analyze things. Here are some easy steps you can use for problem solving:

i. Identify the problem.  For example, the problem would be not having any face mask.

ii. Generate different options. It could be something like creating your own out of clothing or something. Write at least 4-5 different options that comes into your mind even if you think they might not work.

iii. Analyze the pros and cons of each option. It could be something like cost, creativity or any of that. Then you’ll have to choose one based on the pros and cons and many other considerations.

iv. Take action. Take action on whatever you chose. Let's say you chose watching videos on YouTube and doing some at home because you have some bandanas you can use as face mask. 

v. Reassess. Reassess whether the bandanas solve your face mask problem. In that way, you can look at the other options or you can generate new ones. 

It would always start with regulating yourself because it’s really hard to problem-solve out of a survival mode because, again, you’re only on survival. But after you regulate yourself, then generate different options to be able to solve the problems you have at the moment. And that’s how you can keep on going. You can also put a priority on what you need to solve now versus what you can solve tomorrow, later on today or later on the week. 

I hope any of these skills are helpful to you and that you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy. 

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With love,