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Mental Health

Reflections on Body Image and Emotional Stressors During a Global Pandemic

 

Author: Jessie's Legacy, a program of Family Services of the North Shore

 

Have you ever felt like you were so flooded with emotions that you could feel the intensity in your body? Anxiety, sadness, fear and anger are some of the overwhelming emotions that can flood us at any given moment of our day. This is especially intense for people who are highly sensitive or empathic. Being highly sensitive can be such an intense physical experience that you have a strong desire to disconnect from your body or even resent your body for the intensities you're feeling. During times like COVID-19 you may be experiencing sensations or emotions that feel so intense they penetrate and invade your physical space. That’s what it feels like for me to be highly sensitive during a global pandemic. I am thankful now that I have a different perspective and tools to use so that I can better understand myself during this time and not blame my body for the intensities I’m experiencing.

I'm a highly sensitive person and have been since birth (research HSP and the work of Elaine Aron and Judith Blackstone). Being highly sensitive to stimulus including touch, taste, noise and especially others' emotions. The relationship with my body was confusing as it was the source point for the physicality of the intense sensations I felt. As I got older and the world got more intense and less playful I struggled with the unhealthy projections of body image coming from my peers and society. In my twenties I was diagnosed with body dysmorphia and struggled to conceptualize what I looked like and the beauty that I embodied. I used to resent my body for the intensities I felt from the external environment and in my internal world. This led to an unhealthy relationship with my body for the entirety of my teenage and young adult life. Now looking back, I know that my relationship with my body was closely tied to my relationship with myself. When I had judgment of being highly sensitive I would feel the physical and emotional pain in my body. When I felt the judgment coming from my peers and society I felt it in my body. The harder I got on myself and the more I pushed hatred inwards the more I felt the emotional pain manifest in my body. I was judging my body for being sensitive to stimulus ontop of not looking the way I thought I was supposed to. Why couldn't I just be like other girls I knew that weren't as sensitive as me? Why couldn't my body look right or be right? I was looking to blame something as if my body had something wrong with it and unfortunately all of that anger, frustration and confusion was projected back at my body.

At the age of 23 I realized I had to reconnect to a time I embodied joy and felt free. I looked to my childhood and realized I would meditate (I called it having meetings with myself), I journaled and I loved to dance all to connect to a lighter state when I was feeling overwhelmed. I was sensitive and so I had ease connecting to my spiritual and emotional needs as a child. With that realization I started meditating again and started connecting with my body and my sensitivities. During my exploration of my purpose and my own beliefs about why I exist I connected with myself in a deep and meaningful way. I found an inner connection and reframed the relationship I had with myself. When the relationship with me and my gifts changed so did the relationship I had with my body. Connecting my body as a beautiful extension of my gifts and my purpose.

During this pandemic you may feel a heightened sense of overwhelm if you're highly sensitive or not. You also may find yourself triggered by the stress or anxiety during these times. I'd like to offer three tips that you can use to connect with yourself and your body when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

1. Connect with your body.

We spend so much time disconnected from our bodies it's important to reconnect with it in a nurturing way. This time at home may be the perfect opportunity to start that journey. You can begin with closing your eyes, taking a deep breathe, putting your hands somewhere that you connect to. Feel your body, feel its energy and be grateful for it's support throughout your life.

2. Know that you and your body aren't wrong.

If you're reading this you are a gift and have purpose. We are like flowers, all beautiful, dynamically different and are a different expression of beauty. Know that you and your body are a manifestation of your unique beauty.

3. Tap into yourself and ask if these sensations and feelings belong to you or if they are coming from the outside world.

When they belong to you use journaling or talking to a friend to express them. If they belong to external sources like news, social media or people around you take a break to be by yourself for a bit. In that time do something you love and let yourself know it doesn't belong to you and you don't have to do anything with those sensations but release them.

This time spent at home can be a time of reflection and connection for you and for your relationship with your body. It's important to be nurturing and kind to yourself particularly during stressful times. You can take steps everyday to embrace your sensitivities, your gifts and your body. I am living proof that it is truly possible to connect with your sensitivities and your body as a gift not a burden.

 
About the author

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Jessie's Legacy, a program of Family Services of the North Shore provides web-based eating disorders prevention resources to support BC youth, families, educators and professionals. Visit us at www.jessieslegacy.com.

 

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