Isolation and Self-Care

Isolation and Self-Care

From Virtual symposium 2020

By Bessel van der Kolk

May/June 2020

If we want to maintain our sanity right now, with so many of us in lockdown because of the coronavirus and divorced from the ordinary structures of our lives, we must understand what our brains need to function properly. First, we need to stay connected with each other. How? Through our voices and faces. After all, that’s the primary mode of human communication. So if we take advantage of technologies that allow us to experience the presence of others, our anxiety goes down. That’s what all the work on attachment theory tells us. We need to do more than stare passively at the TV without a mutual engagement of familiar voices and faces.

Some communities have even gone beyond that while still maintaining physical distancing. In my neighborhood, we’re in the process of setting up a way to cook and care for each other. We drop off food at each other’s houses, and then have suppertime together through FaceTime so we can talk to each other over a meal, as if we were together.

Another aspect of understanding our brains and taking care of ourselves is having a regular physical practice, where we move our bodies and maybe do it online with other people. If you don’t move your body, your soul will rot. After all, a big part of the definition of trauma is immobility. We’ve understood for a long time that trauma is about…

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