Our fears are bubbling up a bit more than usual these days, but moms, in particular, have no shortage of worries on their emotional plate—pandemic or not. Best-selling author and life coach (and toddler mom) Gabrielle Bernstein has a self-care practice for that. On a recent episode of the hit family podcast Mom Brain, hosted by Daphne Oz and Hilaria Baldwin, Bernstein shared her tactics for pausing, reflecting and, well, breathing during quarantine.
1. Triggered by COVID-19? Try The ‘Heart Hold’ or the ‘Head Hold’
Hilaria Baldwin: I wouldn’t say this if it weren’t already out there, but my husband is 35 years sober. And it’s something that’s a big part of our life. He’s been talking to me a lot about how hard [the pandemic] is for people who are working hard at sobriety and are struggling because it’s really scary right now. People are alone. Life is so different. People have lost jobs. What are some tips and tricks and tools that you could arm people who are suffering with?
Gabrielle Bernstein: It’s about self-regulating. When we feel out of control, we fall back into addictive patterns. I’m not suggesting in any way that a sober person of 35 years is going to go pick up a drink. He’s not. But he may be acting out with food or acting out with TV or something else. But it’s not just him, it’s everyone. Even people who are not self-identified addicts. When we feel out of control, we use other things—food, sex, porn, whatever—to anesthetize that discomfort and that feeling of being unsafe. That’s where self-regulating tools for safety come in.
A simple one is a hold. There’s a heart hold and a head hold. For the heart hold, you place your left hand on your heart and your right hand on your belly and you can close your eyes for a moment. Then, just breathe in deeply and on the inhale, expand your diaphragm and on the exhale allow it to contract. Inhale out. Exhale in. As you continue that cycle of breath, say gentle and loving and compassionate things to yourself. I’m safe. All is well. Breathing in and out. I have my breath. I have my faith. I am safe. I am safe. I am safe. Just take one last deep breath and open your eyes, then let that breath go.
You can also do the head hold where your left hand is on your heart and your right hand is on your head. This is a really great hold for safety as well. Do the same thing. Just breathe long and deep or say I am safe or listen to a song that is soothing for you or listen to a meditation. It can really help.
I’m also a big fan of the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). It’s basically acupuncture meets therapy. An easy way to try it yourself is tapping right between your pinky and ring finger. There’s this point there and these points stimulate your brain and these energy meridians to release deep-rooted unconscious fear, pressure, anxiety—whatever it may be. So, when you notice yourself having a panic attack or you’re freaking out and feeling out of control, point on this point between your pinky finger and your ring finger and again, use that same mantra. I am safe, I am safe, I am safe.
2. If That Doesn’t Work, Try a Technique Called ‘Rage on the Page’
Bernstein: This is really based in the teachings of Dr. John Sarno who wrote a lot about how our physical conditions are psychosomatic. The ‘Rage on the Page’ practice is simple. When I do it, I play bilateral music, which stimulates both sides of your brain. You can go to YouTube or iTunes or Spotify to find it. Then, I rage for 20 minutes. What does that mean? I time myself, turn my phone ringer off, turn off all notifications and I literally rage on the page. I get it out. I write out everything on my mind: I’m mad at the situation. I’m mad at myself. I can’t believe I said that on that phone call. I’m frustrated that I ate that thing. I get mad about all the news that’s going on. I just go crazy. Rage on the page. When 20 minutes is up, I close my eyes—still listening to the bilateral music—and I allow myself to just relax. Then, I’ll do a meditation for 20 minutes.
A lot of moms hear this and think, screw that, I don’t have 40 minutes! Do it for however long that you can. The most important part is the rage on the page part. Even if you can only do five minutes of meditation afterwards, that’s great. The goal is to spend the time dumping your sub-conscious fears. Because when we’re out of control and we want to go back to addictive patterns, we haven’t processed the unconscious stuff that’s coming up for us. And we’re all triggered right now. All of our childhood wounds are being triggered. All of our fears of feeling unsafe are being triggered.
Daphne Oz: Do you recommend ‘raging on the page’ first thing in the morning? Or right before bed?
Bernstein: Definitely not before bed because you don’t want to overstimulate yourself. Before bed is all about a bath or a yoga nidra, which is a sleep meditation. I tend to rage on the page at 1 p.m. because it’s when my kid is napping. So, I take those 40 minutes then. But you can do it in the morning right when you wake up, too, since it’s meant to be a cleansing. Get all that sub-conscious rage and fear and anxiety and angst out, then start your day.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. For more from Gabrielle Bernstein, listen to her recent appearance on our podcast, ‘Mom Brain,’ with Hilaria Baldwin and Daphne Oz and subscribe now.