What has happened in the past week in Israel is an epic collective trauma unfolding in real time. This has been a horrific and painful experience. Our hearts are so broken, grieving, and tender. All our triggers about safety and belonging have been activated. All our fears, about whether we are loved or hated simply for being Jewish, or loving Jewish people in our lives, have become inflamed. All our instincts to remain alive and safe are getting re-activated over and over.
Anxiety is fear and uncertainty. What happens when we’re anxious? Our pre-frontal cortex shuts down, our amygdala activates into freeze, appease, flight, fight, response. Dr. Jud Brewer’s book and app, Unwinding Anxiety is a great resource for learning how our brains respond to fear and uncertainty in habitual ways.
When we feel anxious and agitated, it’s understandable to want to do something to make the anxiety go away. We donate funds, we organize and attend vigils, we check in with loved ones and friends, we make soup. We also anxiously check the news, wait for word on the status of loved ones and friends, and scroll through social media. Sometimes all this doing helps, and sometimes it doesn’t, it simply sustains the anxiety, and we can’t metabolize the stress in our bodies. This is why many of us run ourselves into the ground and then we collapse from exhaustion.
One of the most important things we can do to find alternative responses to how we typically react when in anxiety. A wonderful and calming way to respond to our anxiety is to just breathe. Just connect with our breath.
Another thing we can do is to just be with ourselves, instead of doing, doing, doing. Another response is to close our eyes, breathe in love for ourselves and one another. When we exhale, breathe out compassion for ourselves and one another.
And finally, we can sink into something amazing that is built into the Jewish calendar every week: we can rest into Shabbat. Shabbat is a pause in time to rest, to reconnect with our neshama (soul), our loved ones, and nature. Our bodies need rest. Our hearts and souls need rest, especially after this terrible week.
Please know that our rabbinic team is available to listen and support you in these difficult times. Be in touch with us at email@example.com if you need anything!