COVID-19: Our Brains, Our Bodies, Our Trauma. Part 2.

Jennifer A. King
5 min readMar 31, 2020

Part 2: Get Regulated

Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

Raise your hand if the term ‘self-care’ makes your skin crawl.

I know. Me too. I don’t have time for it. I am not a person for whom the images conjured by the term ‘self-care’ are comforting. I’m not getting hot stone massages. I’m not doing yoga on the beach. I am typing at a dining room table, half covered by “work stuff” (my kids’ term) and half covered by toys, in what I refer to as my work-from-home mullet: professional attire from the shoulders up, who knows what from the shoulders down.

I was actually supposed to write this yesterday. But, go figure, I was exhausted and unproductive. Sound familiar? Good. If not, hop over to Part 1 of this series to read or to review why exhaustion and difficulty focusing are valid and expected responses to the collective trauma that is COVID-19.

We are here to talk about solutions. Yes, we will be talking about the ways we care for ourselves — our physical, mental, social, and spiritual health — and why, in terms of brain science, caring for ourselves is crucial. But we will be using the term “self-regulation” as it is far more appropriate for this conversation.

Before we dive in, let’s start with a breath. A simple in and out. Don’t change it in anyway, just bring your attention to the rise and fall.

All of the unknowns, the changes, and the losses COVID-19 continues to bring means we, collectively, continue to experience a prolonged stress response — the alarm keeps on ringing. We are activated, which means we are dysregulated, which means we aren’t able to access the smartest parts of our brains. If we are to get ourselves to a state of relative calm, we have to shut off the alarm. This is the idea behind regulation; the topic of this piece being self-regulation, or the ways we soothe ourselves.

Self-regulation can happen from the top of the brain down, or the bottom of the brain up. Top-down approaches are those that require a lot of self-talk. Reasoning with yourself. Reminding yourself of relevant facts. So, what parts of the brain do the majority of the work in a top-down approach? You’ve got it: the thinking parts. Given what we know about trauma, stress, and brain functioning, do these approaches…

Jennifer A. King

Mother. Social Work Educator. Consultant. Writer. Unschooler. Trauma-Informed. @drjennyking