Using your senses to get you through Covid-19

by Jacky Power

The world has gone to shit it has,
The world has gone to shit!
A discombobulation is sweeping through our nation
As shoppers binge on bog roll and tinned food.
Apocalyptic thoughts as we survey what we’ve bought,
As we spiral into stratospheric panic!


Let’s stop for a sec, to breathe in, to reflect.
It’s not possible to sustain a life so manic.
Resistance to what’s true causes suffering, that’s not new
What if you allow yourself some slack?

For just 5 minutes, smell the flowers;
A glimpse of calm amongst the hours
Of stress and doubt and worldwide updates coming in.

Put down your phone and walk away.
Press a pause on your dismay
And remember that, in this moment,
You’re still living.

“It may look as if the situation is creating the suffering, but ultimately this is not so – your resistance is.” – Eckhart Tolle.

The last few weeks have been turbulent to say the least, full of confusion, hearsay and fear. We are in moment of significant change.

With the global news, social media and other updates it can feel overwhelming. I get the sense that the bombardment feeds in to a collective underlying belief that ‘it shouldn’t be this way’.

People ‘shouldn’t’ have to self isolate, my kids’ schooling ‘shouldn’t’ be interrupted, people ‘shouldn’t’ be dying, I ‘shouldn’t’ feel as uncomfortable and out of control as I do.

Yet, this change and uncertainty is also, fundamentally a keystone of life. We never know how, what or why something may happen.

Change takes adjustment, recognition of loss of what was and what will no longer be. That doesn’t happen immediately and it doesn’t; happen because we say it must or we know that it would be good for us if we could just ‘accept and let go’.

So whilst we are swirling around in such anchorless moments, what can we do?

Whenever I feel ungrounded, I always return to a very simple grounding technique using my senses of 5-4-3-2-1; 5 things I can see, 4 things I can hear, 3 things I can touch, two things I can smell and one thing I can taste.

It’s a technique I’ve also used countless times with clients to help ground them too and I think we could use this framework to help take the heat out of our resistance.

I’m tempted to go down the whole ‘limit your social media and news intake’ route. Which I have to say, has definitely worked for me. However, let’s think about other visual sources of stress.

Clutter creates stress, releasing cortisol into your system. Whilst cortisol is necessary (it facilitates your fight/flight response), over time your body can get used to having too much cortisol in your blood which leads to more inflammation. It also decreases your white blood cells (needed for fighting infection) and when these are suppressed it is harder to fight off viruses (hellooooooo).

Therefore, creating an environment which is free of clutter is something that is within your control to keep you immune system firing as well as it can. You will also feel smug, which at times like this can feel good (we’re all human).

Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety, anxiety, anxiety. Are you feeling more anxious now after reading that?

Compare your feelings to how you feel after reading this: Calm, calm, calm, calm, calm.

My next point is to think about what you are saying and how.

Saying “I feel so anxious” is a reactive comment. Saying ‘I want to feel calmer’ is a proactive comment. The former may leave you feeling stuck, out of control, whilst the latter leans toward a growth mindset which may lead you to asking yourself ‘What can I do now that would help me feel more calm?’

Listening to classical music is also calming if you pick the right piece. Try Air on a G string by J.S. Bach for example.

I’ll keep this simple. Following the guidelines for 20 seconds of hand washing using soap is the surest way to kill off the virus. Keeping your hands away from your face in general will also help. You know this. I know this. Use it as an excuse for meditative practice (I know, an original suggestion).

Smells can instantly affect the way we feel. Think about how you recoil in disgust at the smell of an unemptied bin for example (I could think of worse, but let’s try and keep it pleasant). You don’t think about how disgusted you feel before you recoil; your olfactory system has sent a message to your amygdala which has kicked in with a ‘flee’ response to your legs before you can utter ‘yeuch’.

So you can use this to your advantage right now. Personally, my go to is eucalyptus oil if I want a brain reset, but lavender, vetiver, orange blossom, rosemary, sage all have their benefits in helping you feel better.

I don’t want to start a panic buy of essential oils, but there are even studies which suggest that the vapour of bergamot and eucalyptus killed the influenza virus after 10 minutes.. (

Vitamins A, B6, C, D, E, zinc and flavonoids are all instrumental in building and maintaining a robust immune system. As tempting as it is to binge on the carrot cake you made from the carrots you stockpiled (just me?), eating them in sticks with a bit of humous is going to do your more good. So boring, but so true. Sugar also adds stress to you body and, if you read my first point, you’ll know that’s not good, especially now.

I hope that helps with some practical suggestions of what is within your control to feel a bit better about the ‘what is’’.