The other day, when the hubs and I were walking around our little beach ‘hood here in Santa Monica, I said something that actually punched me in the gut as I said it.

Like, I said it — the words exited my mouth — and then my ears heard the words. And even though all of this had been in my head before I articulated it, something about HEARING myself say it made me feel like I’d been hit. Leveled. Flattened with truth.

“I feel as though there’s the part of my brain that’s doing its best to stay focused on the only things that I can control (my disposition, my faith, my hand-washing, my stay-at-home-ing, my staying in service to the collective). It’s talking down the part of my brain that’s certain EVERYTHING is wrong and getting wronger. It’s calming the amygdala and soothing that lizard brain, the monkey mind, primal stuff… pretty much lying sometimes just to get my nervous system to regulate long enough for me to still be able to get out of bed and show UP in the world right now. And the thing is… that part of my brain that is absolutely positive we are UNDER ATTACK in so many ways right now… um, it’s NOT wrong.”

Gut punch.

I felt the emotion well up from someplace way deeper than the usual spot my emotions come from (my throat, my neck, my ears, my jaw). At that moment, from my solar plexus, my SOUL cried.

Of course, no one could see.

bonnie gillespie keith johnson covid19 fashion

As I shook that off — BTW, it’s really good for our brains to receive a full-body SHAKE now and then; it’s exactly what animals do when they escape a threat (and we’re escaping a threat many times a day at this point, as far as the primal brain is concerned) — and began to stack my rational thoughts back up so I could do the next of the endless day of Zooms, I thought about how much gratitude is required right now. (Mainly because gratitude and anxiety cannot co-exist.)

I began to thank the part of the brain that’s NOT WRONG about its need to panic… thank it for all the times it’s NOT spinning out.

I decided to be really, really, over-the-top grateful for the times I’m able to JUST emotionally eat my feelings. I began to get curious about how ridiculously excited we all could get about the times we’re JUST incapable of getting out of bed. The times we’re JUST having fights with our loved ones “for no reason.” The times we feel so very very very alone and scared.

Because all of that is a sign that the part of the brain that KNOWS we are going to be okay can be in charge sometimes. It can regulate some of this load.

Look, I spent the better part of 18 months on a deep mind-body healing journey that led me to some of the strangest places I’ve ever been. I learned so freakin’ much about neurobiology and neuroception and epigenetics and how the brain PROCESSES stress that’s so big that it becomes PHYSICAL pain, undiagnosable causes for acute symptoms, addiction, spin-out, upper-limit problems… all of it.

Without geeking out on this as much as I can, here’s some fun science for you: Stress actually doubles the nerve connection in our bodies. This means we PHYSICALLY feel things twice as acutely as we otherwise would. If your headaches have been bigger, if your sleeplessness has been more persistent, if you’ve had the return of symptoms or behaviors or dispositions you thought were long-ago healed… this is why.

For more than a month now we have not left the space of “I am prey; I am not safe” in our brain and our nervous system cannot take that CONSTANT a stream of stress without offloading symptoms elsewhere.

(The mental health implications of what is going on right now are far greater than any ding to the economy or drain on the healthcare system or anything else getting way more airtime right now.)

Please remember: We cannot be in panic, anxiety, stress, etc., and gratitude at the same time. Please try to get into a space of gratitude — about anything — as many times a day as possible.

Because the brain evolved to face a threat then shut down fully, go into recovery mode, do some serious conserving of resources… when we stay ON all the time about probabilistic dangers, our stress response never shuts off and this hypervigilance spikes our stress hormones.

Important: These are the very same chemicals as those that spike for curiosity and eagerness! And those are not sticky in the same way anxiety, pain, stress, worry, etc., can be. So when we shift our stress to curiosity, we actually use a chemical that’s already dumping into our nervous system to MOVE THE BRAIN into a healthier — recoverable — state.

Here are two things I want to share before I close off for today.

1. My mind-body physician, Dr. John Stracks, did a Facebook Live with Jessica Dixon this week. It’s here. It’s worth your time.
2. My doctor has a resource page on his website — including a PDF called “How to Go Outside During a Pandemic” — you may wish to check out.

As Dr. Drew keeps saying, “Listen to the doctors; not the politicians.”

And as your auntie Bon says, “Give yourself a LOT of grace for everything you’re feeling right now. Our brains are actively being rewired due to this experience and it’s the mindful, intentional work we do to stay in as healthy a space as possible that will dictate how we ACTUALLY survive when all of this is over and our new normal is ushered in.”

I’m here if you need me. Comments are open just below. Let me hold space for what’s happening. Hug yourself. Breathe.

All my love,

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet


Enoughness is an inside job… and sometimes you need a guide to find your way there. Let Bonnie Gillespie get you started.

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16 Comments

  1. Avatar Juanita April 16, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    Thank you Bonnie! I’m due to give birth any day and I have been working this whole pregnancy on being in gratitude and intentionally in peace, these last couple days have been really tough and I just came to the space today of exploring the “and”. I can be excited about this baby AND really pissed and sad that things have changed surrounding my birth. I’ve been staying offline much of the last month because I refuse to allow something to influence the peace I have been building up for 9+ months! Today was not the best day emotionally and tomorrow is another day.

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 16, 2020 at 11:56 pm

      I love you so much, and that little Aries… or maybe Taurus? baby you have on the way. Your whole family is liquid light and love. Your enoughness soooooo eclipses any of this and I’m glad YOU have such deep knowing that today was just a rough one and we start again tomorrow with all the hope and curiosity and gratitude we can muster.

      I am so grateful for YOU!

      Reply
  2. Avatar Tessa April 17, 2020 at 12:03 am

    Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear all of that right at this moment. This whole thing feels like such a cosmic joke in so many ways personally, and I know I’m not the only one. My Virgo control mode mind feels completely helpless, no matter how productive I am in my now ample free time. Trying to give my brain some grace in the times when I can’t do anything else and shift into the gratitude space when I can.

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 20, 2020 at 2:08 pm

      Tessa, I’m with you on that grace and gratitude thing. So important. It really helps! As for the Virgo need to control, keep an eye on the micro. “I can control where I put my shoes. I can control where the remote control lives. I can control going into my email inbox only twice a day” …stuff like that. 🙂 It creates a little ease at a time we really need more of that.

      Reply
  3. Avatar Amalia April 17, 2020 at 12:10 am

    Thank you, as always, for your wonderful words Bonnie! 😘 Was feeling blue this morning and did some EFT – thought of you! It helped 😊

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 20, 2020 at 2:09 pm

      Oh, I’m so glad, Amalia. That is one of my favorite tools! So glad I could share it with you. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Avatar Sean April 17, 2020 at 12:23 am

    I was going to go with something a little more normal, I guess, but the thought that comes to mind is this: when the train of society is rampaging out of control (media, blabber, people saying things just because everybody else seems, SEEMS, to be saying it and are this manifesting it) it’s handy to know when to jump off. Tuck and roll. Stagger up and dust yourself off. See the world for what it is, not what so many say it is. Think for yourself. Be wise. Smell a flower. Pet a wolf. Okay, maybe not that last one.

    Things are always rough in some way for somebody. And yet, the beautiful thing is we keep toddling on, walking on, spreading our wings and flying on.

    We can’t afford to be insensitive. We can’t afford to be too sensitive. We must find balance.

    Sometimes, the only way to do that is jump off the train.

    Decline to participate.

    Gain some perspective.

    See the hope.

    Reply
  5. Avatar Joanna April 17, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Thank you, Auntie Bon, for reframing our experience of trauma. Yesterday was a tough one at my house as we head into our sixth week of sheltering in place. So your post was inspiring and timely!

    (I’d love to hear more about your exploration of epigenetics too)

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 20, 2020 at 2:11 pm

      Ooh, honey, I will be working more of that juicy good stuff into my work so you’ll see it… soon. 🙂 So! Fascinating! I’m glad my post showed up right on time. Keep breathing and trust we’re all gonna be okay.

      Reply
  6. Avatar Lini Evans April 17, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Thanks so much Bonnie, your words really resonate, especially now as the “novelty” of Month One self-isolation wears off. Nerves seem more on edge, and for myself in unsettling times, an attitude of gratitude & grace is my true savior. Again. Now I’m keen to try your suggestion to also shift to curiosity! Stay you, stay well. This world needs more deep thinkers who are brave, empathetic and generous enough to share 🙏

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 20, 2020 at 2:12 pm

      Stay curious! Thank you so much for your kind words, Lini. Truly landed right on time for me today. XO

      Reply
  7. Avatar Raymond-Kym Suttle April 18, 2020 at 2:03 am

    Thanks for your message Bonny. My initial response to your statement “You don’t have to be strong” was “It’s okay to give yourself permission to be depressed about the current state of affairs” – and I think it is (culturally we have a tendency to think that we’re at fault/inadequate/bad if we’re not workin hard all the time) – BUT after a little reflection I had 2 more thoughts.
    1) You don’t HAVE to be strong but you CAN be – the human spirit is remarkably resilient and adversity provides an opportunity to grow and strengthen our emotional muscles too. As actors this whole scenario is a massive gift. It’s providing us with a myriad experiences and emotions that we’d only get to experience in one of those movies where the world is in crisis… I know I’m not the only one feeling like we’ve somehow slipped into an apocalyptic movie! Now none of us will ever have to wonder how we’d cope in one of those scenarios! As the wise have often said, it’s not what happens to us but how we respond to it that matters.
    2) I’ve been feeling like I feel when I’m on a plane that’s in a holding pattern, waiting for permission to land. I’m in limbo, so starting a project feels pointless, or working on making contacts seems futile because none of us knows what the industry is going to be like if we can’t touch, or be in a room crowded with actors and crew, or we can’t do romantic scenes, and who knows what other restrictions there might be. It all feels a bit futile a lot of the time. HOWEVER, I’m also feeling like every day I spend moping or doing nothing but watching Netflix (and discovering how much REALLY bad writing there is that gets made!) feels like I’ve wasted a precious day of my life. And then I’m reminded of a harsh, but incredibly useful lesson I’ve learned: there are no guarantees in life. I’ve known people full of life, fit and healthy, who’ve been killed in tragic accidents, or died from illnesses at all sorts of ages. The lesson I’ve always taken from it is that it’s pointless worrying about what MIGHT happen tomorrow. All we ever have is today, this now moment and I’d like to be in a position where I can always say “If I died in my sleep tonight, and today was the last day I ever lived, was it a day spent doing things I loved to do? Was it a good last day on earth?” So I encourage myself, and anyone reading this, to make sure that whatever you’re doing during this unusual situation we find ourselves in, you’re making sure you’re doing whatever you can to ensure that you’re living each day like it’s a day worth living!

    All the best, Raymond-Kym Suttle

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 20, 2020 at 2:14 pm

      100%! We don’t have to be strong… and we don’t have to be NOT strong either. If you go back to my earlier blog post called “Everything We’re Feeling Is Correct,” you’ll do as much head-nodding as I did in reading your great comment, Raymond-Kym. Thank you so much for sharing your POV. You rock!

      Reply
  8. Avatar Daniela April 21, 2020 at 6:48 am

    Dearest Bonnie
    Thank you so much for these beautiful words here!
    I feel like I have known you for ever!
    I’m in the process of doing your 11 days homework and when you sent me this email it felt like a blessing.
    I’m also working every day on healing myself.
    Thank you once again. It means a lot to me💚
    Stay Safe.
    Much Love, Daniela

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 22, 2020 at 11:02 pm

      So glad you’re loving the 11 days and you’re absolutely welcome for these bits of brain-coaching too. We’re sensitive souls, we creatives. We need to be very kind to ourselves at times like this. And always. 😉

      Reply

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