If you know anything about me, you probably know I value positivity. Being negative can lead to stress, anxiety, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and even pimples.

It can seem hard to find the positive amid this unprecedented pandemic — but there is a gift awaiting us, when we choose to find hope in these uncertain times.

Below, I want to share my personal story with you as it relates to this crazy situation — as well as what I discovered that turned on a lightbulb in my head and calmed my soul. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new stress relief technique you didn’t know about!


The Quiet Buildup

Back in January 2020, several patients asked a version of the same question: “So, Dr. Jeffries, what’s your take on this whole COVID-19 thing happening in China?”

My response: “Everything will likely be okay, and the media is probably sensationalizing it.”

Breaking News

Boy, was that an understatement.

I don’t watch much news — can you blame me? — so I wasn’t caught up in the fear snowballing across the U.S. I kept busy working during the day, and preparing for some upcoming and much-needed vacations at night.

At the time, I was stocking up on my usual necessities for international travel:

  • Natural non-toxic hand sanitizers
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Immune supplements
  • Supportive nutritional supplements
  • Some natural, homeopathic, prescription, and over-the-counter medications that I might need in case I had any health issues while traveling

I had no idea how grateful I would be that I had done all this in advance.

Several years ago, I “drank the kool-aid” and succumbed to the survival preppers world. I bought tons of non-perishables, potable water, first aid kits, fuel for the cars, extra propane, bushels of frozen and canned food, water filters, basically a bunch of stuff in case of this and that and on and on. I was ready. Bring it!

Then nothing happened. I was grateful yet oddly disappointed. Over time, these items were used or expired.

So when this whole COVID-19 ordeal began, I refused to believe that I needed to “prep.” I suspected this whole thing was another media-induced frenzy. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”


Back To the Real World

A bunch of friends and colleagues followed every news segment or article, getting more and more pessimistic, causing their fear to be more contagious than any virus.

It was challenging to stay positive and optimistic. But I took my vacations, not realizing they would be the last trips I would take for a long while.

A rude awakening hit me hard the day before I would head back home from Costa Rica. My friends and I were zenned out from a week-long yoga and meditation retreat. Then we started checking our emails, our social media.

That’s when I found out about Italy.

When I logged onto my airline app, it made me download a new version that asked me questions about my recent travels and if I had any cold or flu-like symptoms. I was healthy, feeling great and hadn’t been to any of the areas they considered high risk. But I had never had to do that before.

When I (thankfully) was able to return home, the shift continued — and accelerated.

When I went to work, I noticed fear in the staff and patients. At the store, an odd, tangible discomfort lingered in the air as people filled up their carts with supplies. I noticed the concerned look on their faces as they paused, then opted to get three packages of paper towels instead of just one.

Rapidly, the virus impacted New York City and Seattle and other U.S. cities. The reality started to sink in, and our medical practice started to take measures to protect our patients and staff.

I received messages from colleagues about how they were shutting down their dermatology practices.

And then governors enacted shelter-in-place orders in one state, three states, ten states, forty states — including where I live in Phoenix.

Businesses were shutting down, access to supplies dwindled. Everything came to a slow halt — a synchronous pause.


The Synchronous Pause At Home

This stop in motion has expanded from my street, to the neighborhood, to the city, to the county, to the state, to the adjacent states, to the country, to other countries, to the world.

The whole world is placed on one synchronous pause. Forced. No other option.

Sorry we're closed

We are all asked to stay in our homes with our families. Leave only if absolutely essential

We are engaging in protective behaviors that we have never done before:

  • Wearing masks in public places
  • Standing six feet apart from each other
  • Using gloves when getting gas
  • Constantly disinfecting our homes, cars, workplace
  • Worrying about anything from the “outside world” coming into our home

Are these Amazon boxes clean? Are these grocery bags safe? Who touched my Starbucks almond milk Chai Latte on its way to the drive-thru window? I’ve never seen a person clean a bag with sanitizing wipes before now.

Income for many has sharply dropped off to nothing or almost nothing. The Federal Reserve estimates that more than a quarter of American workers will be unemployed.

Supplies are low. Money to purchase supplies is dwindling.

Every time we need to go somewhere or need to buy something, we are pausing and reflecting on whether we really need to do that right now.

We have been asked to pause almost all areas of our “day-to-day” lives.

And when we pause, the decision is likely to contract — to lessen what we have and what we do, rather than expand.

We have been asked to contract our lives and stay home rather than expand out into our cities. Our finances have contracted, and we scramble to find ways to cut expenses and spend less.

We pause…and then we contract.

We regroup and realign in our contracted state. Then a new item comes along that we have to make a decision on — whether it be our bills, errands, getting together with friends or family. We again pause and decide to contract.


The Synchronous Pause is Global

It’s not a few of us engaging in pausing and contracting. We are witnessing a worldwide synchronous pause and contraction.


I got to thinking — how odd it is that COVID-19 is impacting not just some of us? It’s impacting all of us, around the globe.

“Stop,” a voice says to every human living in the world. “Pause. Take inventory. What’s important? Put that on hold for right now.”

We are all connected in this odd way right now.

You have to wonder what this means on a deeper level. The bigger picture.


Stress Relief Techniques That Really Work

So many are facing stress, anxiety, depression. I’ll get to my realization — my lightbulb moment — but first, I wanted to make sure you are maintaining your mental, physical, and spiritual health.

Get enough sleep. Humans need seven to eight hours of high-quality sleep for their bodies to function properly. Proper sleep routines can prevent metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.

To improve the quality of your sleep, I suggest turning off technology (because of blue light emissions) an hour or two before you go to bed.

Do not sleep too much. Getting more than nine hours of sleep has been shown to decrease your cognitive performance. (It’s why you feel groggy after a 12-hour slumber.)

Continue to exercise. Exercising on the reg is critical, especially when more and more people are sitting around in quarantine most days. Not only does exercise ensure your physical health doesn’t fall out of whack, exercise is known to reduce chronic stress, depression, and anxiety. 

Get outside. Even if it’s on your deck, porch, front lawn — going outdoors has been shown to fight depression and reduce stress.

Gua sha works surprisingly well. You may have read my article on gua sha, but allow me to summarize: Gua sha is a safe, effective method that decreases pain, increases circulation, and boosts your immune system. (Note: I wouldn’t recommend gua sha for anyone with blood vessel conditions.)

Progressive muscle relaxation relieves stress, anxiety, and chronic pain. Progressive muscle relaxation is when you tense each muscle group for ten seconds at a time. Take a couple deep breaths as you release, and pay attention to the feeling of relaxation. Start with your head, slowly move down to your toes. Studies confirm progressive muscle relaxation relieves anxiety and depression.

Meditation on the daily. Embracing a meditation practice has changed my life from the inside out. Years of research shows that meditation has the following health benefits:

  • Stress reduction
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Less depression
  • Increased energy
  • Reduced pain
  • Improved heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better brain function


My Realization About the Global Pause

A few days ago, I started my usual daily meditation with that thought of pausing and contraction lingering in the back of my mind. I started to release my thoughts by focusing on my breath. The miracle of meditation was working its magic.

stress relief

But I noticed something about my breathing. Something that was always there suddenly became very noticeable. I started to connect the dots on how pausing and contracting related to breathing.

It was simple. As I exhaled, I found myself acutely aware of my lungs like never before. My lungs were contracting.

What happens after your lungs contract? Expansion! Then after the expansion, it cycles back: contract → expand → contract → expand, and so on.

Then I realized the pause after each expansion and contraction. Expand → pause → contract → pause → expand, and so on.

Try it. Inhale, then exhale. Notice that instant between each inhale and exhale — each contraction and expansion — where your breath is still.


As I noticed the cycles of my breath, it hit me that this “pause and contraction” that currently blankets our Earth is just part of a natural cycle.

My eyes were still closed and an image of a flower bud came to my mind. I noticed how a flower bud is tightly bound and gathered together. It pauses as it gathers the nutrients from its roots and stem and sunlight from above. Then it slowly opens and expands into a beautiful flower.

As I opened my eyes a butterfly flew in front of the window before me.  I thought of the cycle of a butterfly. When it is in a cocoon it is pausing, contracted, gathering, transforming. Then it opens from the cocoon and expands out into the world as a butterfly.  

I started noticing all of the examples of nature’s reflection of this cycle. The bird that flew by started out as a contracted bird’s egg that was nurtured in a nest as it paused and gathered and grew. Finally it hatched and expanded out of the contracted state of the egg and then later expanded again into flight. 

I thought of the propelling nature of a squid moving through the water by expanding and filling with water, then pausing before it contracts it’s body to propel itself into motion and then pausing again after the contraction before it fills. I thought of the transformation of pregnancy and birth. The examples seemed endless. 

My depth of understanding of this natural cycle set in and I realized the important role of the pause. The pause sits between contracting and expanding. The pause is a space to gather. To grow. To transform and prepare for the upcoming inevitable expansion. 

And each contraction leads to the next expansion. After this is over, we will expand again. Prior to this I realized we were in a state of expansion. Many of us were living in what may be considered a seemingly never-ending expanded state. 

We were going here, going there and just running around non-stop from one thing to another without taking a pause — without taking time to rest. Keeping up with everything, trying to fit it all in… taking care of ourselves, our loved ones, our families, our communities, our world. All without stopping. Just keep going, just keep going…

And now we are being invited, asked, pleaded with, sometimes demanded to simply pause. Stop. Listen. Bask in this synchronous pause. So…






Gather your self.

Breathe — expand → pause → contract → pause → expand…

This is a very important time for us homo sapiens. We each need to take this opportunity to find ourselves. Take this time to learn who you are, what you want your life to be like when the world awakens and expands once more. 

What will you expand into? What direction will you go? What is it that you have always wanted for yourself? The best is yet to come, so accept the invitation.

Pause. Breathe. Gather. Awaken. The natural cycle continues. Expansion is just around the corner. Have you decided where you’re headed when the expansion begins?



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