The COVID-19 Pandemic is a Paradoxical Challenge to Our Nervous System: A Polyvagal Perspective

The spread of the SARSCov2 virus presents an unprecedented event that rapidly introduced widespread life threat, economic de-stabilization, and social isolation. The human nervous system is tuned to detect safety and danger, integrating body and brain responses via the autonomic nervous system. Polyvagal Theory provides a perspective to understand the impact of the pandemic on mental and physical health. This perspective highlights the important role of the state of the autonomic nervous system in exacerbating or dampening threat reactions to the pandemic.


Take a Tool and Run with Dr. Heather Corwin

TTR 15:

In this May 2020 “Take a Tool and Run!”, we use breath and bubbles to help remind ourselves how to breathe and enjoy simple pleasures.  The pandemic is inspiring higher levels of stress and anxiety throughout our global community, primarily because “anxiety is often inflamed when a person is put in a position where they have little power but are expected to make a change or impact in a situation, this is a ripe situation for anxiety to flourish” (Corwin, 2020). As a remedy, diaphragmatic breathing can encourage stress and anxiety reduction through relaxation (Leyba, 2020).  Since we can all use support right now, blowing bubbles is a whimsical way to engage with prolonged breath and being in the moment, both are tools to address anxiety.  May you seek the support you need, enjoy the knowledge that you are a comfort to others, and know we are in this together.

Corwin, H. “Anxiety, Psychological Tools, and Breath.” Structural Integration: The Journal of the Rolf Institute, in press.

Leyba, E. (2020, May/June). “8 Simple ways to soothe an anxious child,” Psychology Today, 53 (3), 32-33..

-Dr. Heather Corwin More can be found at

Dr. Heather Corwin’s Take a Tool and Run is a monthly vlog that offers quick and effective tools to share somatic centering practices.



Michael Ostrolenk is a licensed psychotherapist who completed his MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at John F. Kennedy University and did post-graduate studies in somatic psychology at the California Institute for Integral Studies .  He is certified in Spiral Dynamics and Wade Mindsets.  Michael is Head Instructor  for SEALFIT’s Unbeatable Mind Academy as well as a personal development coach. Michael is also the host of #ORadio , a podcast which explores individual and social transformation.

Ostrolenk speaks with Jan Winhall, MSW, a psychotherapist in private practice and Director of Focusing on Borden (, a center for teaching focusing and focus-oriented therapy. Jan discusses what brought her to the work that she does, her experience with knowing how to listen, and her use of the Felt Sense, the internal bodily awareness that functions as a connection between the mind and body. She also discusses a Polyvagal informed model for treating addiction (…) she created and the six keys of her clinician model ( addicted, chaos, rigidity, play, integrated, stillness.

Winhall is also the author of Understanding and Treating Addition with a Felt Sense Experience Model and In Emerging Practice In Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy, Innovative Theory and Applications (…). To learn more about Jan Winhall, visit her website (…).

Today’s show is brought to you by Somatic Psychotherapy Today (https://www.somaticpsychotherapytoday…), an online resource for all topics related to body-oriented psychology.


The Pandemic, Zoom and Polyvagal Theory

I recently saw a pre-publication version of an editorial by Stephen Porges, “The COVID-19 Pandemic is a Paradoxical Challenge to Our Nervous System: A Polyvagal Perspective.” In it he says, “The pandemic impacts on our biological imperative to connect.” Polyvagal theory says that as mammals we need to connect to co-regulate. In fact, we use the minimal cues that come from the face and the tone of voice of each other to co-regulate our nervous systems. These cues let us know we are safe. The problem is that during the pandemic, we are being given the imperative that we need to stay away from each other in order to be safe.

A Polyvagal Approach to Covid 19

We are so pleased to be able to share a recorded version of a conversation Deb Dana had recently with Liam O Mahony, Accredited Psychotherapist and Addiction Counsellor and Co-Founder of PCPSI* on a Polyvagal Approach to COVID-19.

The body remembers: Saying #MeToo

It was reassuring hearing the title of Babette Rothschild’s book (Rothschild, 2000) all those years ago, recommended to me by my core process psychotherapist. ‘The body remembers’. Yes, it does, my body, turning towards me, nodding - suddenly engaging - a door opening inside. The body remembers. This body remembers, and what a journey it’s been – so far – in my body stepping through that door and in deepening my understanding of trauma and working with trauma in myself, with clients, with supervisees, and with trainees.

Cognitive complexity, COVID-19, and embodied cognition on #ORadio

Michael Ostrolenk speaks with Dr. Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized neuroscience educator known for her unique ability to present complex ideas in clear and humorous ways that are useful for her audiences. Dr. Coulter discusses COVID-19 and the cognitive complexity that would be necessary to adequately deal with the pandemic.

Active Pause Series

Because many of our readers do not follow our website or Facebook page, SPT Magazine is offering the first three of Serge Prengel’s Active Pause articles in one PDF so the flow from one to the next is maintained for our offline readers. We invite you to follow us online as Serge will continue to offer articles in the Active Pause series.

TIME’S UP! 2020 – The Time for Limits

Time is up for humanity’s relational style, currently dominant on our planet, with its reactively phallic, defectively insufficient oral trait prevalence, which is ever more borderline and narcissistic. It has produced the entropic collapse in which we find today’s Social Living Body. We now need other trait patterns and other relational styles, with a different how in our relationship with the Other-than-Self World!


RSS Relational Implicit: Conversations on Psychotherapy

  • Basic assumptions about what we do and why we do it May 14, 2020
    This recording is different from most other recordings in this podcast series. Instead of a conversation, it features Serge Prengel in a short talk. Transcript: The giant “pause” that we are going through is an opportunity to reflect on what our basic assumptions are as to what we do and why we do it. I […]
    Relational Implicit
  • Dave Berger & Joshua Sylvae: How COVID-19 is affecting our work as therapists April 16, 2020
    In this conversation, we talk about how the coronavirus and social distancing are affecting our work as therapists. We discuss practical details, such as how we use video-conferencing, as well as putting things in a larger context. Read about volunteering to help people support each other in this crisis Dave Berger, MFT, PT, LCMHC, MA, […]
    Relational Implicit

Relational Mindfulness with Serge Prengel

Embodied Spirituality

In my work, I am accustomed to thinking in terms of embodied experience. That is, mind and body are not separate entities. I think of the mind as an emerging property of the human organism. Where does the notion of spirituality fit with this kind of outlook? The word "spirituality" refers to "spirit". Traditionally, spirit is seen as immaterial, the opposite of flesh and blood. It is what animates the body, gives it life. In many traditions, it is something that leaves the body after death, and continues to live on its own once disembodied. So, essentially, the word "spirit" evokes the very opposite of "embodiment." There is such a chasm between these two notions that it makes it hard to conceive that they could be integrated. Indeed, if you only contemplate these two propositions as logical statements, you simply cannot find a way to reconcile them.


Book Reviews

Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World

In 2018, one block away from my university dorm, a student committed suicide. His head was in a plastic bag when his roommate walked in and found him dead. Rumors were flying around: victim was an Indian. No, he was an African. Wasn’t he Chinese? Rumors guessed about potential death causes, and one important factor was loneliness. Loneliness has become a crucial problem in contemporary societies, and human connection in social settings help us heal both physically and mentally. Such is the theme of the book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.

User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design are Changing the Way We Live,...

I found myself fidgeting and incomplete after only six hours of a power outage at my house yesterday. Needless to say, every day we wake up to our alarms beeping like a virtual mom then head to the espresso maker bringing fresh smells of the day within seconds. Our driver is on his way to pick us up through applications such as Uber. We unconsciously check our phones five times in a minute so we can engage with our friends across the globe with several taps and clicks on the little shining screens. It’s not inaccurate to say that we are all ‘cyborgs’: we are half human, half machine. We are incomplete without technology.

You Die at the End: Meditations on Mortality and the Human Condition

You Die at the End consists of 180 “meditations”, Ferraiolo’s “ruminations” in response to Biblical scriptures, Old Testament writings. Early Stoics believed in a higher power (Zeus, God, the Universe) so Ferraiolo’s use of Christian scriptures was not surprising. Each scripture is followed by Ferraiolo’s interpretation of and implication in our lives today. His ‘ruminations’ typically start with a question—a guide to look within, to assess our self-perceptions and reasons for being— followed by startling reflections and revelations.

Praxis Daily 180 with Lina Mookerjee





Lina Mookerjee has a degree in Engineering, a postgraduate degree in Management Studies and a MA in Jungian Psychotherapy and Healing. For the past 20 years, she has been a yoga teacher/trainer, educator, psycho-spiritual group facilitator and an integrative psychotherapist working with women in mid-life based. She works from her Nottingham base and via Skype. Her expertise of the unconscious, feminine personal power and spiritual archetypes enriches her client-work including with anger, shame and trauma. She particularly enjoys working with the Kali archetype, by challenging inaccurate interpretations and instead offering a more realistic and healthier paradigm to help women. She is a published author, international speaker/lecturer and regular contributor on BBC Radio.

Hi everyone and welcome to Meditation 43.

During times of change, and particularly during uncertainty, we can often feel disconnected from the ground and our own bodies. Staying as present as is possible is key to help you effectively manage the fluctuations as they occur. I like to think of it as a bit like becoming a good surfer as you learn to ride and go with the waves of unpredictability.

This practice is to help you get safely back into your own body and be in the present once more. Enjoy x