Many of us are facing unprecedented challenges during this coronavirus crisis in America, and it has increased anxiety and fear levels in all of us. We humans experience an actual physiological response when faced with fear as the reactive part of your brain, called the amygdala, takes control of your actions and you enter what is known as the fight-flight-freeze response. This stress response induces your body to produce a steroid called cortisol to handle the feelings of fear. Unfortunately, cortisol has another effect on your physiology; it weakens your immune system. This effect makes you more vulnerable at a time when you need strength.
So here we are in the middle of a pandemic with understandable increases in anxiety and stress – which in turn make us more vulnerable to the pandemic.
What can we do? Take control of what you CAN in the midst of these uncertain times and work to overcome your fear with mental toughness. Being afraid can quite literally make you more susceptible to becoming sick. Current precautions like getting adequate rest, staying hydrated, and social distancing should include one additional component: and that is to help your brain feel safe to maximize your physical health.
Think About the Good Things
Some of the techniques you can employ include shifting your focus to those things you are grateful for, like a roof over your head, food in your refrigerator, your health. Consider things you have that others may not; the things we all may typically take for granted. Finding something to be grateful for will immediately get you out of the fight-flight response.
Step Away From Technology
One way to find immediate improvement in your mindset? Turn off the news! Put down your phone! News reports are full of data, some of which are not even accurate. Being addicted to the 24/7 news cycle breeds uncertainty and fear as it touts mostly negative statistics and woeful stories of the moment. The basics about this pandemic are well documented at this point. Practice proper hygiene, wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid touching your face, avoid large gatherings, and implement social distancing – but as an act of service and not in response to fear. Flip how your brain associates your daily choices by knowing that your actions are preventing the potential deaths of others.
Listen to Some Music
Step away from television and turn on music. Break out the board games, cards, art projects, or walk outside (distant from others!) and get some sun. Sun provides vitamin D for your system, which also boosts your immune system. Whatever you choose, staying active and busy in a positive way will lessen any concern or fears that you are experiencing about the pandemic.
These points of view may all may read as cliché, but in 2009 Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone conducted a study consisting of two groups of people learning to play a simple piano melody. For five days, one group practiced the melody for two hours a day while the other group, over the same time, sat in front of the keyboard, imagining they were playing the melody. Dr. Pascual-Leone mapped the brain activity of the study participants before, during, and after the experiment, and the results were surprising. Both groups experienced the same brain changes. What this means is the brain does not differentiate between imagination and reality.
Biologically, your thoughts create feelings. Activate your brain’s natural superpowers and boost your immune system by redirecting your brain’s thought patterns. Remind yourself daily – hard as we know it may be – to redirect thinking to the more positive, try to be grateful, and practice empathy to develop more mental toughness to endure what still lies ahead.
The pandemic we are living through has opened so many eyes to the importance of having healthcare documents and end-of-life preparations in place, such as with a will or trust and healthcare directive. We are open for business and happy to help. If you’d like to discuss your particular concerns, please contact us by calling (502) 631-1488 or emailing [email protected]. We partner with you to bring you and your family peace of mind.