Emotional Fitness Will Pull Us Through the COVID-19 Life Challenge
I was sitting here thinking about the past few months and how much our lives have changed. Explaining how the brain works and what you can do to live a brain healthy lifestyle just doesn’t seem like enough right now. I am going to look at the more personal side of COVID-19 and the impact it has made on all our lives.
Besides the fear of getting a possibly fatal disease, you have to deal with all of the emotions associated with losing our job and subsequent income. If you have never been in a situation like this before – it can devastate you. Your bills don’t end, your health can take a hit, and your brain stays stuck in a chronic stress loop. At this point you can’t even think. Your brain has been hijacked by the flooding of cortisol and your incoming information completely bypasses your prefrontal cortex – the executive function center of your brain. The prefrontal cortex makes your decisions, does your planning and is the center of conscious thought. When you are in stress mode – the prefrontal cortex is eliminated from the conscious thinking process. Now, all incoming signals are going directly to the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. Instead of thinking through a problem, the amygdala orchestrates an emotional reaction. So instead of thinking – you are reacting. This is not a good system to be able to handle all of the crises that are occurring in your life.
How do you get yourself back on track to devise a plan to get you out of the mess you are in?
Buffer the Effects of Toxic Stress
In any normal situation when you suffer huge losses – like a job loss – you could go to family, close friends, and even colleagues to help you clear the brain fog you are immersed in. But that isn’t possible now. We can’t connect with others and perhaps get the hugs that we need. Many of your colleagues that you might have networked with to find your next job might find themselves in the same position that you are in.
You need to create positive interactions to make up for the giant negative interaction that just changed your life. The brain naturally goes to the negative side of life. It is a survival mechanism that is hardwired in our brain. You have to work to start training your brain to see the more positive side of life. Start paying attention and acknowledge any positives in your life. Draw attention to them by commenting about them. As you start noticing more positive interactions – you are training your brain to be more positive.
Then you have to strengthen your brain. No doubt you may feel pretty beat down right now. If you focus on diet, exercise, mindfulness and connection with supportive others, you will strengthen your brain. And believe it or not, you will change your brain. You will be putting the neurons back that toxic stress killed off.
Strengthen Your Emotional Fitness
Emotional fitness is the capacity to think on your feet when the ground crumbles underneath you. It is necessary to do the inner work to increase your emotional capacity.
- Check in with yourself multiple times per day:
o Subconsciously our mind focuses on all the negative things that are going on due to the survival instinct
o By checking in on yourself you give yourself the data to understand why you feel the way you do and where your focus is during the day
- Acknowledge the emotions and the thoughts
o The moment that you notice your emotions and thoughts is the moment you can become aware of the trigger that is causing that thought or emotion
o If you don’t acknowledge those feelings, you are going to be fighting an uphill battle the entire day
o Your brain is going to release cortisol (stress hormone) because your brain behaves as if you are fighting an enemy and your body expends energy fighting itself
o Your emotions are not something you have to fix. The trigger that made you feel that way is the thing to fix, not the emotion itself
- Don’t make your emotions wrong
o Your emotions can bring out guilt and shame because we think you shouldn’t feel that way
o The moment that you give yourself permission to feel the emotion, that’s the moment you bring light into the darkness
o The fear and uncertainty that consume your energy will begin to lose power
- Win the battle in your mind before it becomes real
o Most of your fears and stressors are caused by what you think could happen
o Much of the time the fear isn’t real, and only lives in your mind
There is a long road ahead of us. So much of what we have to contend with will be new experiences for us. Look closely inward and find your solutions. You have answers to many of these problems already – you just have to listen to your messages. Stay open to random thoughts that fly through your brain. Write down any of the problems you need to solve in a journal by your bed. Then get a good night’s sleep. In the morning, your answers will start coming. Make sure you write them down because these thoughts will be fleeting. Believe in yourself – don’t let reactionary emotion determine your life. No doubt we have major life challenges ahead of us. You Will Succeed.