Fear. Anxiety, Uncertainty…Us.
Corona Virus Consumes our Mind because the primary focus of our brain is to evaluate risk and our health and safety. It comes as no surprise that since we first learned of the Corona Virus-Covid 19 and the accompanying physical symptoms of fever, dry cough, and body aches, it’s potential for prolonged or chronic respiratory illness and unfortunately even death, that most of us have been on edge.
The lack of adequate and timely testing, initial conflicting theories about the dangerousness that is presented to our society and frank misinformation from politicians instead of leading medical experts have been both traumatizing and disheartening.
Our social, work and spiritual lives have been disrupted by having to manage contact with people who may be infected or ill, the threat of being exposed to plastic, cardboard, metal surfaces that have been contaminated by Covid-19 and the chilling awareness that by breathing or deeply inhaling the air that we used to take for granted could result in disease. Border closures, containment zones, quarantines, and school and work shutdowns have done little to alleviate our angst because we are still afraid.
A cheerful hello and hug, a playful high-five and innocent bump into someone now lead to the fear of catching Corona Virus and fills you with sheer dread. The sound or sight of a cough, sneeze, sniffle or cleared throat activates panic, a side-eye or worse, folks are being threatened, assaulted, blamed and avoided. Coughing in public is causing feelings of guilt, overwhelm, panic attacks, and a longing for life PC (Pre-Corona)
The good news is that although we can’t control the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic our brains can be our biggest ally as we search for relief, along with frequent hand-washing for twenty seconds or more, staying home if you are sick and social distancing.
We are consumed with Covid-19 because it is a threat to our existence. It creates fear and uncertainty. Our brains do not like uncertainty.
Stress has been described as the “essence of uncertainty” Stressful situations occur when we have no information, no control and have uncertainty with a sense of threat. Sound familiar?
Our brains resist disorder and when we feel threatened by changes external (i.e. social conflicts, disease, discrimination, political upheaval, financial stressors) and internal (trauma, physiologic demands, toxins, illness), there are neurochemicals like Norepinephrine, Glucocorticoids, Glucose released in our body that contribute to the stress response. An acute stress response can help us focus, find coping strategies or develop a goal that helps us alleviate our stress. For example, think about how you feel when you lose your phone. Your head becomes hot, you there’s a sinking sensation in your belly, your breathing speeds up, you feel distracted or foggy, while worst-case scenarios play in your mind, Yikes…and then you find your phone. Calm returns and you can breathe again. Imagine that feeling 24/7. That’s how our bodies feel with chronic or toxic stress. Chronic stress puts at risk for hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, anxiety, and depression. We do not optimally perform with toxic or chronic stress, yet many of us feel stressed all of the time, especially now with Covid 19. I
We can RESET.
R-Recover and Reflect
When we are stressed, our brains use energy from our bodies. It’s important to pay attention to your sleep patterns and get a good night’s rest. Exercise is a great stress buster and helps with blood flow to our brain and organs. Avoid snacking on sweet, salty, or high caloric foods and instead choose foods that are rich in antioxidants, eat fresh vegetables and hydrate with water. Getting back into balance, physically, mentally and spiritually is critical
Allow time for reflection on what you have learned after a stressful period. We can make better strategic decisions when we have accurate prior beliefs about ourselves, and our capacity to reach our goal. Chronic stress can impact how and what we learn.
Information is key. Identify your sources of truthful, science-based information like www.cdc.gov
Keep your own medical history and prescription treatment handy. Make a list of where you can go for testing and when you need to go. If you are uninsured or underinsured search out medical providers or institutions where you can be treated. Local health departments are a good place to start.
Assist elderly relatives, friends or neighbors with resources. Be mindful of undocumented folks and pass on relevant resources and information. Try to keep at least two weeks’ worth of medication and non-perishable food on hand if possible.
Become your greatest resource by being aware of your own stress levels and how they impact you. Practice treating yourself with self-compassion, (how you would treat an old friend) without guilt or shame. Use mindfulness to accept your thoughts and emotions and give yourself what you need to feel in balance.
E-Establish Your Control
Events that are happening in your environment hold tremendous sway over your experience. Instead of putting so much emphasis on what’s stressing you that’s out of your control, take a few minutes to think about identify and write down a few areas in your life that you have control over. Don’t make it too complicated. Reflect on how your body feels when you’ve accomplished something, are productive and satisfied. When your life feels chaotic and spinning, slow down and replace out of control feelings with what you’re in control of.
Use technology to connect and check in on others while distancing. Isolation and loneliness can contribute to anxiety and depression. Look for opportunities to connect socially online or create your own opportunities. If you can’t go to the gym, use apps for a motivating workout. Create a virtual book club or share cooking recipes in a big group. Send encouraging notes to each other. Staying six feet apart or social distancing does not have to separate us from being kind or compassionate.
A healthy brain is our best resource for keeping us safe and making decisions to manage and learn from our challenges. RESET to get back our brains and bodies back into balance.