I know that a lot of you are experiencing tremendous anxiety and distress caused by your thoughts about the news and Coronavirus. I thought I would offer up a bit of brain hygiene and mind management to help you find calm in the chaos.
Separate the facts from the thoughts
If you have been a regular reader, you know about the importance of separating facts from thoughts. If not…click here for the video.
fact: Today’s death toll due to Covid-19 is 1000.
thought: This is a new state of affairs.
This is important to distinguish. We are getting information from a lot of different sources. Speculative information is never a fact and may induce a lot of unnecessary panic and suffering. Stick with the facts, and decide deliberately what you want to think or believe about them.
You don’t have to buy into all of the thoughts your brain is delivering: the stock market will never recover, it is necessary to panic.
Your brain is not always reliable and you don’t have to believe all of your thoughts.To find calm in the crisis be deliberate about what you choose to believe.
You brain is just doing it’s job
Your brain is the same, pandemic or no pandemic. It is busy looking for threats to your survival. It is constantly running a program called “What is going wrong right now”. Last month it was your boss, this week it’s the virus. Your brain likes to look for problems to solve and the constant newsfeed is like heroin for your brain. Consider limiting the social media and news you consume. Knowing what is happening on an hourly basis is not necessary even if your brain is trying to convince you that it is.
Feel your feelings
Let me first say that an emotion or feeling (I will use these words interchangeably) is just a vibration that you feel in your body. It is always generated by what you are thinking.
A feeling not fatal. Feeling your anxiety will not kill you. Any emotion is fair game and you can handle it.
Feeling your emotions rather than resisting them is the way forward. Resisting an emotions will cause you to panic and suffer. It will cause you to eat the bag of chips without being hungry or drink more wine than you wanted to. Being present and leaning into a feeling will allow you to process it and let it move through you.
Processing an emotion takes practice. Try naming your emotion and observe what is going on in our body from the perspective of a Watcher. ” I can see that you are feeling anxious right now. That is ok. Nothing is going wrong. ”
Sitting with the emotion is the way to process it. Your brain will work hard to convince you not to feel the feeling but instead to turn on the news and eat a few Oreos. But you can just let it be there, and be ok with feeling all of it, even the pain.
Allow yourself to be disappointed about plans unfulfilled, and travel you cancelled. Allow yourself to feel angry about the inconveniences. Allow yourself to be upset about the stock market. This is a better alternative to freaking out, panicking or escaping the emotion, even when your brain is telling you otherwise.
What we can’t control:
First let’s review what we cannot control:
- other people’s actions
- our own health
- the health of our loved ones
- the stock market
- our own mortality
We do not control all of our circumstances. We can mitigate damage and do our best to stay healthy. We can do our best to keep our loved ones healthy, but ultimately we cannot control anyone’s mortality. We cannot now and we never could.
The panic comes from trying to resist the truth that always existed (even before the pandemic) which is that life is unpredictable and our time here is limited. We cannot control when we or anyone else is going to be here or leave us. We can find peace in accepting that reality, and managing our thoughts around it. Personally this has been the most effective tool for me to find calm in the chaos.
What we can control
We do have control over our mind, our thoughts, our feelings, our behaviour and the results that we create for ourselves. We can decide how we want to think about the current circumstances and react to them. We can decide how we want to show up every day. We have the power to find calm in the chaos.
Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl speaks of this in his iconic book Man’s Search For Meaning. “The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
We can decide to think that everything is worse, or that it is better, or that it is all neutral. That is your choice and where your power lies.
Here are some questions I challenge you to think about:
- How do you want to show up in the world?
- How do you want to show up for yourself and for others, no matter what is happening outside?
- What experience do you want with the time that you have on this earth?
- What if you spent your time and brain energy on creating love?
Here are my answers: I want to show up as an example of what is possible after divorce to other people in the thick of their battle. I want to show up as a supportive and loving mother, wife, daughter and friend. I want to contribute daily to my own health and the wellbeing of others. I want to coach everyone who wants it and teach them how to manage their minds. I want to spread love in everything that I do.