Hello everyone, it’s Betty – hope you’re staying safe at home while we all navigate the chaos.
I wanted to take a moment to share something that comes up in our positivity workshop; namely, why are we so negative when we know it’s not helpful? I know I am just as guilty as anyone of drilling down in the news websites until I want to cry or punch things. I know it’s not helpful – so why do I do it?
The reason your mind has a tendency to magnify and hold on to negative thoughts or ideas is because it’s a good survival trait for hunter gatherers. I mean think about it, if you’re going to get eaten by a bear if you’re not paying attention, you learn to be hyper aware. Your brain hasn’t really evolved much past fight or flight from a biochemical perspective in the last 100,000 years or so.
Here’s the problem. We’re NOT going to get eaten by bears (okay, maybe in Churchill, but not below ’53), so we obsess about every little thing because it MIGHT matter. Add in a thirty second news cycle, a lot of vagueosity, and too much time to think and it makes a pretty nasty cocktail.
What can we do?
The first and most important thing you can do is be kind to yourself. Recognize that your irritatingly stressed, catastrophe-obsessed brain is trying to help with the only tools it has. And stop beating yourself up for being too worried or not worried enough or whatever. Just do the best with what you have and what you know right now and let the rest go.
Secondly, give yourself a break from media and social media from time to time. Unless it’s your job to follow the media, sitting on your phone or your laptop and looking for more news is like poking an abscessed tooth. I use a free program called Forest to enforce screen downtime. (https://www.forestapp.cc/) on my phone.
Third, if you ARE working from home for the duration, remember to get up and stretch regularly. I use a free application called Workrave on my computer to enforce eye breaks and stretch breaks and it helps a lot. (http://www.workrave.org/) Jokes about working in pajamas aside, make sure you get dressed and do everything according to your usual schedule.
Fourth, reach out to someone you love. To quote my mother, “are your dialing fingers broken?” Just because you have to stay in your house doesn’t mean you have to give up all human interaction. Call someone. Skype a friend. Reach out, especially if you’re feeling isolated. My extrovert friends are really feeling the pinch right now. Frankly, we have so many resources to stay in touch – Netflix watch parties, Google Hangouts, Skype, phone calls, texts, standing on the porch and singing at people (go Wolseley!)… it’s physical isolation, not emotional isolation.
Fifth, every single day, at some point, write down five things you are grateful for. In the workshop, I actually get people to do this live and folks find it very helpful. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and I always suggest doing it physically with a pen. Recognizing the things in our life that are not awful gives us strength to face the world. It provides us with much needed perspective when it feels like everything in the world is going wrong. “Today I am grateful for….”
Finally, a few deep breaths will go a very long way towards reorienting your panicky brain. I recommend basic mindfulness breathing in my workshop because it’s something you can do any time, anywhere, and it’s discreet. The Headspace app (http://www.headspace.com) is free to use the basics of and they’ve opened up some specific meditations to the public for free called “Weathering the Storm” that are about managing anxiety in difficult situations.
Hopefully some of this helps you to keep perspective while we all find a way through the Covid-19 crisis to our new collective normal. I’ll post additional suggestions from our workshop as time allows.