Schools closed for the foreseeable, pubs, clubs and restaurants closed, job losses, financial worries and childcare issues.
Supermarket shelves bare, queuing outside and at a distance from one another. News and social media full of worry and panic, and every day we are experiencing more and more.
As a solution focused therapist, I really wondered if I should start this post in this way, however I really wanted to get the point across… This worldwide virus is spreading day by day and we hear the horror stories from the plethora of news sources available to us. Of course, it is vital to take all the necessary precautions, by following the government’s advice by social distancing, staying at home and washing your hands regularly but there is something even worse spreading than this virus or the new stories that go hand in hand.
People’s feelings of fear, anxiety and stress.
Whenever fear, anxiety and stress are present in our lives, we are in the primitive (safeguarding) part of our mind. Primitive, as this part of the mind was developed millions of years ago and was designed to protect us from life threatening wild animals, poisonous berries and aggressive tribesman. This part of the brain is undeveloped, there is no Windows 10 update for this part of the brain, we are still stuck on DOS (for those who remember!). The central and most influential part of this region of the brain is what we call the amygdala, and the amygdala is like our security officer, it is constantly alert and always looking for any little thing that may be perceived as a threat or danger. Now when I cover brain revision in my sessions, I say the amygdala is our best friend, but can also be our worst enemy. In the days when all we had to worry about was survival day to day, our amygdala would almost certainly have prevented us from being eaten alive. However, in modern day life our amygdala reacts to every day issues that now affect us, such as this pandemic and all the issues that go alongside (at the start of this article).
When the amygdala senses a perceived threat, it calls on other parts of our primitive brain to produce chemicals and hormones to prepare our bodies for “Flight, Fight or Freeze” response. One of these hormones is cortisol and cortisol is our “Stress Hormone”.
However, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can harm you more than it helps. Interestingly, high levels of cortisol may cause weight gain and high blood pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce our energy levels and affect our digestive system.
But cortisol also lowers our immune system and when our body is pumped full of Cortisol to assist in the flight, fight or freeze response our bodies consume an enormous amount of energy, everything pulling together for the sole aim of survival, (running from that tiger) and using all that energy causes our bodies to become weak and vulnerable, our immune system no longer wards off the infections or viruses.
So, fear, worry, anxiety and stress actually make us more likely to become prone to illness.
Also, when we are in our primitive mind, our thought processes change too, we lose empathy and adapt an almost selfish attitude, we have to look out for ourselves and forget everything else, (that’s why the toilet roll shelves are empty in the supermarket). What happens now is we start thinking negatively, we become obsessed and we start thinking about the worse case scenario.
It’s easy for me to say keep positive, sometimes we feel we can’t when our mind is in this state, but what we can do is allow our mind to relax and put our body into a natural REST & RELAX mode (our parasympathetic nervous system) and take our body out of the flight, fight or freeze mode.
So why not try some of the following methods and start to engage your natural rest and relax functions.
Hypnosis - Hypnosis is a very effective way of engaging our bodies natural rest and relax mode (parasympathetic nervous system) Hypnosis improves your attitude towards others, benefiting in a big positive effect on your health, immune system and reducing stress and anxiety.
Meditation & Mindfulness - focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
Breathing – Breathing is crucial to allowing that rest and relax response. 7/11 breathing means you breath in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11. Try breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, slowing down the outward breath by closing your lips tighter as if you are blowing through a small straw.
Hobbies and Pastimes – Focus on the things you like to do, reading, writing, craft-work, gardening, exercise etc.
Watch a film – Watch a great film with your family and enjoy some interaction.
Limit yourself – Limit your access to the news, and concentrate only on official channels for information, avoid fake news or scaremongering.
Focus – Focus on the positive stories in the news, perhaps the recovery toll as opposed to the fatality toll.
Social Media – Join groups and pages that focus away from the situation, perhaps a joke telling group, or hobby or craft group, maybe a local or well-known musician doing an online performance. There are also lots of resources for relaxation and exercise online such as Yoga, Pilates etc.
Use social media to interact with friends and family.
Positivity - Write down in a book the positives of the day and what you’ve noticed has been good
Gratitude - Be grateful for what you do have and live for the moment, again write a list of things you have to be grateful for.
Empathy – Understand others, spend time laughing and enjoying their company, tell those you love how you feel and send your love to those who may not be coping as well as you.
What we tell ourselves really does affect our daily lives and determines how we feel, so if we tell ourselves that we feel fearful, anxious, worried and fed up, then that’s exactly how we are going to feel. Whereas if we tell ourselves that we are going to feel calm, relaxed and in-control then guess what? That’s exactly how we will feel, shifting away from that flight, fight or freeze mode by being calm, relaxed and fearless.
John Lowson HPD DSFH is a Solution Focused Clinical Hypnotherapist he is a member of the National Council of Hypnotherapists and is a member of the Complimentary and Natural Healthcare Council. follow him on Twitter Facebook Instagram or Linkedin