Beating the blues during covid 19 and subsequent varients.
This is such an important topic.
Being anxious over a change in our lives is Normal. It is called being human.
It is how we let that anxiety get to us that we need to address.
A certain amount of anxiety (or stress) can be useful – it can help spur us to react, to be responsive, to adapt.
We certainly have had a lot of changes in our lives recently.
So, no wonder there is a lot of anxiety around. Rather than buckle under, what can we do about it?
In this article, you will find a few coping strategies, (a few ‘brain hacks’) to avoid that anxiety taking over.
My background is in Science, Secondary Teaching and Rural Research & Development, Human Capacity Building, then studying Psychology at UNE (I graduated on my 62nd birthday – you are never too old!), now I am offering Brain Coaching. Which is all about creating new habits – new pathways in your brain.
This article covers 3 ways you can cope:
- Control (Internal and External)
Have you heard of the saying “Give me strength to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can”?
Be courageous – Be brave – Be in control of the things you can.
Accept the big picture, and know that these times will pass, there may even be changes afterwards (for the better!)
So be in control of what you can in your life – these are your building blocks to life on an even keel.
Actually – you have already started - by reading this today.
So instead of anxiety taking over, and not knowing how to get out of that way of thinking, Brain Coaching helps to unravel those thoughts and create new brain habits, new ways of thinking.
We want the logical side of your brain to take over from the emotional side – not the other way around! ie. Left Brain – Right Brain.
Develop new positive ways of thinking until it becomes your new ‘normal’, and to do that takes practice, practice, practice. Eg. Learning a song; learning to drive a manual car; learning times tables – after a while they become second nature and you don’t even think about it.
Brain Hack 1:
First of all, make the power stance – stand or sit up straight, back strong, shoulders back, head high. (Feeling good?) Why do this? There have been studies on the effect of the way you stand, on your cortisol levels (stress hormone) and your endorphins (feel-good hormones). When you sit or stand up straight your endorphins increase and your stress levels go down.
There is a TED talk about this by Amy Cuddy (Power Poser on YouTube)
Yes, the way you sit and stand has an effect on your brain and your feelings and subsequent actions!
Brain Hack 2:
Come up with your own Mantra, something that you want to reinforce, eg “I am strong” or “I can do this” etc. You will come up with something that suits your life and resonates with you. (Fake it till you make it!!)
Brain Hack 3:
At the same time – do some Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) this helps the logical side of your brain take over from the emotional side. Eg. Do the butterfly tap (someone told me it was like giving yourself a hug), - cross your forearms over your chest and tap your hands onto your collarbones, or tap your hands onto your knees, or tap your toes, one at a time. Left/right, left/right, left brain – right brain. Your left side is your logical/practical side. Your right side is your emotional side. In times of stress and anxiety, our emotions take over automatically sometimes! The logical side of you knows you shouldn’t be doing it, why do you keep doing these things or letting yourself get so upset? Eg. Someone wants to give up alcohol, why do they have that second bottle when they know it is not good for them? It’s not logical.
The BLS is another easy way to influence your brain. The tapping activates the part of the brain that your mantra is thinking about, and by doing left/right, left/right, you are reinforcing what you want to do, not what your emotional reactions want to do. Because our emotions step in quicker than our logic, and we don’t always make the best decisions when we rely on emotional reactions. Emotions are good when they help us make good decisions.
1. A relaxation effect
2. Increased attentional flexibility, brain plasticity
3. Distancing effect (meaning that the problem seems smaller and further away).
4. Decreased worry
Take a few minutes to think about your mantra and what BLS suits you.
These activities all give you more control over your thoughts and emotions.
You will come up with something relevant to your situation.
To be courageous, to be strong, to say “I am capable”, to say “I can do it”, - helps to have goals to get through this Covid stage.
They don’t have to be big goals.
I call them “Mini-goals”, even by doing something small you get a sense of achievement, and with that you get a dopamine hit. That is the ‘feel-good’ hormone.
Brain Hack 4
Rather than set yourself a huge goal, like getting a degree, or losing 20kgs; or running a marathon; or creating a website. It’s great to aim high! These are all good goals but can be a bit overwhelming to start with.
Set smaller more achievable ones, like running for 5 minutes/day; studying online for 15 mins; losing 200g/day; clearing out one draw rather than the whole house. (spoiler alert – if you get yourself psyched to do just 5 mins of these before you know it – you’ve done more!),
My example was setting up a website – it was so big a job, I kept putting it off! (who else does this?) Then I just did one paragraph at a time, then 1 page, then another …… Next thing I know – I have a website!
It’s like the old saying “How do you eat an elephant?” Bit by bit!!
Can you see how some of those large goals, maybe just a bit overwhelming and you may say “oh, what’s the use” and go back to doing the same old, same old, and feeling down on yourself?
But if you’ve had small achievements and feel good about yourself, (Brain Hack 4) you are more likely to do more the next day and the next day.
And the next thing you know – you’ve reached your major goal – the whole house is cleaned, you can run 10k without stopping!
Have a think about what you would like to achieve during this pandemic and what you can control.
Take a few moments.
Imagine how you will feel once you have achieved it. How good does that feel?
It is good to feel positive and have a purpose, now you need to be proactive – you have to actually DO something.
When you have come up with your goal, you need to put it on paper. You need to plan it out.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
Tick off your achievements as you go. Vague goals equal vague results.
Having done these mini-goals your brain will have laid down some new pathways and these positive habits will get easier and easier.
It will give you a sense of control over your life, things that you can control.
What you can’t control are external happenings.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and to dwell on all the negatives that are happening in the world at the moment. The first thing to do is - turn off the TV and radio and internet feeds!
Then start to make a list of what you can do; a list of all the positives in your life. I know this can be quite hard if you are ill, or have lost your income. Or have a first Grandchild on the way and you can’t be there. Or just about to launch a new business and all the expense that goes with that and then not have any customers.
Brain Hack 5: Mindfulness
Be Kind – to yourself and to others
Be Brave – “You can do it”
Be Grateful – for what you do have eg: We still have fresh air, Internet, telephones, fresh food, friends & Family, and how about all those great new ideas happening, and stories of people being kind and generous!!
Maybe as a society, we will see an improvement in what we all think is important, and what is worthwhile, what is essential to our lives. There will be lots of positives to come out of this pandemic.
It is important to keep some perspective: this is temporary; not everyone will get sick, and those who do will get well looked after in our wonderful hospital system. However, it is still important to take reasonable health and hygiene precautions. Keep up with social connections and encourage others to keep socially connected.
Remember – there is always someone to talk to – friend, family, online counsellor, Lifeline 13 11 14; Beyond Blue 1300 224636; Mindspot.org.au; mentalhealthonline.org.au; or myself: Helen Dugdale 0417 064507
Brain Hack 6:
Meditation – repeat your Mantra while doing the following:
● Back to your mantra – what resonates with you?
● Take a few moments – Do the power stance – take a deep breath – Do your bilateral stimulation.
● Imagine how good you will feel when this way of thinking becomes your new norm!
As a result of reading this article, what is:
● One thing that you will Stop doing?
● One thing that you will Keep doing?
● One thing that you will Start doing?
You may have more than one, but this is a start to get you thinking.
Feel free to contact me for a free 30-minute discussion about anything that is concerning you. It is my way of giving back to the community
I can help you unravel your negative thoughts and help you on a more positive path.
Be Ready to Rebound.
Imagine how fit, how smart, how healthy you are going to be and how tidy your house is going to be after all this is over!