Purpose: Sharing neuroscience hacks to help you win the battle in your soul during this time of lockdowns, social distancing and a strange lack of toilet paper.
Payoff: You'll regain control, disarm stress and be able to encourage others so we can all emerge better, stronger and ready to reinvigorate our lives and the world.
We're 3 months into this virus spreading its fear and anxiety across the globe.
Different people in different places are in various stages of grief.
We all started in full denial and several went into isolation immediately. Information was scare as no-one accepted responsibility and no-one wanted to be accountable. Experts were dumbfounded – only this time they actually admitted that they were dumbfounded. Some closed borders, others said it was premature. Some stopped flights, others continue to this day. Some said it is airborne and we all need masks, others said it was droplets and we needed to wash our hands.
That period seemed to last forever, some would suggest that there's a couple of world leaders still there, which rather helped many tip over into the anger phase. The promises of no shortages triggered the exact opposite effect – after all, no sensible person trusts a politician at the best of times, and suddenly they were talking about the worst of times, but everything else was carrying on as usual? Toilet paper was the first surprising victim. Now, everything is in diminished supply. Stress levels went sky high, unlike the planes that were no longer flying.
Some leaders started bargaining with the virus only to discover that it didn't come to negotiate but to infiltrate. It came to spread and reproduce and take out the weaker members – which unsurprisingly led many back into anger.
Self-isolation measures began to take root and social distancing was no longer about focusing only on your phones and choosing to ignore others, now we were encouraged to avoid others. Churches shut their doors, Mosques and temples too.
The misery continued as depression kicked in. The massive deaths in Italy made us all question what was really happening. Holidays cancelled – many with little prospect of a refund and , naturally, the insurance companies would claim exceptional circumstances. Stress levels took on new heights and for many became full-on panic.
Slowly acceptance of quarantine, isolation, stay at home, the lost holidays, the lost income, the lost job, and yes, the lost toilet paper.
We're all grieving. Grieving for a life that was, just a few short weeks ago, looking so promising. A new decade was dawning and there was hope in the very air.
Well now the air is clean and clear. At least until China's factories ramp up to full production and poison our scarred lungs. Hope has faded for many, a few hold on tightly to the promises of God, who is, by the way, still on His throne.
If we haven't personally lost someone dear to us, why are we grieving?
We're grieving the loss of agency and control.
The little girl coughed as we descended in the lift. A deep, dry and loud cough. She didn't cover her mouth. I flinched. It was instinctual, my heart rate shot up and my body and brain flooded with adrenaline. I stopped breathing. I left the lift as the doors opened and realised I had stopped breathing. The fresh sun-soaked air was my welcome refuge.
Humans everywhere are deeply concerned for their safety. We cannot not be. It's the Critter part of our brain. The part that houses and runs our emotions. A place where chemistry rules the roost and floods our brains and blood stream with chemical messengers to be afraid, to be very very afraid.
- Don't know what it is? Be afraid.
- Don't know what to do? Be afraid.
- Don't know what's happening? Be afraid.
And this isn't a conscious “knowing”. We have no experience or memory that helps guide us on the better course of action.
We can quickly be so overwhelmed with emotions of fear and anxiety that we forget all else and forget to engage our thinking mind.
It is going to help you to better understand the neuroscience of how our body and soul – our mind, will and emotions operate and thus we feel as though we have no agency or control. Then you can do something to change that.
To simplify this, I like to consider the soul as three parts: The Mind, the Will and the Emotions.
The soul itself being a part of our triune being of the Spirit, Soul and Body.
The three parts of our soul, the mind, the will and the emotions are pretty much in a battle. During this crisis, they certainly are.
The Mind is you thinking, conscious executive brain. The Will is in the Frontal Lobe and is what drives you to do what you do, your desires and values.
The Emotions, well there the things that make you feel and make you act. Mostly in your Hypothalamus and Amygdala – the Critter brain.
When something is noticed by any of the five senses of your body the Critter brain responds fastest. “Am I safe?” It's a yes or no answer. Something new, unknown, novel, in any doubt? Not safe. Adrenaline and Cortisol triggered and the body responds with stress and freeze, flight or fight. Emotional memories are quickly accessed, “Have we seen this before?” – Oh yes, that's just the flu, had it, seen it, done it, got the t-shirt. No??!!?? OK, let's hide/get outta here/kill it!
Only then, once the chemicals are already in production and coursing through your body does your mind, the executive brain, kick into high gear. It's milliseconds later, but a lot can happen in your brain in that time.
You think. Unlike our animal friends, you think. Your Mind checks in with your Will. What drives you personally, the values you hold dear, what desires you have. Your mind also checks it's memory banks, searching for experience, knowledge, solutions.
- You know what you SHOULD do – that's your mind.
- But what do you WANT to do – that's your will.
- Meantime, your body is already responding to the chemical response from your emotions.
You now have a choice. What I should do, what I want to do or what I am ‘feeling'.
The winner of this battle determines your chosen response.
The problem with this current Covid 19 is less the virus itself. It's the fear it (with the assistance of politicians, leaders, mainstream media and especially social media) induces and the seeming reduction of your agency or control to choose for yourself.
Now we know what's happening and the key questions in the battle in your soul. Winning the battle is about resuming agency or control as best you can.
No-one likes to be told that they cannot leave their house. The moment you tell someone that they cannot do something, they want to do it. Warnings become invitations!
Don't smoke! Who are they to be telling me not to smoke? If I want o smoke I'll smoke. It's my life, if I want to take the risk, that's up to me.
If I want to go to a club and dance till dawn with all my friends and I get infected, so be it. I'll survive, after all, it doesn't kill many…
The flesh screams for agency and control. It wants to do the will of your soul.
The mind is more rational, more logical, more obedient. If so many “experts” say this is for the best then that's what I will do. I don't like it, but I choose to follow advice. And if everybody followed the advice it would all be better for everyone and sooner.
Back and forth, back and forth it goes. Your Will is screaming, your mind says let's be sensible and calm down, your emotions want relief from fear and stress and worry. Your brain is in Beta Wave mode, fast and busy and keeping you focussed… but its not getting the downtime it needs to relax let alone heal and repair.
So how do you win the battle?
You need to choose to let your mind assume control by letting go of control!
Yes, it is an oxymoron. And you'll soon agree that's it is not as easy as it sounds, but it is possible with a little neuroscience hack.
The spread of Covid across the world has demonstrated how utterly unready we all were, and remain, for a disastrous pandemic. There are plenty of people who will chorus that this pandemic isn't nearly as bad as seasonal flu, or not as deadly as Ebola, and nothing compared to the Bubonic Plague. But there is a major difference this time round. this time, we have social media and everyone is a journalist. And read or watch any news and it will be stoking your fear and anxiety.
So my number #1 recommendation for everyone is to stop reading or watching the news. You are feeding yourself with the knowledge of good and evil, with a massive emphasis on the latter. Do yourself a huge favour and stop trolling through Facebook, even LinkedIn, and definitely avoid Twitter. Don't turn on the TV and catch the headlines. Don't worry, if you need to know something that's going on, someone will tell you, and if they don't, then you don't get to worry about it. Of course I realise that this is nigh impossible these days, but the less you see and hear negative information, the lower the levels of the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline course through your body.
Instead, make a really tight fist with your hand. Hold it and keep squeezing it tight. Tighter still, as if you were trying to control everything in the entire world right now and fix it.
And then let your fingers loose and relax and let the blood flow and release all that tension. Let go of control. Cast your cares.
Have a quick look around you and check to make sure that the world hasn't fallen apart without you being in charge and then do it again. Take back control with a really tight fist, build the tension, take on all those burdens and then let them all go again.
Flex your fingers, and breathe a huge big sigh.
And just like washing your hands these days – do this as often as your mind touches on trying to send you into another round of panic, stress and worry asking “what if…?” “if only…”
Use your fist tension to take control of your mind, win the battle of your soul and then let go to gain control. Yes, you are tricking your will and emotions with your body to let your mind take control and then you are back at a place of choice and agency and you can let it go.
He who dwells [sits] in the secret place of the Most high. Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty. #Psalm91