We can’t control the storm, but we can control the sails of our ship. We are all watching in absolute shock what is transpiring within our own lives, our community, our nations and the world. How do we navigate these new waters when our usual compass is not suited for this time or how do we trust the new direction our internal GPS is taking us? Being able to manage our sails with emotional resiliency is key.
At 40 Years of Zen we use innovative technology, peer-reviewed neuroscience and custom protocols to teach you to change your own brain waves and thus provide you with more command over your life. Here are some useful tips and reminders, tied to brain science, that you might find useful.
Many people will be feeling fearful, worried and angry as we live through the time of the coronavirus. When someone is in fear, worry or stress they are most apt to make bad decisions or suffer from immobilization.
When you experience fear, our amygdala, our emotional center, is the first to respond and it sets up the body to respond in fight or flight mode. Closely connected with the amygdala is the hippocampus which regulates motivation, emotions, learning and memory, along with the prefrontal cortex which assists in the interpretation and decision making, which together, lets a person know if the perceived threat is real.
When we are stuck in fear with what is happening, we are not allowing our “thinking” circuitry of our brain to reassure our “emotional” areas that we are, in fact, okay, in this moment.
If you are standing in a savannah in the Sahara and see a lion in the wild coming towards you it will trigger a strong fear reaction. If you see the same lion in a zoo you are more apt to think of it as a gorgeous big ol’ pussycat and view it with curiosity.
The fear of the coronavirus and our current situation is an accurate response and it is a good motivator to follow the dictates of what the best experts and authorities are requesting that you do to keep you, your family and community safe. Once you have put into action what has been prompted and guided than staying in fear will not assist you but rather stress you and keep your mind and body in an agitated mode.
There are different frequencies, measured in hertz, of our brain waves that determine what mode we are operating in. For example, Theta and Delta are most commonly associated with sleep; Gamma is known for synthesizing complex information from different areas of the brain; Beta is the state we perform our cognitive tasks, thinking and engagement with the world; Alpha is a state where we relax, get creative, play and enjoy peak experiences.
When we are in high stress and fear we are operating out of a Beta state on overdrive and we would be best served when the immediate danger has passed to be able to take our foot off the gas and come to a place of homeostatis. Continual high frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain as it takes a tremendous amount of energy.
While in quarantine, in their time, William Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity. Both of those endeavours would have meant that they were hanging out in Alpha states and most likely, accessing Gamma.
When you downgrade fear to having awareness of a situation, without the experience of high stress, you than have a greater capacity to access the validity of the threat, make clear, solid decisions on the best way to mitigate it and find the healthiest ways to life with it.
To get out us out of that fear perspective, we want to shift into an Alpha state. When we are in an Alpha state we can be in an enhanced creative zone, feel relaxed, find it easy to strategically think, find ourselves feeling into gratitude and appreciation and able to experience love and joy. We do want to mindful about what is happening and adjust our lives accordingly and at the same time be able to relax and stay in the moment while being creative, productive and happy. Here are some suggestions, scientifically proven, for shifting into Alpha states most readily that you can do from home:
Close your eyes and breathe. When you are in stress or agitation sometimes a simple breath will bring you back to the present. Eyes closed is where we typically access the most Alpha. Become aware of your breath and slow it down.
The more you revel in the experience of gratitude the more you will feel yourself entering in a calm, peaceful and joyful state. The key is to feel gratitude – move beyond thinking and into feeling. Some of the gratitude that people are expressing at this time is the time being spent with family, health, the humour, the coming together of people such as the concerts on balconies, the feeling of solidarity.
Take a pause and savour what you are witnessing or experiencing in the moment. The cherry blossoms, the birds singing, a caress.
Most meditations are designed to take you into an Alpha state. There are a wide range of meditation practices: walking, sitting, lying down, eyes open, eyes closed, doing dishes, whispering mantras and chants. Which one is best for you and your personality is often discovered through trial and error. We have offered a simple breathing technique below.
Take on a New Perspective
One of the things that might be useful is to take on a new perspective. A different perspective on the pandemic could look like this: What is happening in Italy is being witnessed here and what is happening with us is being witnessed in China – all over the world we are instantly connecting, monitoring and responding. What happens in one location is a teachable moment for the next location and what happens with one individual can assist the whole of humanity. In a blink of an eye we are now working as one large global village. It is messy, to be sure, and, at the same time, we are witnessing for the first time in history how interconnected we all are. In a time of social distancing we are experiencing social cohesion.
There is no right or wrong in any perspective. It is simply a different lens through which we can witness any situation. A fresh perspective does not minimize or downplay a threat but rather provides a different context to view it in which may provide some relief.
These are unprecedented times we are living in. While at the same time we are being called to action and living with high stress over our health and well-being, our families, employment and our way of life, it is more important than ever to build our emotional resiliency so that we can best manage ourselves during this time. We encourage you to place time and attention on your self-care so that you have more and better access to your innate intelligence and act with kindness and compassion.