In times of crisis our pre-historic brain spots what’s wrong, to better defend us. As such times it’s only human to feel anxious, worried and pessimistic. Such negative feelings trigger the ‘stress response’, and a high level of the stress hormone, cortisol. Good for the short term, but long term high cortisol levels weaken the immune system. Precisely at a time when we need a robust immune system, we risk weakening it through our thoughts and feelings.
When our pre-historic brain is stuck in negativity, it’s up to us to find what’s right. This is what mental resilience is about: using the power of our mind to reduce stress, enhance focus and clarity, increase calm and optimism and lend support to the immune system. Cultivating mental resilience is a skill that can be built and strengthened. You are, at all times, the master of your mind.
Here are some ideas – and affirmations – to help you navigate your mind safely in stormy waters.
- Don’t scare yourself – a 2% death rate from the virus only applies to those who fall ill. It still means 99%+ of the population remain alive.
Being positive does not mean being complacent. It means that in the deluge of statistics you choose to focus on the uplifting rather than the anxiety-producing news. The greatest majority of those infected with the corona virus display mild enough symptoms to stay at home, and recover fully. Bear this comforting information in mind while staying cautious and following the measures.
- Count your blessings – You’re healthy! You’re home, and not in an ICU! (hopefully). Your family is safe! You have a roof above your head! You have enough food to eat! The heating is working! You have fast internet! You can still take the dog out! Spring is in the air! And you likely have enough toilet paper to last a 3 months’ lockdown! The list goes on and on.
In line with capitalism, our mind tends to draw our attention to what we don’t have, resulting in dissatisfaction and frustration. Yes, the corona situation is unprecedented and we are all greatly affected; but there are still lots and lots of things to be grateful for, especially if you and yours are healthy and safe. Write down your blessings and invite the family to join in. The more grateful you are for what you already have, the more peaceful you will feel.
- Adopt a positive ‘mantra’ that resonates with you – and repeat it often. Replace anxious, pessimistic thoughts with soothing, stress-reducing affirmations. Make your favourite positive affirmation your screen saver, hang it on the fridge, stick it to your bathroom mirror and place it on the dining table.
* “All things eventually pass, and so shall this”
* “I easily go with life’s ups and downs”
* “I give myself permission to feel peaceful”
* “We’re all in it together”
* “Het is wat het is”
Ask your family to contribute their own ‘mantra’ – you’ll be amazed what they’ll come up with!
- Maintain perspective – Only 80 years ago, here in the Netherlands, people lost their homes, possessions, liberty, loved ones, and all too often their lives, too. There are still many living among us who, for five interminable years, suffered under ruthless occupation, cold, hunger, lack and loss. The corona crisis is indeed severe and you have every right to feel anxious, tense and fearful. Good to remember, though, that it could have been be a lot worse. We now have support systems in place, aid packages and financial allowances. And “we’re all in it together”.
- Do what gives you joy – precisely when things feel chaotic, scary or depressing, make a point of doing things that lift your spirits. Listen to your favourite music; do the gardening; sing, draw, be creative in the garage, play the guiter or play with the kids. Whatever gives you sheer pleasure and can still be practiced at home – now more than ever is the time to do it.
Stay safe and stay positive. We’ll be here long after the corona is gone!