By Tabasom Eblaghie,
Registered Clinical Counsellor
With the coronavirus now being recognized as a pandemic, we are now witnessing large scale Panic and Fear visiting many of us. When these problems entities visit us, they cause our brains to release stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine. These hormones give us a natural boost in perception and speed, cause our hearts to beat faster and get us ready for fight or flight – basically we go into “survival mode”.
Also known as the “fight or flight mode”, this system is actually very smart as it ensured our survival if we encountered dangerous situations during prehistoric times – eg: running into a lion or a bear. Once we’ve enter into fight/flight mode, blood is diverted from major organs like the stomach to our limbs, so that we ready ourselves for running away or staying and fighting. Unfortunately, in addition to preparing us for survival, this also shuts down our immune systems (fighting the lion is more important than fighting that virus!) so we’re more prone to becoming sick. Exactly what we don’t want!
Being in fight or flight mode makes us less intelligent and clear-minded. This is because the part of the brain related to reflexes takes over from the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain related to critical thinking and planning. So at a time when we most need our logic and reasoning, that part of the brain shuts down and we may react irrationally and emotionally!
So, how can we mindfully and actively calm ourselves down in order to be able to make better decisions in stressful situations?
1) Practice deep breathing. We breathe using two sets of muscles. One set pulls the ribs forward (making the chest appear bigger) and the other set lowers the diaphragm, which makes your stomach stick out when you inhale. When you are under stress, you tend to rely more on the chest muscles than the diaphragm, which can make you feel dizzy and lightheaded.
To take a deep breath, place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Take a deep breath into the bottom of your stomach. You know you’re doing it right when you ONLY see the hand on your stomach move. Take a deep breath in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and release (hiss the breath out) for a count of 8. Repeat this slowly for a few times until you can feel your body relaxing;
2) Reduce number of hours spent watching the news and select our news channel wisely. Some stations are more prone to fast paced language and fear mongering. Stop watching all news at a reasonable time at night so that your mind and body has time to wind down and relax. Watching news until right before bed may deeply affect our sleep and general feeling of well-being.
3) If you have children, make sure that you highlight factual information that can relax their thinking around this difficult topic. Children are wonderful observers but not so good as interpreters as their brains are not fully developed. Reassure them with little comforting thoughts and distract them by going for nature walks, arts/crafts, cooking/baking with them and staying away from the news channel while they’re in the room;
4) If you’re working from home during this time or have children home from school, it’s best to have a routine and maintain normalcy by following a schedule . Eat meals at the same time as they would if they were still at school and take breaks as they/you would on a normal day;
5) It’s important to keep an eye on our sugar intake and also limit caffeine and alcohol, which can worsen anxiety;
6) Going for a walk or exercising is one of the best gifts we can give our bodies. When we exercise, there is a release of endorphins (neurotransmitters) in the body, which are basically the “happiness hormones”. Walking allows us to unwind, de-stress and go back into our lives at a higher productivity level, thereby using up less energy to do difficult tasks
7) Problems grow in secret so now is a great time to connect with loved ones and share our concerns. It’s usually best NOT to make major life decisions during times of stress and if we have to do so, it’s best to consult with others before jumping to rash decisions;
8) Assist others. This is our chance to reach out to others, especially those who may be in isolation and find out if they need groceries or assistance with setting up technology so that they can connect with other loved ones via the Internet. These little acts of generosity move us away from anxiety as we are focusing on things that are within our control rather than what’s not in our control;
9) Have faith! Connecting with our Faith by saying prayers and relying on divine assistance has the power to calm and rejuvenate our souls.
If you’ve been experiencing higher levels of Anxiety and Fear visiting you, please call Tabasom at (604) 889.3635 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for your private counselling session today. Please note that Tabasom does offer Internet counselling and can connect with you no matter where you live in the world.