With anxiety and stress at an all time high, I thought I’d continue to share ways for you to manage these emotional states as best you can. It would be naive to think that many of us can figure out how to create an anxiety-free environment both externally and internally but we can surely try our best to use tools best suited to minimize the impact stress and anxiety are having on all of us right now.
I had been listening to Emiliya Zhivotovskaya speak on The Good Life Project podcast on this very subject. The CEO and founder of The Flourishing Center, a New York City-based, B-Corp dedicated to increasing the flourishing of individuals, organizations, and communities, reminds us that “most of us have more control over how we experience this moment, psychologically and emotionally, than we realize.”
Here is my cliff’s notes version of what I found most interesting about the physiology and biology behind anxiety, fear and stress, a link to the top body and mind tools we can all use, as well as how to know when to use a body tool versus a mind tool.
Our super power as human beings is our ability to turn on and turn off emotions yet we are rarely taught this. We can choose how we want to feel knowing that negative emotions narrow our focus, whereas positive emotions broaden and build us. This crisis is creating the opportunity for us to become more masterful of our mind, body and emotions. We can take this watershed collective moment to learn the type of skills to bring our nervous system into a place of reset.
Someone asked me, “Aren’t you worried about the state of the world?” I allowed myself to breathe and then I said, “What is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens in the world to fill your heart. If your heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help.”Thich Nhat Hanh
We must first recognize what it is we feel and that it is natural to want to withdraw. There is, however, an inverse relationship between anxiety and uncertainty to creativity, innovation and problem solving. So the main question becomes how do we do our work/daily living so that anxiety does not affect us and we don’t default to paralysis and withdrawal. The key is to peel away the worry from the problem solving. The overall outcome then, as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, is that we prevent getting sick (both physically and emotionally) so we can function and be there for others.
This ties into how our bodies are physically wired recognizing we have an emotional brain and a rational thinking brain. Our emotional brain is our core brain. It houses our limbic system (emotions and memory) and our amygdala (detects fear and preparing for emergency events). Our rational part of the brain is the neocortex or the higher-order function part of the brain like logic and reasoning. When we are in a state of stress our emotional brain kicks into gear and the ability to rationalize yourself out of this state becomes less reliable.
Once you recognize how you feel will determine the tools you use to alleviate your stress and anxiety. You can take your emotional temperature which is in effect naming what you are feeling/experiencing. On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is a full on panic attack and 1 is feeling calm and relaxed where is your “temperature”?
If you are at a 4 or 5 it’s very likely that you can sit and write out your worries, as you can rationalize and reason with yourself. Your emotional state at this temperature level can respond well to MIND techniques or talking back to yourself.
If you are registering in the 6, 7, 8 or higher stress state (panic attacks, hard to inhale, mind racing) you are better off using your BODY to reduce your emotional temperature. At these higher “temperatures” your emotional brain has kicked into a physiological response that it’s hard to talk yourself out of or reason with. This holds true as well for if you witness another in this emotional state. You will not be able to reason with them. When their emotional brain is in overdrive rational-based advice or help will not work.
Emiliya Zhivotovskaya shared an addendum resource, 20 BODY & MIND TOOLS TO OVERCOME ANXIETY, to her interview that gives in detail her top 10 BODY and top 10 MIND tools as well provides videos and pictorials. It’s an incredible resource for you to rely on during this crisis. You can, however, continue to use this information well past COVID-19 as stress, fear and anxiety are part of our human living regardless of unusual circumstances that may elevate these states of being.
Learning to cultivate checking in with yourself and your body and using specific tools to bring down high emotional temperatures IS your best defense against the Covid-19 crisis and frankly all that life throws at us mere mortals.