So last time we talked about what resilience is and the 1st step in starting to create more resilience during these challenging times. This time we’re going to talk about how to calm the bleep down and keep our cool even when there’s a lot of crap going on.
First of all we need to understand what happens in our brain. To keep it simple we’re going to talk about two parts – the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic system is responsible for our behavioural and emotional responses, especially those associated with survival. The prefrontal cortex is involved in planning complex behaviours, making decisions, and moderating social behaviour.
When the limbic system is activated it takes blood flow away from the prefrontal cortex, which means all those higher level, complex behaviours are out the window. That means we’re operating from an emotional rather than a rational place.
The limbic system has also been linked with impulsive behaviours – so when it’s activated by being stressed or worried you’ll find yourself emotionally eating, spending too much money, using drugs (including caffeine) or alcohol to cope and generally giving up all the good things like exercise and sleep. So if you found yourself overeating, buying lots of stuff you don’t need online, and drinking wine at 2pm during isolation you know you’ve been hijacked by your limbic system.
One of the things that reduces stress is feeling like things are under control and knowing what’s coming. So try to look for what is in your control. Also try to plan some things. Obviously not travel but plan something you know can happen. Also plan for how you can manage any of the factors covid-19 has brought to your life – financial difficulties, isolation. Even just having a plan about how you intend to approach it emotionally can make you feel better.
Try to do as many things as possible to settle your nervous system too. Yoga, meditation, nature walks, breathing exercises, tai chi – anything at all you can do to relieve stress will take you out of the limbic system and into the better coping prefrontal cortex. And that’s where you want to stay.