For almost two months, our lives have changed quite a bit. The global pandemic we are facing has led to limited social interaction, border closures and economic instability. At this point it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed by the state of the world.
By Anca Maria Banita, Trainer & Coach
But there is also good news: even in times of stress and anxiety, you can take control back.
A well-known neuroscientist at Stanford, who studies happiness, has shown that only 10% of our level of happiness is given by what happens to us outside. The remaining 90% is given by how our brain processes information. So, even if you win the lottery or receive an unexpected gift, it would increasingly matter how you train your brain to enjoy and appreciate what it has.
We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to how we feel. Even though it may seem at the moment that we have no control, we actually have the power to manage our condition. How?
- Discharge strong emotions through abdominal breathing
Abdominal breathing helps calm the nervous system because it activates the vagus nerve, a complex nerve in the nervous system, with branches in the cerebellum and heart, and this activates the parasympathetic system and makes us calmer. You need 10 minutes of abdominal breathing to calm down after a difficult situation.
- Connect to the heart and positive emotions
The heart modulates states and emotions, transforms them and teaches us all that we can change our mood at any time. All you have to do is close your eyes, pay attention to your heart, breathe deeply and connect to a moment when you were happy in the past. Live it as it is in the present and this will transform your condition. This brings you in Heart Coherence, a very powerful state that not only changes your mood but also influences the brain positively.
- Write down daily 3 things that went well, for which you are grateful
Gratitude changes the brain and helps us educate it to see what is positive. We tend to see and weigh the negative 3 times harder, so consciously focusing on what works, what you enjoyed today, brings balance.
So, before you go to bed or in the morning when you wake up, ask yourself: what are 3 things that can I be grateful for?
- Speak openly, with vulnerability about what you feel and the things you are going through
We need a connection more than ever, and this produces oxytocin in the brain, one of the happiness hormones. Set up constant discussions in your calendar with your friends and tell them openly what you are going through. This period is a unique opportunity to practice that vulnerability that we keep reading about in Brene Brown’s books. It is an opportunity to let ourselves be seen and to show ourselves completely, in a situation that affects us all.
According to studies conducted by Harvard, but also by other scientists, mindfulness meditation reduces stress and anxiety and helps create new connections in the brain, due to neuroplasticity. Also, meditation develops what is called self-awareness, the state of presence, which helps us to activate the neocortex, responsible for control and logic, in challenging times.
The simplest meditation you can try right now is Sitting Meditation, a meditation that involves simply following your breath for a few minutes.
- Balance your news exposure
Even if it’s hard and you feel like you need to know everything that happens, as long as you’re connected to the news that causes you to panic, your emotional brain will be activated. Set yourself to read the news only once a day, from official sources and no more than 2-3 news, with facts and statistics to keep the neocortex activated, instead of the sensational type. You will need willpower to stop scrolling, but you will notice that after a day or two, you will feel better.
- Take care of sleep, exercise and nutrition
Continue to focus on the three essential aspects of your health: exercise, a healthy diet and a good sleep. These three are the basis for maintaining a healthy body, which works in optimal settings to fight any threat that comes from outside (such as a virus).
Let’s look at this time as an opportunity to learn about ourselves, our brains and emotions and how we can take care of ourselves – we have a lot of resources in us that we now have the opportunity to discover and use. This period is an intense training of self-awareness and emotional intelligence – let’s use it as such!
About the author
Anca Banita is a communication expert, coach and trainer.
Anca has over 12 years of experience in the field of communication, both in the corporate environment (Heineken) and in PR agencies, NGOs (she is one of the founders of Let’s Do It, Romania!) or as a freelancer.
Anca has 6 years of experience as a trainer and has developed several products of her own, including Personal Branding (a course conducted in over 30 editions, with hundreds of participants), Emotional Agility, Building Powerful Habits, Mindfulness Techniques for Stress Management, as well as workshops developing coaching and communication skills. All her workshops contain elements of neuroscience and are based on solid studies in psychology.
Anca is a constant meditator and a blogger on ancabanita.com, a blog dedicated to personal evolution, where she shares wellbeing methods and techniques.