In a time of a widespread pandemic, we have let fear control our lives. Society seems to have pressed the reset button. As we self-isolate, overthinking has become our normative behavior. Here are five tips to stay mentally strong and happy.
1. Isolation breeds innovation. When we have all this time to ourselves, we can get very bored. Why not create instead of consume? Many great inventions have happened during times of adversity. Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravity while he was socially isolated during a plague. Nelson Mandela came up with his great ideas for ANC (African National Congress) while he was socially isolated in prison for 27 years. Later he became the President of South Africa. There is a French poetry style called Oulipo that uses constraints. Similarly our current constraint of staying indoors, will help our brain to look for possible innovations. If you have wanted to paint for a while, write songs or sing them, now is the time. If you would like to start your own business, now is the time to plan it. Also it is the time to get into a Flow-state. According to Steven Kotler of the Flow Genome Project, flow state resets our nervous system and boosts our immunity. “In flow, we are our resourceful, imaginative, ingenious best. Better still, the changes stick. People report feeling extraordinarily creative even a day after a flow state experience, suggesting they consistently think outside the box.” - Dr Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School professor. If you feel you are being pulled back now, this is to reminder that self-isolation is a slingshot to launch you into a happy future. Let your genius zone emerge.
2. Social media detox. There's a lot of misinformation, memes and perturbing yet inaccurate facts being circulated in the media. If you find that there are certain influencers on social media platforms that are negatively impacting your mental wellbeing, do yourself a favor. Block, unfollow or call them out. This is not a time to be profiting from a disaster but healing from it. If you genuinely wish to help others and are spreading hope and accuracy during these times, you're giving others permission to do the same. As an influencer or a media person, you have to be a leader. As Uncle Ben from Spiderman says “With great power comes great responsibility”.
3. It's not Social Distancing, it's Physical Distancing. Ego is being exposed and Eco (Ecology) is shining its light. Air is cleaner, the animals are feeling safer. I saw this the other day from my friend Dan who shared a quote "When we transform me into 'We', we can turn Illness into Wellness". Don't think that just because you are alone that others don't feel the same. This is a time to reconnect socially in a digital way. Give people a call and check up on them to make sure they're doing fine. If someone is panicking or has anxiety, reassure them and console them. If you are a mental health practitioner offer online courses or digital video therapy. We've got to be there for each other.
4. Boost Optimism to Boost Immunity. One study showed that cell-mediated immunity or (CMI) increases with optimism. It was done with 124 first-year law students over the year. (Segerstrom, 2001, 2004). To boost optimism, a great intervention is a gratitude letter. Write a letter to somebody you haven't properly thanked before. Seligman and colleagues (2005) introduced this on their website. An example of a Positive Psychology Intervention for Optimism is the 'Best Possible Self (BPS)’ where you are asked to note down where you see yourself in the future five years down the line. If you had an ideal life, how would it look like. It can work even better if you write it from the future to your present self saying "I am grateful for ______". This is a powerful future projection exercise that can truly help. Also in order to rewire one's thoughts, I teach my clients to utilize breath work and something I like to call the "The Coin Flip Method"(Flipping negative thoughts with positive ones). So every time you think "What's wrong with me?",( A negative thought) challenge your mindset to think - "What would be the opposite... what's right with me... hmm"( A positive thought). This not only gets you out of your automatic negative thoughts (or ANTs as Jim Kwik, Brain Coach calls them). But it allows you to see the silver lining. One other question that can inspire positivity is - "What is beneficial about this present moment?". Your "nervous energy" may just be preparedness or readiness, a “wake up call” from the body to remind you that your feelings of fear can be fought and leaned into. Go from panic to pranic.
5. Mindfulness over MindFullness - The body doesn’t understand English. So when you say to yourself -”calm down”. It doesn’t comprehend this. However, the body can translate what you’re saying through your breath. When you take deep inhales from the belly it helps you to relax. When you’re anxious your thoughts become a mental time machine, it thinks of the past and future. So in order for you to get back in the present moment, try paying attention to all of your five senses- (What am I seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching?). Brainwave entrainment and binaural beats can help with stress and boosting immunity. Meditation has many benefits. Now is the time to go inwards if you feel lost. If Google is the best external search engine, Meditation is the best internal one. If you find it difficult to do so, try a guided meditation online or use apps like Headspace to assist you. Now is the time to reflect, regenerate and integrate the importance of slowing down. Moving your body physically such as Yoga, will also get you out of your mind. Ask yourself the question - “Who do I need to show up as to be my best self?”. Remember to purify not just your hands, but your heart as well.
May the Flow be with you.