Corona possibly, in my view, if not properly managed, causes more brain damage than actual bodily catastrophe (if one does actually get one). The human brain is pre-programed with negativity bias, which means it normally already loves constantly scanning the environment for negativity for survival. It would opt for needless anxiety as many times as it can to avoid the risk of losing life just once. With the coronavirus situation going on around the world and the flooded stream of news from an overwhelming number of sources including social media, an average brain would be paralyzed and the negativity (fear, anxiety) wirings could be strengthened. However, like any crisis or challenge, this is a golden opportunity to solidify positivity neural pathways to make your brain healthier and happier. Here is how:
1. First of all, face with the fear. The best way to conquer fear is not trying to cover it up because when not dealt with properly, it just gets worsened and silently hardwired in your brain. The proper way is to articulate those fears and do a fact check, or to “de-wire” them. Telling yourself to have positive thoughts is not helpful, but asking yourself to seek for accurate thoughts by referencing well trusted sources like CDC or WHO is always useful. It will unload the heaviness of imagined scenarios. Another is to think of the worst-case scenario. When we are able to name it, we would most of the times realize that the worst is not that bad and it is still within our control (yes, as long as we could breathe and say “namaste”! J)
2. Remove the sources of overloaded unnecessary information. For example, I myself deleted Facebook App on my phone before Corona was nothing yet to stay even more focused throughout my day even though I used Facebook for 30 minutes on average each day and more for work purposes. A few women who I work with through my Career Happiness Infinity Program followed my “experiment”, after Corona became something, and reported much less anxiety, better sleep and less terrifying feelings from scrolling the newsfeed. So yes, don’t let the phone or the news or social media program your brain, but let your mind lead your brain instead by consciously choosing the few highly well-trusted information sources.
3. Chanel our thoughts to solutions and things that are under our control. Each of us has 65,000 thoughts a day on average. So apart from wisely using them to remove unnecessary fears, focus them on solutioning and things that are under your wings so you could utilize your thoughts productively and meaningfully. I myself am supposed to fly out on a business trip in another state tomorrow and to host an in-person workshop on 3 Brain-based Secrets to Spring into Your Dream Career in my city later in the month and I had to make the tough decisions to cancel them. At the same time, I also channeled my thoughts about how to make up for each. Obviously, the workshop could be done online via Zoom, a great alternative (watch out my LinkedIn newsfeed for updates). For my non-cancellable flight, I called the airlines up and I am so grateful that American Airlines allowed me to change the flight with change fee waiver.
For those who have office/work-related questions, this article by The Muse is very useful.
4. Start a day, not with the news on the phone, but with gratitude by listing three things you are grateful for in the past 24 hours – this may include clean water to wash hands that we often take for granted, and with intentions for the day. Trust me, you are still safe and Corona will not touch you if you don’t… touch the phone for the number of cases updates right away. One of your added intentions these days may be keeping your hands clean and staying away from close contact with others. This way, your brain is not primed for unnecessary worries and fears but for impact and productivity.
5. Hardwire happiness through practicing giving and kindness. When we give, we no longer feel we are the victims when facing with challenges and lemons in life. When we are kind to others, we feel a better sense of self-worth and we raise above all kinds of judgements and nay saying. So tip those in public services more. Stand up against inhumane discrimination through the right channel, as we are all in it together. Text or call your loved ones, especially at-risk groups and send them your love and spirit.
6. Use the rest of your thoughts and brain energy on meaningful work. When things slow down, it’s a great time to speed yourself up by making yourself more prepared for the future of work when the economy is back. Take online courses. Read books that you don’t have time to read before. Listen to podcasts. If you happen not to love your job any more, there is never a better time to hire a wonderful career coach who specializes in career pivot / transformation so you could smartly channel your otherwise idle hence negative thoughts into something that makes you feel excited and look forward to each day. Or you would say “Hey, I want to try investment”, so just do it.
For me, I feel grateful that I could use most of my daily thought quota for meaningful work that I dearly love. I had three coaching calls today with three women from Vietnam, Singapore and America with two lasting for 2 hours over Zoom where we had deep dive into their stories, values, life purpose, and passion. For the rest of the quota, I used them to make decisions about things that I could control including cancelling my business trip and moving my workshop online, and to observe beautiful moments in my day such as watching my son teaching my daughter math in a fascinating way that my adult brain can’t catch up yet. Now, I am practicing giving by sharing this write-up. I also practice gratitude and intentions for years now so I could stay self-centered, focused and inspired. The neural pathways associated with positivity in my brain are surely further strengthened, helping me be able to hardwire happiness further and more effortlessly deal with challenges.
How would you love your brain to respond to Corona Virus? Remember one thought can change the structure of your brain, so use each of the 65,000 thoughts wisely. Hope my article helps!
P. S. If you are a parent, have you tried having a brain-based conversation with your kids about Corona Virus? Follow my Diary of a Happier Mom Brain for the conversation I had with my son.