Our brains take comfort in the familiar—the normal.
When things change, the unexpected happens, or uncertainty is rampant, our brains go into “protective mode.”
When this happens, the pre-frontal cortex’s ability to drive cognitive thinking, rational thought, and decision making is significantly reduced.
“Protective, emotional behaviors” ramp up. These include becoming defensive, blaming others, or increasing self-pity.
The “imaginary drama” that many of us experience also increases. We tend to focus on the bad, not the good, the threats, not the rewards, and the fear, not the hope.
These increased stress triggers will cause us to be less rational and more emotional. Our tendency to “lash out” and lose our temper may likely increase.
Not a good situation for many of us.
There are very few things that are “normal” right now.
The symbols and rituals of fall that comfort us will be very different as well.
“Back to school”, or back to virtual learning?
Working from home still dominates many workplaces.
For many, there is no college football. Pro football will be very different too. World Series, yeah, let’s hold on that one.
Halloween and “trick-or-treating” is likely to be, or feel, very different.
And then there is a Presidential election that won’t look like anything any of us have ever experienced.
Let’s hope the leaves still change color!
So, what can we do?
Our first priority should be to take care of ourselves. Our bodies. Our Mind. Our Spirit. If we don’t do this, all other actions will suffer the consequences.
We can start to do this by acknowledging our feelings. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”
This will help dampen your emotional response and re-engage your cognitive abilities. This action of self-love will also boost your self-respect and reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
Once this happens, we can be in a better position to understand and focus on our priorities.
Secondly, let’s make sure to take care of our families (however you may define it). Look out for their physical and emotional health. If you see them feeling down, ask them these two powerful questions:
What are you feeling right now?
(Then just listen. Acknowledge their feelings and then say, “I’m sorry,” you feel this way –or I’m sorry this has happened to you.)
This wording is compelling—similar to the self-reflective question, “What am I feeling right now?” It also avoids judgmental questions like, “What’s wrong?” which usually puts people on the defensive and evokes the response, “Oh nothing, I’m fine.”
How can I help us move through this?
This puts you in the position of a helper and not a fixer. It also gets the other person to think – and provide some ideas—again, dampening their emotional response. It also puts the brain in forward-thinking, future mode, rather than dwelling on the present’s negative emotions.
Third, share our gifts with others.
Commit to one act of kindness per day.
This act of kindness will not only help put your brain in the right place, releasing that much-needed dopamine, it likely will have the same impact on someone else as well.
Yes, the rituals and symbols are and will be different. So, chose to focus on the core that drives our happiness.
Feel gratitude. Focus on hope.
And then treat yourself to a pumpkin spice latte if that is your thing.
Hopefully, these suggestions can help you in some way.
Have a blessed day.