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The current world-wide pandemic has created unprecedented worldwide change to our lives not only from a significant health threat, but also for many people’s livelihoods. Most of us may never have experienced such a potentially threatening challenge before and may be struggling to cope. It’s also easy for us to become caught up in the fear and mass panic and believe we are in survival mode. While it is important for us to remain informed about what is happening and how we can best protect ourselves and our families, we can become overwhelmed with the vast amount of information which is currently circulating, both through the news channels and social media outlets. Continuing to listen to negative and alarmist news reports will continue to trigger our stress levels and anxieties.
When faced with an unknown threat, that part of our brain (the amygdala), the most primitive part, becomes automatically triggered and will cause us to react with either the Fight, Flight, or Freeze behaviour. Each of us responds differently to external threats, as evidenced by some visible behaviours we have been witnessing recently in supermarkets, with some people displaying their ‘fight’ response obviously, when squabbling over basic products. Some people will simply want to withdraw, (the flight response) and ‘‘lock’ themselves away at home or in a safe ‘cave’. Others may be more prone to a ‘freeze’ response and literally feel unable to ‘motivate’ themselves to do anything.
However, you find yourself responding to the current situation, remind yourself it’s normal for you to respond that way. Once you recognise this is what’s happening for you, and you can accept your emotions and responses without negative judgement, you can then choose to calm down your automatic stress response. When you can calm down your stress response, this then allows you greater access to the front part of your brain, the frontal cortex, which is responsible for your reasoning, self-control and decision-making abilities.
The following are some ways you can calm down your automatic stress response.
- Exercise helps calm the nervous system as it breaks down excess stress hormones. Even 5 minutes of intense exercise can help you to feel more relaxed and energised. Even though you may be in social isolation you can still find creative ways to exercise for 20-30 minutes daily.
- Stress often affects our breathing which can become shallow and minimises oxygen to our brains. Simply by controlling your breathing, breathing in slowly to the count of 4, holding your breath for 4 counts and then slowly breathing out to a count of 8, you can make yourself feel instantly calmer. Doing this every time you notice yourself feeling stressed is an effective way of calming yourself down.
- Focus your attention on something that you’re currently doing (Mindfulness). Using all your senses to focus on a task or action you are doing helps draw your attention away from the stressful thoughts which are causing you anxiety. Whether you’re giving yourself a cup of tea, doing some gardening, or shopping for supplies, simply focusing all your attention on what you are doing, can help calm down the thoughts that create stress.
- Tapping (an Emotional Freedom Technique) is a process of gentle tapping on specific points (meridians) on your body, while verbalising your emotions about a particular situation. By tapping on these points, it helps us to release any negative emotions stored in our bodies like fear, anger, grief, frustration and worry.
- Share your concerns with someone you trust (who won’t catastrophise with you). We all know these are stressful and uncertain times and being able to verbalise our concerns and fears is an excellent way to help us feel calmer and more relaxed. It is important however not to continue to verbalise the same concerns, once you have acknowledged these you can imagine letting them go.
If you would like some support with managing your stress and anxiety and to learn some practical techniques like Tapping, please contact us at the clinic. We are now offering Tele Consultations (through Skype or Zoom) instead of face to face consultations for the foreseeable future.
Ulli Baxter, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre.
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