We are in uncertain, unprecedented times, the ‘not knowing’ dominating our thoughts.  The good news is we can influence our brains to help us manage these times better. 

What do we know?

We can all feel somewhat fragile at the core.  That uncertainty and volatility can induce fear, and fear impedes us from doing our best.  Fear can impact our sense of identity and can cause us to doubt our ability to achieve what we want to do as well as create feelings of anxiety and stress. This may be for many of us, a world we find ourselves slipping in and out of currently.

When we perceive things through a lens of fear, we often turn away from others, rather than ask for help.  We find it harder to connect and keep in touch. We start to develop patterns for protection, not sharing what is really on our minds.  We may become more fearful of making mistakes, scared of our lack of knowledge or understanding.  A fear of losing our voice, agreeing to courses of action that seem counter intuitive, believing others must know better.

When fear dominates our primitive brain takes over, emitting cortisol hormones which affect adversely our emotional and /or physical stress.  It’s not all bad, they are trying to protect us. If they go into overdrive chemicals from these areas shut down the areas of our brain, primarily our PreFrontal Cortex, that serve us well.  With the Prefrontal Cortex area of our brain impeded, our ability to function well, feel more at ease and in control, can lead to life becoming more challenging and difficult.

What may be contributing to this right now is the social distancing strategy, watching frequent and often distressing news updates, working as a front line worker feeling exhausted, under-resourced, fearful,  unable to say ‘no’, not knowing where the next meal will be coming from.  Coping with various family members back at home, cramped conditions, lack of working spaces etc.

So what can we do?

Divert our attention away from the current pressures, towards those things that we know enable the chemical oxytocin to flood the brain. At a most basic level this is about being mindful of looking after ourselves and others.  Our brains need sleep to function well, they need food, water and positive social interaction.  We already know that, it is at the next level we can seriously make a difference.  Practising appreciation and thankfulness for people and things. Starting each day with 3 things to be thankful for. Looking out for what is going well and being thankful and appreciative to others for that.  Finding examples of things you have been taking for granted, noticing them then expressing your gratitude for them. Displaying small acts of kindness, helping each other out, sharing knowledge and skills.  Spending time listening, asking questions from a position of real interest and curiosity.  Connecting in a variety of innovative ways, having fun and laughing with others.

Opening ourselves up to new learning, new ideas, new hobbies, maximising positive and ‘possibility‘ thinking.   All of these will help to elevate oxytocin levels in our brains and help us to feel stronger, more energised and more able to face the days ahead knowing we can influence more, than we perhaps believed was possible.

If you’d like to know more please contact me at sue@open2change.org.uk.