The dreaded C word

By Lauren Stoney

                                        


Interesting times we find ourselves in. As I find myself surfing this wave of hysteria –a beautiful concoction of fear, panic and some cracking humour (anyone seen the quarantined Kermit?) – I find myself pondering the question of ‘What is this all about?’

In times of uncertainty such as these, it is of course perfectly natural for our brains to go down that slippery slope of catastrophe and fear. But is it really worth it? Is it achieving anything?

I would argue the answer is no. In fact, all it really does is add another layer of crappiness.

No denying it...

Yes, there is a pandemic on our hands but no one really knows what is going to happen over the next few months. We need to take this seriously, and yes we need to take responsibility for our actions, but part of taking responsibility also includes taking ownership of our emotions and our mindset. Panic and anxiety is infectious, and the more we step into THAT mindset, the more we infect others with it.

Of course, when it comes to shaping how we respond to this current state of affairs, the media most certainly has a lot to answer for. But we are not powerless. We have a choice about whether we get sucked into the media hype around this or not.

What are you looking for?

Let me ask you a question. When you wake up in the morning, are you reaching for your phone; thirsty for that hit of drama and the latest news on the coronavirus? And how much of the time are you focusing on what you are doing – in that moment – as opposed to checking the media time and time again for another fear inducing story?

If you want to ramp up your fight or flight response and step into crappy feelings then go right ahead. Keep on doing that. But, let’s face it – no one really wants that. And, right now, we have a lot of things to be grateful for.

For many of us- health is one of them, yet with the fear that this worldwide situation has instigated, so many out there are living in this place of high alert; analysing the fury out of what once was a standard morning cough, and scanning their bodies for signs of the dreaded C word.

If you can relate to this, let me tell you now – you need to give it up. Having worked with burnout and chronic illness for some time; I can assure you that this is a winning formula for keeping an illness going. Whilst I don’t imagine your brain can magically conjure up the coronavirus; it’s most certainly not going to help you fend anything off, when you are worrying about every possible sign of illness, and scanning your world for evidence of it.

When threat opens a door…

For those of you familiar with the term ‘post-traumatic growth’, you’ll already know that that from crappy things, come positive outcomes. No, it might not be rosy along the way, and yes there may be suffering, but ultimately, we all have the opportunity to learn and grow from challenging times.

A recent study by Blascovich and Tomaka demonstrated the power of perception when it comes to facing challenges in our lives. They presented participants with a problem, and they found that there were two ways of responding to this problem. One perceived it as a ‘threat’ and the other perceived it as a ‘challenge’ or ‘opportunity.’

Now to be clear, a threat is something that we fear and will move away from – we have this perception that we’re unable to deal with it and, on a primitive level, it threatens our very survival. A challenge or opportunity on the other hand is something that we tend to approach with openness – stepping into this mindset of ‘I don’t know how to deal with this yet, but I’ll see what I can do.’

Now in this study, they found that for those who perceived these problems as challenges or opportunities, their blood pressure remained constant and their performance was proficient. However, for those who perceived it as a threat their blood vessels contracted, their blood pressure rose, and performance dropped. Needless to say, the threat response was not useful.

What can we take from this?

Now as humans, our brains are incredibly adept at honing in on the negative; it is our tool for survival. But that doesn’t mean we have to let it go that way. We are in charge of our thoughts and, yes, it may take a bit of effort, but we absolutely have the power to redirect our brains should we so choose.

In the case of the C word, is it useful to be stressing over this thing that we have absolutely no control over (just yet)? If the answer is no, which I assume it is, then what IS useful for you right now?

The first contender

Gratitude. That’s one thing I’m going to throw into the mix right there. Already, this experience has brought a huge opportunity to reconnect with what is really important in life. How many of us have been trundling along in this dreamlike state, taking things for granted? Everything from the beauty of nature and the roof over our heads, to loved ones and the bonds that we share with one another?

Now all of sudden, people are faced with their own mortality and the prospect of an economic crash – what do we do with this information? We turn it around, that’s what. Start appreciating the things that, up until, you may have taken for granted.

Second on the list

Practicality. What if we chose to move away from this mass hysterical, emotion-fuelled approach into a place of practicality? “Yes, this is the situation, these are the potential outcomes, and this is what I can do to influence it in a positive way…”

How different would life be if we experienced it from THIS place?

Creativity rules…

One of my personal favourites - creativity. For those of you running a business, the reality is that you may not know when your next paycheque will come in. But stress isn’t going to provide the answers.

Thinking about the ways in which you can adapt to the current climate and find innovative ways to serve some very real needs is going to be much more useful; using the skills, knowledge and experience within your business to be a part of the solution and help people through this time.

Let’s face it, as humans, we like to have a purpose, so harness what you have and channel it into something useful; now is not the time to get hung up on profit.

And the best of all…

Now here’s a revolutionary idea. What if we replaced the C word with connection? Okay, we may be sat at home on our lonesome, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still connect. Some people are putting paper notices through doors with offers of support to their neighbours. Others are calling friends that they haven’t spoken to in years.

For these people, it is a time of reconnection to the community – reconnection to humanity. After all, we are social creatures, we were designed to bond and somewhere along the way, we lost sight of that.

What are you waiting for?

So do it now. Take the time to think about what you REALLY want, and step outside of this emotion fuelled hysteria. We have thousands upon thousands of thoughts, feelings and emotions available to us at any one time – why do we need to go down the route our brain automatically takes us down?

Shit happens in life, but we all have a choice about how we respond. My choice is to discover a new way of being human; supporting those around me and reconnecting with what is truly important. What will be yours?

Lauren is a health and performance coach, and Lightning Process Practitioner – helping people with health issues and the anxieties surrounding these, she is currently offering free sessions for anyone currently struggling with the anxieties around coronavirus and all the challenges it may bring – donations are welcome but not obligatory.

 

 

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