Us humans do not like change. To our primitive brain, the one we’ve had for thousands of years, change is perceived as a threat. Our brain’s response is to produce stress hormones to prepare us for fight or flight. These hormones make us anxious, jittery and jumpy which is why we like to keep things the same. To stay within our comfort zone where everything is nice and tidy.
Luckily we have a different and more evolved part of our brain called the neo cortex where we are able to access our rational and logical mind. This part knows how to take calculated risks based on a proper assessment of a situation. It has learned through repeated practice that without change we stagnate and innovations such as Google and electrical cars would never have materialised. We have learned that change is good.
Unfortunately Covid-19 has stumped us all. Who could have imagined the world literally shutting down within a matter of weeks? It’s unprecedented and has brought us back into our primitive mind and the imaginary forecast of a very bleak future indeed. Uncertainty, the very thing we dislike so much, has now affected every area of our lives. So how can we find comfort in these deeply unsettling times?
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury who was today’s guest on the Andrew Marr Show, spoke of Easter as a time of hope and new beginnings. In biblical terms it refers to the resurrection of Christ and the importance of seeing beyond fear and anxiety and not let panic rule our thoughts and behaviour. To believe in the good and make plans for the future, remembering what it is we love about life and the people we would like to have in it.
Now I am not catholic nor am I particularly religious yet his words rang true to me. To use this Easter holiday, celebrated worldwide, to start a new story and vision for the future is a great concept. For all of us to dare to believe that there is a future and that it can be good.
For sure, it may not be life as we know it yet there are important things we can learn from this outbreak. The fact that we need each other and that in times of crisis people are kind and generous. That elderly neighbours get help from younger ones with their shopping, that most people respect the social distancing out of support for our amazing health staff. That local shops and restaurants have metamorphosed into delivery outlets bringing food and sustenance to those who need it most. That within all this uncertainty there is a spiralling hope so desperately needed right now.
In my hypnotherapy sessions I tend to ask my clients what difference it would make if they shifted their focus to what was already working in their lives instead of what wasn’t working. What would they notice if their fear and anxiety had miraculously gone away? What would they do? I also ask them to remember when they were last happy and why. Our brain is an obedient servant and it will think of the things we feed it. If we feed it fearful and anxious thoughts it will be hyper vigilant to anything that looks like a threat. If we instead feed it loving, supporting and hopeful thoughts then that is what we will start to focus on more. It’s that simple and that hard.
Right now we need a new mindset. A reframe. We need to look beyond fear and anxiety and shift our focus onto that which we look forward to. What have we learned from this that can be implemented when it is all over? Because we will end up in a new normal and this too shall have passed. How difficult it is going to be depends a lot on how we choose to see our current situation. As a chance to begin again with renewed hope and vigour or as the beginning of the end. As with everything in life the choice is ours, which is both empowering and scary simultaneously.
Why not do an experiment this coming week of consciously focusing on what is working, the kindness around you, the kindness in you, the things you are grateful for that you didn’t know before this and do it daily for 7 days. Write it down, make a note on your phone, catch yourself when you find yourself trapped in a thought spiral heading south and notice the difference it makes in your day-to-day life.
Wishing you love,