Having trouble thinking clearly, planning ahead, and getting things done recently? It could be related to stress from the global pandemic. When emotions become heightened and overblown, the parts of the brain in charge of decision making and executive function tend to not communicate as well with the emotional parts of the brain.
During this time of great change, many—to put it simply—just aren't feeling great. While feelings of anxiety and concern are normal during a crisis like this, this stress can impact people in a variety of ways. Overall, feelings of depression and anxiety are higher than ever before. There are also smaller manifestations and symptoms of stress, including headaches, inability to focus, physical aches and pains, and lack of sleep.*
Research suggests that the part of the brain called the limbic system is hyperactive during times of negative emotions and stress, explained Lily Brown, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine and director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety. The limbic system acts as a control center for feelings and reactions. For example, the well-known fight or flight response begins in the limbic system, triggering feelings of anxiety and fear.*
One key strategy for boosting resilience is mindfulness meditation, taking a moment to be aware of surroundings to reduce stress levels. In times of high stress, people are often thinking ahead and worried about the future, or worried about something bad that happened in the past. Meditation can pull on the prefrontal cortex—the region of the brain in charge of executive functioning—which can reduce emotional activation in the limbic system and help you stay calm and in the moment.*
A Flow Let Go meditation is the perfect way to shake off stress and worry and feel more alive. Have you tried screaming in mediation? You can take all your worries, doubts, and negative thoughts and scream them out into a towel. You will want to take a deep breath, from your belly and scream into a towel, like in the photograph to muffle the sound. Gently touch your fingers to your throat to protect your vocal cords. Try screaming into a towel five times in a row, when you are in a private space where you feel free to let your feelings out. Notice how after you scream, you feel lighter, better, and ready to face your day. You might have to rinse your face with cold water and reapply makeup, but it is really worth it to let go and release some stress and tension at this time!
Box breathing is another great tool that is a scientifically proven way to create more inner strength and ability focus, used by Navy Seals and athletes! Try this Flow - Meditation for modern life exercise today:
Here are some more of Flow's top recommendations for building resilience:
Get outside and let the sunshine on your skin and fill you up with good energy
Walk or run and get in touch with nature all around you, the trees, gardens, and water
Eat healthily! Organic fruits & veggies nourish and nurture the body, mind & mood
Exercise is a way to shake off stress, breathe in energy and meditate with Flow
Be in touch with dear friends and family, and let them know you love them
Meditate with all the six modes of Flow for a life-changing experience
The six modes of Flow are designed in a sequence to provide a profound experience of meditation. Starting with Breathe, we connect within. Then with Move and Let go, we are able to connect deeper and begin to let go or release any inner emotional or physical tension. From there we can more naturally reach a deeper state of Calm, where we can Focus our minds on our higher intention or true heart's desire. Finally, we are able to integrate and Restore our energy reserves by relaxing every muscle of the body in a four-minute power nap.
You can also reverse the cycle of worry by using different language techniques or labeling emotions—a strategy called affect labeling—to help activate executive functioning and control, reducing the activation of negative emotions related to stress.* You can ask yourself "How do I feel right now?" and by labeling that emotion, immediately becoming more present in the moment.
Another proven way to combat the stress of the pandemic is to exercise and foster resilience. Resilience can improve coping abilities and mitigate negative emotions.*
From Dr. Ann Masten Ph.D., "We can think terms of a resilience bank account, that we all store up resilience, but under dire circumstances, we use up that capacity, and it can get depleted. We recommend practices ranging from mindfulness or gratitude practice to other habits of health and well-being, like getting enough sleep and eating well and staying in touch with people that you care about, all in an effort to try to keep your stores, your bank account of resilience full as needed." from Dr. Masten's talk, "The Role of Resilience in the Face of COVID-19"
*Excerpts from the article "Coping with Covid Stress: From Pandemic Brain Fog to Resilience."