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Managing Your Mind in a Crisis

podcast Mar 31, 2020

Can't listen? Here's the transcript: 

I want to talk about how to manage your mind in the best way possible during this pandemic. This week, I have been offering coaching to as many people as I can possibly reach. I have been running free Zoom groups, going on Facebook live, and getting on the phone with past and present clients.

Now more than ever before, it is imperative that we know HOW to think instead of just allowing our automatic minds to do all of the thinking for us. So right now, you are probably having a lot of different thoughts from one moment to the next. Thoughts like:

When is this going to be over?

How is this going to impact our economy?

How is this going to impact my kids? my job?

What is going to happen to me? Am I going to be safe? Is my family going to be safe?

And you might be having thoughts about our government that are making you angry. So when you are having those thoughts, you are experiencing a whole lot of stress and anxiety. And what most people don’t know is that their minds are just doing the same thing that they have always been doing which is racing from one thought to the next on autopilot.

And this is because our brains are predisposed, from an evolutionary standpoint, to focus on potential danger. So we have these conditioned minds that are focused on what potential danger might lie ahead. Our primitive brain, the amygdala, is actually doing what it was designed to do.

So many people have been fixated on the danger. They have been watching the news or scrolling social media non stop or worrying obsessively. And these automatic thoughts create feelings of anger, fear, sadness, frustration. But we also have these other parts of our brains, that are the more evolved parts, like the prefrontal cortex. The parts of our brain that are responsible for higher level thinking. And these are the parts of our brains that we need to be intentionally utilizing, especially right now. 

Now for those of you who have been listening to my podcast for a while, I talk a lot about our old, automatic minds and how our minds tend to focus on what we say we “need” in order to feel good. And prior to the pandemic, I encouraged all of you to get curious about what your automatic mind said you needed in order to feel good. Was it money, a relationship, weight loss, people liking you, or thinking that you are successful, or maybe it was certain business goals you thought you needed to accomplish, or a degree you needed to attain?

And when you didn’t have what your mind said you needed, it caused all sorts of suffering. Whatever it WAS pre-pandemic, that has all been stripped away. So now what your mind says what you “need” is to be able to predict and control how all of this is going to go. You want to find a way to get back to the illusion of safety and security and predictability that we had.

But here is the truth. Our lives were always uncertain even before the pandemic. We could never control when and how we died or someone else died. We just didn’t ever focus on that because that was too scary and uncomfortable.  So we lived in the illusion of safety. Instead, we focused on other things we could never control, like other people’s judgments or opinions of us, or whether we got old.

We have been a culture that is obsessed with trying to control things we had no control over.  We thought that the way to control whether our kids were successful was by keeping them scheduled up to their eyeballs, and focused on grades and sports and extracurricular activities to the point that they needed to be on antidepressants and anti anxiety meds just to get through childhood. 

Keeping ourselves over worked, overwhelmed, trying to keep up with the joneses and buying things that we really couldn’t afford so that we could control how we are perceived. These were the things we said we “needed” in order to feel the way we wanted to feel, and the more we chased them, the more stressed and overwhelmed and chaotic and sick our lives became. 

The way we have been operating as a society was incredibly toxic before the pandemic.  Greed, power, accomplishment, success, status, looks, possessions, reputation, these were the things that we were trying to predict, control and manage.  And it was making all of us sick physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We were not well as a society before this.

And now here we are, all of those things have been stripped away.  The playing field has been leveled. None of those things are important right now. But we are now trying to use our same minds, our same autopilot thinking, to cope with this pandemic.

We’re trying to control what we have no control over, because we don’t want to sit in the unknown.  It’s too uncomfortable. We want to get back to feeling safe and comfortable. But remember it is our minds that try to find safety and comfort, because of our perceived dangers that LIE AHEAD! Feeling safe and comfortable prior to the pandemic looked like avoiding taking risks, avoiding stepping outside of your comfort zone. 

It looked like making sure you always looked good, you never showed your vulnerability to anyone. It looked like trying to live a life in which we were supposed to look like we had it all together. And that is what kept so many people struggling and suffering. That is exactly what is at the heart of our mental health, addiction, marital issues.  Everyone was looking to try to fix, control, or perfect something outside of themselves to feel the way they wanted to feel. This is what kept you living your life on autopilot.

You don’t have to continue to allow your automatic mind to dictate how you show up during this time of uncertainty and unpredictability. You can actually do the work to manage your mind so that you are choosing thoughts that will bring you more peace.  When you allow your brain to ruminate over how the future will go, you are sending your brain signals that you are in constant danger. And your brain is responding by keeping you in a perpetual state of anxiety.

But without those thoughts, the thing to realize is that you are actually OK right here, right now. You are listening to this podcast. You have a roof over your head. You have food in the refrigerator. You are breathing.  You have the power to choose how you will think. You can’t stop the automatic thoughts that whip up fear, anger, sadness.

But you can identify them. You can step back and observe your mind whipping up it’s typical inner dialogue that focuses on all the things you can’t control. You can choose thoughts that get you more centered and grounded. You can use your thoughts to move away from fear and move towards love and connection.

Mary Anne Williamson says we are always in one of two places.  We are either in love or fear. Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learned here. I have been telling all of my clients this week to do a thought download everyday so that you can clean out your mind. This is when you write for 10 minutes non stop, in a journal, all of your thoughts. And this is so you can actually see all of the garbage that is floating around up there. All the what ifs and the why is this happening and the it’s not supposed to be this way

And then there is the social contagion of fear that is being whipped up by the media, because let’s face it. Fear sells. Positivity doesn’t. So we are collectively being whipped up into constant feelings of danger. And not that we shouldn’t take this seriously, because we absolutely should, by doing our part to practice social distancing and following the advice that the experts are telling us. 

Of course, we feel sad and are grieving because we have lost our old life. And that is completely normal to feel these feelings that accompany grief. For right now, this is our new normal. And we need to only focus on what we can control right now in this very moment. What we do have control over right now, is to feel whatever emotion we feel, and use the emotion to examine our thoughts.  Your emotions, if you allow yourself to actually sit with it and feel it, will help you come face to face with the thoughts that are blocking you from just being with what is.

Your automatic mind wants you to resist what is. It wants you to find a way to control or fix what is. And we can’t. Being able to train your mind to be right here, right now, only in this very moment that you are in, is the greatest gift you can give yourself.  And what you resist, persists. When you resist exactly what is, right now, you are choosing to live in fear and anxiety. You can never not have calm in this moment.  Even if you are dealing with a crisis right in front of you.  There is no fear in that moment. There is only dealing with what is. 

Fear can only be whipped up by your mind. Being in this very moment is the only way we can feel in control.  And the best way to ground yourself in this very moment is by using all 5 of your senses. See 5 things in the room-- there is my dog, or my cat, there is a tree outside the window, there is the desk, there is my coffee mug.  Feel 4 things in your environment-- touch the clothes on your body, or a part of your body, or feel the smoothness of the desk you are at, or feel the bottom of your feet on the earth. Hear 3 things in your environment-- the dishwasher running, the hum of the refrigerator, or the heater. Smell two things-- maybe a flower, a candle, some soap.  Taste something, and allow yourself to really experience the taste.

When you get yourself present, you can choose thoughts that make you feel more calm. You can focus on the things that you have in your life right now that you are grateful for. You can focus on the love and connection you have with your friends and family, and how this pandemic is causing all of us to connect with people in ways that we didn’t connect before because we were just too darn busy, and maybe took those relationships for granted. 

We can focus on all the ways that people are rallying together all over the world to make protective masks for our doctors and nurses on the front lines of this pandemic. We can focus on how this is bringing out some of the best parts of human beings. We can see the possibility that this pandemic will open our eyes to what we have previously been blind to. That all that really matters in life is love and connection. That we are not our money, our careers, our possessions, our looks. We can have more compassion for other people, and recognize that they are also feeling all sorts of emotions right now, and give them space and room to go through their own thoughts and feelings.  And not try to fix or change or control their emotions and their behaviors.

But do the inner work of recognizing our own automatic thoughts, and choosing our thoughts wisely. I think we can all use this time as a wake up call, and realize that we have been conditioned both individually and collectively as a culture, to think in ways that lead to toxic and dysfunctional lives. I encourage all of you to use this time to make some changes in the way you think, feel and act. It can create a ripple effect in our families, our communities, and within our culture.  

If you are ready to dive deeper into this work and learn how to manage your mind so that you can apply all of the DYIC tools, and move away from fear and towards love, and change the trajectory of your life in almost every area, go to my website and schedule a free clarity call.  I guarantee it will be worth your time!  

In order to truly change your life, you need to be willing to think differently from how you feel.

That's why I collected some of my favorite resources and trainings to create an owner's manual for your mind. Want access? Tell us where to send your log-in details! 

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