We awakened this week to a world significantly different from what we knew only two weeks ago. Most likely you’re now working from home, if you were not furloughed. You’re juggling more responsibilities, moving your college kids home and your school age kids to either an online learning platform or unending unstructured time at home, with literally nothing to do. Likely you’re scared by the uncertainty of the impacts to all aspects of your life and forcing yourself NOT to check the news every five minutes. As the virus continues to spread, we are constantly inundated with updates on the number of those infected and the latest death tolls. Understandably, this can feel overwhelming.
Our brains are designed to protect us. When you find yourself ruminating about all of the scary things that could happen, put it all into perspective. The brain has a built-in tendency to focus on the negative or potentially bad to keep us from harm. However, you can take control of those automatic negative thoughts. The good news is that this anxiety can actually fuel positive action, assuming you take control of your thoughts and put things into perspective. The choice is yours.
There are some things you can do from a brain health perspective. Taking positive action will not only curb your anxiety, it will allow you to consider how you can take advantage of this unprecedented time to bolster your self- and family care.
- Significantly limit media exposure. Checking multiple times a day can keep our minds in an escalated state of anxiety, which is unhealthy for the brain. Decide upon your reliable source of information and refer to it one time per day. For example, CDC provides a Situation Summary daily.
- Maintain your overall sense of balance and well-being. It is important to be mindful of the positive and pleasurable aspects of daily life. What helps you most? Talking with a friend, taking a walk in nature, reading an inspiring book, meditating, watching an uplifting movie, organizing your home, painting a picture, watching a sunset, exercising, playing with your pets, completing yard work or household repairs, journaling your thoughts, preparing a meal? Whatever helps you most, do it and do it as much as you can.
- Take reasonable precautions as suggested by public health and government leaders. Get adequate sleep, eat well, hydrate with water often, maintain a sense of humor, get outside, think positive thoughts and be physically active. Build your spiritual strength through meditation or prayer.
- Do not isolate yourself. Social distancing does not mean social disengagement. It is brain healthy to continue to engage with others. Many people are feeling the same way, and talking to others will help to normalize your experience. Commune via email, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, the phone, and all positive forms of social media. If you are living with family or friends that are not symptomatic, it is safe to go outside keeping a safe distance from others while you take a walk or ride a bike. Think and talk about topics other than the virus (such as the arrival of Tom Brady!).
- Practice refocusing your mind on the present and what is positive in the moment, and what you have to be grateful for. Gratitude and worry cannot coexist in the same mind space.
We have good reasons to approach the virus with a positive, productive and logical mindset. We are currently hearing about potential treatments that already exist in our pharmaceutical armory. Congress, at this moment, is planning an economic relief package for families and small businesses. Remember that we are all in this together, we will work together to get through this, and this, too, shall pass.
We invite you to visit the Brain Health Initiative website regularly to view messages of support and evidence-based healthy actions you can take to support your brain health and well-being and bolster your self- and family care.
Take good care, your team at the Brain Health Initiative