In order to process information in the healthiest way, we will start with an oversimplified but hopefully memorable explanation of the Three parts of the brain:
Old brain/reptile brain:
- From infancy
- Tied to most basic needs
- Tied to somatic symptoms
- Primitive feelings of safety
Subconscious/Unconscious Mid-brain/chimp brain:
- Positive emotions-Loyalty, Attachment, Trust, Self Reliance
- Negative emotions-Frustration, Anger, Overwhelm
- Fight or Flight
Emotions of Grief and Loss: New brain/Human brain:
- Integrates other two into healthy new system
- Connection, empathy, self-confidence, mindfulness, intention, purpose
- Social engagement Autonomic nervous system:
- Tells us how we are
- Manages scary feelings
Enables us to choose how we connect to those with whom we are now in close quarters or directly impacting us in ways that are very new
Usually, we make small changes and corrections so that we are more adaptable and resilient
Fears of the corona virus and all of the abrupt changes brought on have broadsided our autonomic nervous system
Harder to manage scary feelings
We have far fewer choices in we connect with people in how we connect with people who challenge us
What does that mean?
Without even knowing it, we are probably in our new brain for solving new and novel challenges and processing experiences with creativity while our mid and old brain have been reactivated by perceived fear or things that happened a long time ago that signal danger..
We are still innovating, creating, solving problems on the fly, caring for others, doing our job in a whole new way, and staying calm for the most part.
This young part of our brain takes perspective, has empathy for others, appreciates all of the ways that we are okay. Enjoys increased opportunities with loved ones and take perspective in those relationships. Life is different right now and that is ok. We are safe. Meanwhile, back at the subconscious…
Old brain hoards or has panic over lack. May be mad at others who aren’t following the rules. May be worried about things like getting the coronavirus. These are feelings of shut down or shut off. Brain is probably feeling stuck off.
Mid brain feels big emotions about things it cannot solve. Mid brain researches for hours on the internet. Mid brain is frustrated by the rule breakers.
How do we get out of the lower parts of our brain into the healthy upper parts? Mindful awareness.
Recognizing the emotions, where they came from and what purpose they aim to serve
Become compassionate and curious about those feelings instead of dismissive or judgmental
What unmet needs do we have? Sometimes we cannot fix a need but by simply acknowledging it, we can make space in our brain for things that do have solutions today
What are some ways we can help our autonomic nervous system to get back on track?
It’s called mindful awareness and it is available to you right in the middle of this current crisis.
First, we can notice the feelings we are having. Notice where we are feeling them in our body. Think back to the first time we felt this way. Be kind and not judgmental or dismissive.
Comfort ourselves through words and feelings of kindness and assurance.
Recognize what is happening right now, not in the past or the future. What do you have control of or what is going okay right now? Lean into that.
Listen to soft music that does not stimulate the brain. Get a breath of fresh air. Smell some flowers or essential oils.
Any small amount of time you are able to devote to mindful practice throughout your day will bring large rewards as your brain onboards to this new stimuli.
Anxiety becomes motivation, creativity and increased connection to people we care about through social engagement.
Give it a try.