Will this poor man not find food again?!
One of the most popular pictures on Facebook portrays a frightened woman who jumps out a burning block of flats, bounces off a fire awning and flies into the window of a neighboring building which is also on fire. The inscriptions on both buildings say “2020” and “2021”. That’s exactly how so many people feel today. The pandemic hit business, many companies are at stake, many small firms are piling up debts. People lose the ground under their feet and when even the most resilient lose their jobs – everything goes down the drain.
How to keep a common sense and “face it with a grin” in turbulent times (even if you are flying into that smoky “2021” house) ?
Despite all odds, it is possible. Both scientists and psychologists say that your inner world can be taken under control, you only need to master certain techniques of self-help.
What happens when you experience stress? Simply put, the almond-shaped bodies in the brain (tonsils) are responsible for our inner “caveman”. The brain bursts with: beat it or run away! (and you’d better run, boy). At this time the body is also very “scared”. If our subconscious could speak, it would say something like: “God, he drinks coffee again, smokes and is stressed. Apparently, this poor man did not find food again!”, then with all its might “pushes” the owner back into a “warm cave”, where the fire is burning, the leg of a mammoth is grilling, and the entrance is closed with a stone from the inside.
These reactions were “encrypted” into our DNA thousands of years ago, when humans were vulnerable collectors and hunters. Our ancestors were constantly looking out for: predators, rivals, weather, etc. The stress is a direct signal of danger. Neither an expensive suit, nor a cool laptop, nor your certificate of a respectable clerk can convince the brain that there is no saber-toothed tiger hiding behind the nearest stone, and that you need to run away.
Train your brain like muscles
The human brain performs two main tasks: it reads safety signals (we focus on the negative to make sure it does not happen again) and – provides energy. The brain is looking for energy everywhere. If there is a candy next to it, the next second the candy is in your mouth. If the brain understands that there is a “vacant” relationship that makes a person feel good, it will maintain this relationship (because positive emotions are also energy).
Any changes are stressful, and our “cave brain” tries to avoid them. By the way, in many countries educational systems actively use the “space for safe mistakes” approach. Children are trained to make mistakes and, as time passes, they are not afraid of mistakes and respond kindly to the failures of others.
Professor Kelly McGonigal of Stanley University is convinced that it is possible to take control of stress, to translate its symptoms into those that support your brain. In her book “Willpower. The Way to Power Over Yourself,” she talks about exercises that help train the brain like muscles.
It is necessary to train your brain like muscles. When we feel that the heartbeat and breathing are accelerating, we should say to ourselves: “At this point, my body produces so much energy so that I can cope with the task.” In other words, adrenaline is released so that we can act, and if we have time to understand this, stress becomes our “friend”. The heart will beat, breathing will be faster, but the blood vessels will not narrow (and, accordingly, the risk of stroke and heart attack will disappear).
There is another amazing property of stress: we produce not only adrenaline and cortisone, but also the neurohormones oxytocin. It is a security hormone, an attachment that is produced to protect the heart and nervous system. Thanks to this we can ask for help.
Ukrainian psychologists also offer very “helpful” exercises. They warn that after reading post-apocalyptic predictions of a pandemic and economic downturn, it is very easy to fall into neurosis. Say to yourself “Stop!”, the exercise “twit-twit, I’m safe” will help. You need to imagine that you are in a shining realm, beyond which you push information about other people’s difficulties, fears and experiences. This exercise helps to restore your inner balance quickly, to feel your own “boundaries”. Imagining yourself “on base”, you need to inhale and (twice as slow) exhale. Any breathing exercise, where the exhale is longer than the inhale, “turns on” the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming and pushing the “brakes”.
Another good exercise: “stand confidently – feel confident.” To begin with, you need to sit comfortably. Comfortable posture speaks of a person’s confidence and sends a signal to the frontal cortex that everything is fine. (By the way, this is how you should sit for an interview while looking for a job). Employers “read” the awkward posture as self-doubt and begin to doubt the candidate.
You can also capture the power of stress by properly adjusting the work of the fore-wedge of the brain. This part of the brain is also called part of the “network of operative rest”. The “network” is turned on when we are not busy, washing dishes, walking, etc. If a person is focused on anxiety, then such “wandering thoughts” can cause depression or panic attacks. Attention training practices will help to take control of the “network”. You can, for example, set a timer on your smartphone and once an hour ask yourself: “What am I feeling at the moment?”, “What do I want?”, “What am I thinking?”. These three questions will help restore concentration.
For reassurance, you can also fold your palms across your chest and tap lightly once every second. The nervous system receives a signal: everything is fine, calm down. In a few minutes the heart rate will slow down.
Exercise “5 good news” should be performed every night. It is necessary to remember what positive happened during the day, how many wonderful people you talked to, what good you did or saw. If you finish this every day, you will get into the habit of fixing on the good.
Psychologists warn that in order to overcome one strong negative episode, a person needs to feel five positive ones. If you want to neutralize the negative experience of communicating with one person, you will need five people with whom you are comfortable.
Simple recipes to increase the level of happiness and satisfaction should not be neglected. Exercise, good music, a delicious dinner – all this improves mood and well-being.
What to do if the “house is on fire”
However, no matter how many times you say “twit-twit, I’m in the house”, if your company is closed (or one step away from it), whether you want it or not but you need to act.
To begin with, take a sheet of paper, a pen (or simply tape it) and make a plan. This will restore your sense of control over the situation. Write: drink whiskey (crossed out); call your friends, calmly (don’t scare your friends, you’ll still need them) and tell them you’re looking for a job. Then open your tik-tok, record a video (avoid songs like “It’s All About The Base”), dont forget to post it on Instagram or Facebook. Ask people to repost, believe me, this method works very well.
Before talking to the future employer, do not forget to take some relaxant (I’m serious: we are talking about pills, you’ll have a real shot of vodka afterwards), because you are still scared, uncertain and anxious. No worries, it will pass, you will laugh at your own fears as soon as you let them go.
What happens “after curtains drop”
Once a cool trainer from Lithuania during one of the trainings in Kyiv asked the participants to imagine: what will happen when they achieve what they want. She asked to describe this “picture” in detail (everyone had to attach a sticker with his or her vision of future achievements on the board). A few minutes earlier, they said that 2020 “wiped” the notion of an ideal from us. Today there are no ideal countries, no certain ideas or directions of development. Everything is uncertain and changeable. It is much better to think about what you want to see when your plan is ready. This exercise will definitely come in handy for you, friends. Take a pen (it gives a sense of stability), remember how to write letters by hand, and – simply do it. I’m excited to see the main act, so let the curtain drop now.