Have you ever noticed that hyper-awareness can be a force for good or evil?
I think I’m becoming a hypochondriac. All this virus-talk has me aware of every ache and pain. Things that would have totally gone unnoticed before, are now front-and-center.
Yesterday I think I had a hot flash, which my brain immediately registered as a possible fever, which triggered my amygdala to send out a red-alert in the form of stress hormones, which in turn caused nausea and dizziness. Within seconds, I was convinced I was dying and told my husband not to tell my mom because “she has enough to think about without worrying about me.” It’s going to be a long isolation.
He took my temp and I’m totally fine. My brain settled down, the cortisol dissipated, and all the “symptoms” immediately melted away. When they say “it’s all in your mind,” they’re sometimes right (and these days sometimes wrong, which is troublesome, to put it mildly.)
But that’s how powerful we are. We can be rockin’ our world, doing great work, bringing our best self, and BLAMMO! You focus on the wrong thing and it all goes to hell-in-a-hand-basket (I was raised by a Kentuckian. I inherited some real gems when it comes to sayings!)!
So, given the current circumstances, what are we to do? Are we just victims of our amygdala; our brains set on high-alert for the next however-many-months?
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty awful way to while away the hours at home, with the people you love but can no longer escape, in your house that looks like a bomb went off, as you figure out how to make dinner out of your 6th can of beans for the week. Not pretty at all.
Thankfully I know Melissa. My friend Melissa is a self-prescribed “neuroscience geek” who has written a book called “Happier Hour with Einstein” (a follow-up to her first book, “Happy Hour with Einstein,” you see what she did there?) and she reminds me that “One way to prevent an amygdala hijack (which was what happened to me) is to incorporate the practice of mindfulness. MRI scans show that after regular mindfulness practice, the amygdala appears to shrink and the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that runs how we think, how we express ourselves, how we decide and how we behave) becomes thicker and stronger. The neural connectivity in the brain also changes. The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the networks associated with attention and concentration get stronger.” Sign me up for that!
This, my friends, is where we find our power.
Whether you start a sitting meditation, a walking a meditation, a breathing practice (which, given that this is a virus that affects the respiratory system, makes a lot of sense), yoga, or something else, now is the time to get our minds working for us, not against us.
We’re in this for the long-haul. Together. We can make choices that allow us to become better. To hone our brave when it is most fleeting. Choose the better you.
©A Thoughtful Company, LLC
KIMBERLY, I am grateful for your inspiring article. My Daddy would have called it a way of Being
I love that, Larry. “Way of Being.” Powerful stuff!
In crisis situations like the one we are experiencing, each of us, every single person, must be aware of having the capacità of remove or, at least, reducing the feeling of fear and panic in others and in themselves. The words we say to ourselves and to others can have a very strong emotional impact, so we must find the right energies to not fuel worries and anxiety, favoring instead an attitude of trust and reassurance.
Absolutely, Aldo. That awareness is critical! Thank you for joining the conversation!
Love, love, love this piece, Kimberly! ”To hell in a handbasket” is also a phrase I grew up with – and I grew up in Northern NY.
I couldn’t agree more with all that you share here. Our minds can be our own worst enemy. So, yes, thank goodness for Melissa and her neuro nuggets. They’ve helped me quite a bit!
As someone who finds respite in nature, it has been my saving grace during this pandemic. Even a half-hour walk seems to calm me down and helps me gain some clarity. This pandemic is teaching me to recognize my feelings more and, as a result, I’m better able to channel where to put my energy. I’m also trying to be present – focus on today. And I’ve had to bitch slap worry a few times.
Thanks for sharing this piece, Kimberly. It is what I needed this Sunday morning. I wish you well!
Hell-in-a-hand-basket made it up to northern NY?! Who would have guessed?! I love it, Laura! Nature has been my salve these past few months, friend, so I hear you!
Great story, Kimberly. It’s amazing…and a bit frightening…how our brains can either uplift, or sabotage, our thoughts. I’ve never been able to meditate, but I’m guessing now’s a good time to give it another go. Thanks for sharing this.
Isn’t it though?! It reminds me of how powerful we really are, Sherry!
Yes, I’m not alone!: “We can be rockin’ our world, doing great work, bringing our best self, and BLAMMO! You focus on the wrong thing and it all goes to hell-in-a-hand-basket.” (My mom used to use that expression.) The question for me is always “How quickly can I get back to center?” I have to, need to, want to give myself permission to settle down and in a few times a day, as Sarah pointed out.
Thank you, friend.
Your mom too, Jeff?! Love it! Yes, getting back to center is always the challenge… One situation at a time (because, for me, it’s way more often than one day at a time!). Thank you!
Thé power of the mind and where you can wave the wand Kimberly! More power than we realize. There are so many ways to meditate and optimize on mindfulness too! How can we be board with so much activity in our heads. One of my favorite quotes from my childhood favorite movie, “ Alice in Wonderland”….. “ It’s all in your head Alice” ! Took me years to figure this out… Goes to show the cartoons were there for adults too! Thanks for this great reminder my dear? Have a great weekend! Paula
I love, “It’s all in your head, Alice!” – I already talk to myself incessantly, Paula, but I need to add that to my repertoire!
I use it a lot…lol
Terrific article, Kimberly! Take heart you are not the only one gets nervous whenever they feel any ache or pain. I have been checking my temperature umpteen times a day. Any little uptick convinces me that I have the virus. I hope you are safe and well.
Thank you, Joel!! It is so nice to know I’m not the only one!
Interesting observation, Kimberly. Let’s hope we all get greater self-awareness and we ALL find out things we never knew about ourselves.
Indeed, John! Thank you!
Great reminder here, Kimberly, thank you! My recent amygdala hijack was when I woke up very early this morning after a bad dream. My heart was pounding and all my senses were hypersensitive, hearing noises, sensing movement, generally freaking out.
Luckily, the answer for me was to listen mindfully to the sounds of comfort nearby: My husband’s gentle snore, the dog’s sleeping noises, my own breathing. Once I was able to concentrate on those sounds, I was able to calm my other senses and my heart rate.
I have noticed that as I’ve taken about 3-5 minutes to practice mindfulness a few times each day, I’m getting better at it- my calm comes faster and with more clarity, and my mind doesn’t seem to jump into overdrive as often.
I’ve been dreaming a lot more lately, Sarah, and some of mine have taken awhile to recover from. I love your mindfulness shifts and will try them! Thinking of you so much today!!!!!! Love you!
Oh, Kimberly, Thank you for your honesty because just the other day Paul mentioned that in some cases pre-symptoms include losing sense of smell and taste and I immediately felt that I couldn’t smell anything and my mouth went dry. Hard to taste. Hijack. I focused on my deep breathing and brought myself back to center. Totally can taste and smell. All is well.
Meditation practice continues to be a life-changer, life-saver, a life-transformer for me. I’ve been engaged daily since 2014 alongside mindfulness and living in gratitude most moments. I’m finding all these practices invaluable during this time. I would add that I returned to a News Fast (I have people who can tell me verbally key points that directly impact my behaviors-all else I realize I cannot control or impact) Keeping myself vibrantly healthy in mind, body, heart, and soul is enough, taking small love inspired actions each day for Cherish Your World/Live Inspired is enough. Holding much self-compassion and compassion for other people.
I appreciate you so much, Kimberly. Yes “honing the brave.” Yes, indeed!! Hugs to you!!
I keep working on meditation, Laura. I have to tell you, I’m much more successful with my walking meditations than my seated ones – which can be tough for me at times – but they’re helping for sure! I too have tried to stay away from the news and it makes a big difference! Hugs to you!
I so love the way you make a point that simmers in my head long after I’ve read your piece, Kimberly! Thank you for this beautiful and valuable reminder!
I love how I think of you pretty much every time I sit down and write a piece. That’s how incredibly important your work is, Melissa!