We, all over the globe, are now living a moment of uncertainty that requires almost all of us to reshape the way we think, feel and act. Our brains are physically changing, as we are quickly forcing ourselves to adapt into a new life, establishing different routines and habits. I don't think there is a scientific term to describe exactly what is happening to our brains right now, so I have created the term "global neuroplasticity".
What is neuroplasticity? It is our brain's capacity to change, to reorganize, to readapt, to adjust its activities to new situations and environments. The old way of behaving does not serve us anymore and without prior planning, we all had to start functioning in different ways and becoming more aware of certain behaviors, such as touching our faces, that didn't use to be associated with possible harm to our health.
As our brains create new neuropathways, it uses more energy. Many people have been feeling more tired lately. This may be one of the reasons, added to feelings of sadness and uncertainty which increase the level of stress in our system. It is normal to feel more tired when our brains are trying to learn or create something new to adapt into a new situation, mainly if these changes happen in a short period of time and they are linked to our survival. All of us, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of the level each of us has been affected by it, are forcing our brains to adapt to a situation that we have never imagined we would experience.
Let's think about some of the "simple" changes we have been making lately. Suddenly we had to pay closer attention to our surroundings, avoid touching objects, wash our hands many times a day for longer periods of time, stop touching our faces (which we normally do many times in an hour), disinfect surfaces more frequently, keep distance from others and wear a mask in public. All these behaviors require us to change old habits and be constantly vigilant. Besides these adjustments in our behaviors, we have been dealing with the challenges of changing completely our their daily routines, such as working from home, having to spend more time with family members, cook, do specific chores, and experience countless changes in our personal and professional lives.
As our brains have been reshaping during this time, we have a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves and grow with this experience. Here are my suggestions for you to make your brain healthier and guide your energy to increase your awareness and consciousness:
1- Write on a paper what you can and cannot control. If frees your mind to worry about things you cannot do anything about it. Just accept what you can't control. Not easy to do sometimes!
2- Use the approach L.O.V.E. to guide your day, so you don't lose focus on your purpose. Here is a reminder for you how it works:
My life purpose(s) is/are...
L= Leadership (Lead your thinking) = Very important now! Don't let others and bad news lead your thoughts right now. Remember you are the only one responsible for choosing what to focus on and how to lead your life. Choose carefully what you want to think about. Define one specific goal to achieve each day, even if it is a very simple one, like calling someone.
O= Optimism (Lead your emotions and be positive) = Deal with fear, sadness or whatever emotion without denying it, but always believe you will be able to handle it. Being optimistic is not ignoring that negative emotions exist, it is to believe that it will get better. You can do it! We all can!
V= Vitality (Act) = Start by taking care of your health (physical and mental) + sleep well, drink enough water, eat healthy, meditate, plan your day strategically. Don't let the unknown destroy what you can create and produce, but don't demand a lot from yourself either. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Innovate! Be present living the now! If you feel overwhelmed, allow yourself to rest, take a long shower or do whatever you need to rebalance your energy. This time can become a traumatic experience if you ignore your emotional needs.
E= Education (Learn and teach) = What can I learn from this situation? What can I teach others? Be open and humble to teach and learn. Learn something simple from someone who believes he or she doesn't have anything to offer. We all have a lot to offer to each other. Offer to teach things you know and like. Use social media to share your talents. Don't be shy! Just be you!
EVOLve = Think how you can become a better human as result of this experience.
3- Use the awareness of your hands movements as a meditative tool. By focusing on your hands, you will be creating a strategy to be more present in the moment. Ask yourself, "What are my hands creating now?"... "What do I want to create with my hands?"
4- Don't feel embarrassed to celebrate the good things, despite all the bad things that have been happening. Life has always been made of good and bad experiences. Embrace happiness, joy, peace and gratitude.
5- Help others in any possible way you can! Make a list of ways you can give. Giving will also help you grow.
I hope you will consciously help to reshape your brain with LOVE to EVOLve.
Take good care and be safe!
With L.O.V.E. & gratitude
Jacqueline Fonseca de Abreu, MSEd.