First Aid Resilience for the Corona Crisis
It is normal and natural to feel disturbed by disturbing circumstances. Right now, as we face the greatest threat to health in a century, the need for resilience is at an all-time high. One of the purposes of resilience training is to help us maintain wellbeing in unfavourable conditions. Over the coming weeks I’m going to share the scientifically-grounded practices I teach on resilience courses to keep you happy and healthy, to manage the anxiety generated by the pandemic and look after your wellbeing during lockdown. Now you can download a free First Aid Resilience workbook from my half-day Resilience First Aid course.
Keep calm: It is easy to be panicked by the alarming headlines and end up paralysed by fear like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights. The amygdalae (two tiny almond-shaped clusters in the brain) activate the fight or flight response while disabling the frontal lobes and our ability to think straight, problem solve and use our judgment. Using the breath can help you stay calm and keep your mental faculties working for you.
For First Aid Resilience Go to the Body
One of the easiest and most effective ways to keep calm is by using the breath. Breathing deep into the belly activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s relaxation response. Simply breathing out acts as a brake on the stress response and helps to calm the body and mind. Two breathing practices I teach are the four count breath and 4-7-8 breathing.
The Four Count Breath or ‘Box Breathing’ is a relaxation technique that aims to return panicky breathing to its normal rhythm. It helps to clear the mind, relax the body, and improve focus. It’s a well-known practice that is used by the military and emergency workers. Watch a clip here.
- Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
- Hold your breath gently while counting slowly to four. Try not to tense, clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for four seconds.
- Slowly exhale for four seconds.
- Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for four minutes, or until calm returns.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique is a breathing pattern adapted by Dr. Andrew Weil from on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama. It acts as a natural tranquiliser and helps with sleep. Find a comfortable place to relax. Rest your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your top front teeth and keep it there during the practice. The following steps should all be carried out in the cycle of one breath:
- Part your lips then exhale completely through your mouth making a whooshing sound.
- Close your lips inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
- Then hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Exhale from your mouth in a long whoosh for eight seconds.
Your first line of defence in a crisis is your coping style. There are three main forms of coping – emotion-focused coping, problem-focused coping or avoidant coping. It’s worth getting to know which style you tend towards as there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
Emotion-focused coping is when your attention is on dealing with the strong emotions and emotional distress caused by the crisis. Emotion-focused coping includes talking things through with a confidante or counsellor, the emotional release of crying and drawing on support from friends and family. This form of coping is more the norm in the case of loss, such as a bereavement and with circumstances that are outside of our control.
Problem-focused coping is where your attention is on the steps you can take to solve the crisis. It’s a more active form of coping, appropriate for crises in which you can exercise some control such as in the case of the survival of a business. By shouldering the responsibility and coming up with a plan of action, you have a roadmap to help you move forward. While it’s important to manage your emotions, eventually it will pay off to develop more of a problem-focused strategy.What often works well is to attend to overwhelming emotions first and then when you feel calmer and have a clearer head, you’ll be in a better position to make decisions and move forward.
The third coping style, avoidance-coping is, as the name suggests, about blocking the crisis out. Denying the crisis sounds like a negative but in the short-term it can be a positive, acting as a distraction that can help you settle and regroup before tackling the issue. Choosing a healthy distraction like connecting with friends online is better than something unhealthy such as drowning your sorrows. Over the long term though you are better off facing up to the issue rather than turning a blind eye and letting things slide from bad to worse.
Positivity Boosts the Immune System
A positive mental attitude has benefits for your physical health. Research shows that people who express more positivity have stronger immune systems. All the feel-good practices that lift you in normal circumstances are just as important now in the new normal. And if you can find humour in this situation that’s another form of positive coping that can boost your immunity. Having a laugh relieves stress and tension, increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies which improves your resistance to disease. So laughter really is the best medicine.
We may have lost our freedom for now but the greater purpose is to avoid the loss of life. Not everything is cancelled. This is a good time for reading, personal development, learn something new, connecting with friends and family virtually. A time for reflection in this crazy, busy world we live in. To understand what’s truly important to you. Use the time well.