Build Resilience In Challenging Times

How we cope or endure the dramatic changes in life requires practical approaches. Whether it is the contagion of pandemic and the collective anxiety it has generated or disaster displacement to personal setbacks or sorrows, we need to harness our inner strength to rebound. Considering that toxic emotions keep us away from the right priorities during distress, we need to build resilience.

This ability steers our creativity and clarity of thoughts to make smart, informed choices from mental fatigue, fear, or panic in times of tribulations.

No matter what has happened, the impact can begin all the way physiologically to our minds and become chronic. The term “Allostatic Load” refers to extreme harm to our overall wellbeing. It occurs when demand on our internal resources exceeds our capacity. Hence the fear puts excessive pressure on our capabilities and resources, resulting in poor decision-making and burnout.

So how do we get back stability and build mental resilience? Let’s start with a Buddhist parable of the second arrow.

The Buddha once asked a student: “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful? If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?” He then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”

Here are a few suggestions to restore physical and mental strength by building resilience:

  • First, calm your mind – Take notice of your thoughts, especially when they running away towards apocalyptic scenarios. Focus on one positive fact: “it is marvelous that I am safe at my home” versus the bad news. You can also use mindfulness apps such as Headspace or be mindful in support of your initiative to unhook the negative emotion.
  • Connect with your moral compass. Resilient people are guided by compassion, have a solid sense of fairness, and consider right and wrong.
  • Believe in something greater than yourself to give you courage and strength – for instance, “a life purpose or a mission.”
  • Engage in philanthropic activities.
  • Accept that you cannot change what has happened, but you can focus on what you can change.
  • Identify meaningful wisdom in the dire experience
  • Create a social support system with individuals who have a positive outlook in life and a nurturing spirit.

On a final note, a good diet and regular exercise to boost our good health should be part of our daily life.

Feature image by Kierstin Young 

Choose To Reflect and Not To Agonize – Positive Vibe Series

At times we should carefully analyze our thoughts. At times we should peel all the layers of our irrational behaviour. At times we should dig deep to gain insight into how we feel. At times we need the courage to examine the nasty bits of ourselves. At times we need encouragement to carry on. At times we need to find solace. At times we need to forgive ourselves for our imperfections. At times we need to reassess our ways of life. At times we need to break the self-imposed rules and replaced them with principles. At times we need to self-reflect. 

Art by Sara Shakeel

We explore other planets, learn about physics, philosophy, learn to speak other languages, yet, at times we are vague about our reactions, responses or mental process even tough we inhabit ourselves. At times, something hammers somewhere within us that makes us sad, irritated, confused, anxious or mean when difficult situation emerges. Well, there is an evolutionary explanation that is in large part intrinsic to our brain. Over Millenials, we have navigated and took action in the world through quick and instinctive decision-making rather than introspection.  However, in spite of this theory, we can learn to investigate different chambers of our minds to find clarity and be in control. 

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine

An informative description of calming our monkey mind is offered by the School of Life. The essay recommends focused and reflective questions known as philosophical meditations. There are three “What” questions to face. Keep in mind that “Why” questions can highlight our limitations and stir up negative emotions, while “what” questions help keep us curious and positive about the future (Eurich, 2017).

  • What am I presently anxious about? Life is full of uncertainties, alarming situations or minor issues and only by laying them out you can truly understand the source of the chaos in your mind and how you can diffuse them. The writing exercise helps with questions such as “what would happen if the lightning strikes?” First, you unpack the emotions and then weed out your anxieties by imaging that they can happen and in what way you can survive.  
  • What am I presently upset about? Strangely enough, we can get upset with anything. From eating sound to unkind behaviors, at times it feels like everyone is throwing stones at us. It does not matter if it is trivial or serious, the point is to write them down. Pour your heart out, be enraged, sad,… Then act as a friend to yourself. How would you advise your friend in times of fury? What are your suggestions? Amazingly, behaving like a friend, we become generous and kind to ourselves. 
  • What am I presently excited about? List things that made you excited. Choose two and describe your feeling by further questioning what would it be if you were to change your life to feel the excitement. What is missing? What you need to change? 

The philosophical meditation is rooted in self-love. The exercise clarifies your intentions and aligns them with your values and principles in life that allows you to be less vulnerable and composed. It might not erase all your agony but it can guide you to be calmer and less bitter. As Socrates summed up: “Know yourself.”

 

Featured image by Sara Shakeel

Can Meditation Change The Brain?

Throughout history, meditation has been practiced in one form or another to assert the primal instinct to connect with oneself and the universe. Perhaps it is the most effective channel to reach clarity and harness the power of thought. Interestingly, the practice has its variations from the sweat lodge ceremonies of Native Americans, reading the Bible, the whirling dervishessound rituals of aboriginals, and Islamic practices of prayers. Nevertheless, meditation trains the brain and enables us to shift our brainwaves from the working mind to deep sleep.

I briefly touched on the Alpha State of mind in my last post; now, I like to delve into moving from one state of mind to another through meditation. So I decided to learn about the process and write about my findings in a series of blog posts.

Let’s start with our brain frequencies:

  • Gamma State (30-100Hz) is when your brain is extremely active and retains information. In this state, you are an active learner, and the assimilated information is lasting. However, if it is excessively stimulated, it can lead to anxiety. A good example is when you attend a seminar or a workshop, and the coaches urge you to jump up and down or dance.
  • Beta State(13-30HZ) is associated with the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that orchestrates our thoughts and actions from personality expression, decision-making, or keeping our social behaviors under control.
  • Alpha State (9-13Hz) is when the thinking mind slows down becomes calm and peaceful. In this state, the brain’s communication pathways (neural integration) are open to activate the intelligible and reflective mind. The only way to know that you have reached this state is when you are entirely relaxed mentally and physically.
  • Theta State (4-8Hz) is when our brainwaves in its intuitive thinking. Meditation begins in this state, and we can move the thinking mind over to the visual mind. Your brain is extremely receptive to visualization.
  • Delta State (1-3 Hz) is when we are in deep and dreamless sleep. In this state, through transcendental meditation, we can reach the unconscious realm and connect with the collective unconscious or the universal mind.

When you train your brain to move from the active state to a calm state through mindful meditation, the brain undergoes positive changes. It heightens emotional intelligence and strengthens the resilience of your mind leading to good physical well-being. In a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia, “Is meditation associated with altered brain structure?”, they confirm that the brains of consistent meditators have thicker tissue in those regions responsible for body awareness, enhanced focus, stress management and attention control. (Referring to Anterior cingulate cortex – the area associated with controlling impulses and maintaining attention).

Screen Shot 2019-05-15 at 4.07.00 PM
ANTONIO MORA

Furthermore, the research outlines that mindful meditation’s regular practice activates some regions in the brain while other regions are deactivated. For instance, the brain region associated with many negative emotions such as anxiety or sadness gets smaller with practice.
Overall, integrating mindful meditation techniques into our lives will significantly reduce our unproductive emotions and boosts self-regulation.

Screen Shot 2019-05-15 at 4.08.19 PM
ANTONIO MORA

In the next post, I will introduce a few techniques on applying this alternative well-being approach into our daily lives to manage our emotions.

Featured image by ANTONIO MORA