Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Choosing the Right Mindset for This Stressful Time

With all of the uncertainty and fear around the coronavirus pandemic, how are you coping? Are you reacting with fear or responding with a plan?


Note: to listen to the, "Mind Over Stress" podcast covering how to choose the right mindset to get you through this challenging time, click the embedded podcast player below. The full blogpost follows.



As I write this post, the world is dealing with a massive coronavirus pandemic affecting directly more than a million people across the globe. Millions more are on various types of stay at home requirements.


There is a nonstop drumbeat of government and media messaging pointing to dire human and economic consequences. In the U.S., three years of stock market gains were wiped out in a matter of weeks. Schools are closed, toilet paper, milk, and an array other items have been stripped from store shelves. 

People are being laid off and many who continue to work are doing so from their homes. In the U.S., the federal government passed a $2.2 trillion relief package to help soften the economic blow.  There is talk that yet another round of relief money will be needed. It is a challenging time for all of us.

The Big Question: What Does This Mean for Me?


As with any major event, our brains are wired to ask, consciously or unconsciously, “What does this mean for me?”

Initially, we may react with a strong fear response because of confusion and uncertainty. 

After the initial shock, it's easy to enter into disempowered thinking patterns marked by thoughts such as, 

“ This can’t be happening. This is so unfair. Whose fault is this? How could ’they’ allow this to happen? I’m going to starve! I’m going to die. We’re all going to die!" ... and so forth. 

You have undoubtedly seen posts on social media founded on fear and blame.  

Let's Look at the Bigger COVID-19 Picture


I encourage you to look at the bigger picture of the coronavirus situation. This doesn’t mean ignoring or minimizing the impact, but it does mean looking beyond the headlines and social media noise.

As I write this post, the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center reports there are nearly 1.5 million reported cases world wide. Of those cases, there are nearly 82,000 deaths. 

In one positive glimmer of good news, nearly 275,000 people have recovered. 

The vast majority of those who died had underlying health problems before contracting COVID-19. Some health experts suggest there is larger number of people never tested who had the virus and recovered, making the recovery rate even higher.

It’s vital we continue taking needed precautions such as social distancing and other measures recommended by health officials. That’s simply common sense.

Why a Fear and Blame Mindset Makes a Difficult Situation Far Worse


This does not mean we need to be frozen in place or or stay stuck in a fear and blame reaction mindset. If we do that we loose the ability to make the best decisions we can make given the situation we face. 

Why? 

Because when the brain perceives danger, physiological changes happen to include redirection of blood away from those parts of the brain where conscious thinking and reasoning occur. In addition, our immune and healing systems can be weakened. These are the very systems we need to help us prevent or fight the COVID-19 virus.

How to Create a Response Mindset Rather than a Reaction Mindset


If you find yourself in a constant flow of disempowering fear and blame thinking, I encourage you to recognize what is happening. Stop, allow yourself to take a walk, engage in calm deep breathing, and decide to ask yourself a few empowering questions to create a response mindset rather than a stress reaction mindset. 

Say to yourself, 

"I recognize there are circumstances I can control, circumstances I may be able to influence, and circumstances beyond my control”

Early on, focus entirely on those circumstances you can control. Once you’ve made all the decisions and taken all the actions you can take in this first category, you can then consider those circumstances you may be able to influence. Give no thought or effort to circumstances beyond your control.

This in effect means you’re creating an action plan rather than reacting from a mindset of fear and blame.

Examples of a Response Mindset


As examples, in relation to the “circumstances I can control” category, you can take action to ensure you have an adequate supply of food and other essentials. Make a list of what’s on hand and then determine what’s needed. This does not, by the way, mean you should buy enough toilet paper for the next three years. Remember to include pet needs if that applies.

The next item on your action plan might be having calm, supportive conversations with your children and perhaps others in your extended family. With children, reassure them we are going to get through this situation. 

Listen to any fears they express in a supportive way, and again reassure them we will get through the situation. 

Talk to your children about how they're doing with school work and how they will continue to learn as we get through this challenging period. 

Remind them about the importance frequent hand washing and of social distancing when they’re outside.

Item 3 of your plan may be to make arrangements to create or improve an appropriate work at home environment if that applies. If you’ve been laid off, your next step may be to apply for unemployment or otherwise make necessary financial decisions to help you through the coming weeks.

I suggest you create a written plan and adjust the plan as circumstances change. 

Summary of Stress Reduction Suggestions

  • Choose a response mindset rather than a reaction mindset;
  • Keep stress as low as possible to ensure you’re at your best in brain, mind, and body;
  • Recognize what you can control and what is out of your control;
  • Focus on decisions and actions within your control;
  • Create a written plan - even if that is only done in short bullet point fashion - and adjust your plan, decisions, and actions as circumstances evolve.

In summary, I encourage you to choose a response mindset rather than a reaction mindset. 

It’s vital to keep stress as low as possible to ensure you’re at your best in brain, mind, and body. 

Recognize what you can control and what is out of your control. Focus on decisions and actions within your control with a written plan you adjust as circumstances change.


Stephen Carter

CEO Stress Solutions, LLC | www.EFT-MD.com | Podcast: www.MindOverStress.us