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By now, most of us have heard lots of information about how to stay physically safe … social distancing, washing hands, etc. But, what are you doing to create internal safety and balance for yourself and others around you?

It’s valuable to remember that when a person is fearful, really anxious or under high stress, that person is not thinking as clearly as usual. We call it a FAS state for fearful, anxious and stressed.

It happens because our brain wants to take care of us and is programmed to keep us safe. When we are in a FAS state, the brain takes immediate action and prepares the person for either: fight, freeze or flight.

If you’re not familiar, this is called an “amygdala hijack.” The amygdala takes control of the brain, releases cortisol and adrenaline, which prepares the body for conflict, even when danger   is not really present at that moment. At the same time, the frontal cortex of the brain, which accesses rational thinking, is shut down. This action can easily shift a rational human being into having aggressive, volatile and even hostile actions and thoughts.

Wow, so what is available for us? First of all—AWARENESS. Being educated and knowing that this brain shift can happen any time that a FAS state is present. Simply being aware that an internal shift is occurring when one begins to feel agitated, upset or angry, is a great start. Once you know this is going on, you can begin to shift the focus from the amygdala to the rational, creative, frontal cortex.

Franco Marini

Here’s how we do that:  

(1) Begin by breathing very slowly in and out through your nose. (When you are in a FAS state your breathing is usually shallow and more rapid signaling the brain that there is danger). This calm and gentle breathing pattern tells the brain that you are calm, and everything is all right. The brain will slow down and eventually eliminate releasing extra cortisol and adrenaline.

(2) Take control of your thoughts, slow down, realize there is no immediate danger, and this will begin to activate your rational frontal cortex.

(3) Physically stretch and move your body around. This will aid in blood circulation and oxygen flow and will bring on a calmer state of being.

(4) Introduce positive self-talk such as, “I am capable. I know how to get through this. I am able to take care of myself. Everything will work out.”

(5) Realize where you are putting your focus and attention; wherever that is, that’s where your energy goes. When I think about the pain and suffering that’s going on in the world, I feel it more intensely, my thoughts go there, and I feel sad and anxious; when I focus on family and friends, my love for them seems a bit deeper than usual; when I see children playing, I feel optimistic and I smile inside; when I speak to a good friend, I understand possibilities more; if I am playing a game of cards with my wife and having a glass of wine, my view of life is quite child-like and I smile and relax a lot.

Now, what can you do for others around you who are going off the deep end? Mostly, be patient and understanding. Realize that they are not being their normal self, and in these moments; they have little or no rational thinking available. So, be with them, support them with what you can provide, be caring and nurturing and when they are back to normal, share with them what they can do during these heightened emotional moments.

We may not be in control of what is going on in the world. We are in control of where to put our energies and what we choose to focus on. Create BALANCE for yourself!

Here’s some additional information from Brain Health Coach Lisa Marini. In under 10 minutes, she explains a little more about your brain function and takes you through a coherence technique that helps you stay in balance.

Franco Marini is an adjunct professor at the Daniels College of Business, working closely with Executive Education and the Executive and Professional MBA programs. He is the founder and president of the NeuroTransology Institute dedicated in supporting healthy and effective change in people and organizations. Additionally, he created and operates Global Journeys Inc., a travel-based company providing personal and professional growth through specialized travel offerings throughout the world.

Please visit DU’s COVID-19 website and subscribe to @uofdenver Twitter for updates regarding COVID-19.

Please visit DU’s COVID-19 website and subscribe to @uofdenver Twitter for updates regarding COVID-19.