Stressful times call for not-so-stressful measures.
Elections, Coronavirus, extreme weather — these are wild times we live in. No amount of yoga or meditation changes the fact that we are living in an eventful era. (Although maybe every generation feels this way?)
Or perhaps there is an amount of yoga and meditation that can help us process everything going on out there. That can help us prevent negative stimuli from turning into stress, that then wreaks havoc on our nervous system.
Regardless of where you stand on current events, there’s something that’s true for all of us: We live in a loud world.
We all know the inundation of news and notifications well — but do we understand the effects that media has on our subconscious? Which then translate to our health?
We are not here to offer any kind of professional advice on Coronavirus and how to avoid it. But we can explore the larger topic of media and its content, and how we allow news headlines to penetrate our wellbeing (or not).
This blog will offer some perspective and practices that can inspire you to stay grounded, even when the world feels like a very scary place.
To Start: A Look at the Media
Recent events have illuminated the noise of the media in all directions. It doesn’t really matter where you stand. Turning on the news is not a pleasant experience, as we experience intense opinions on both sides of all issues.
Many of us have resorted to simply not watching the news, or avoiding the headlines. And a lot of that has to do with the plain negative nature of the headlines. But that doesn’t mean we don’t accidentally glimpse them from time to time. And it doesn’t mean that the effects of negative news don’t ripple out into our bubble.
There are a few important facts when it comes to the media. It has been proven over and over that negative news gets more coverage than positive news.
Why is that? There’s a chain of reasoning here. One popular study discovered that positive headlines perform 29% percent worse than negative headlines. And the rate at which people click on negative headlines is 63% higher than the rate they click on positive headlines.
Collectively, we’re driven toward negative content. The news knows it, and the news uses that. It’s nothing new, we know this by now— but we’re still affected. And this dynamic seriously skews our perception of reality.
For example, when asked to rank common causes of death — people rank tornadoes higher than asthma. The reality is that tornadoes kill about 50 Americans a year; asthma kills upward of 4,000.
The content in the media, which we absorb either deliberately or subconsciously, infects our thought content. Often times without our realizing.
Even if you don’t watch the news, the news tends to find you — through other people, through emails, through accidental notifications on your phone.
It’s important to realize that we have a subconscious, and that subconscious is typically laden with all kinds of dormant (or not so dormant) fears. Just overhearing news can trigger those fears, and those active fears can then activate stress or alter our perception of reality. Even if just for a moment.
If we live modern lives, then we can’t escape the volume of bad news. What we can do, however, is take accountability for the way it might subconsciously or consciously affect us. To recognize that the news (and public opinion) may have colored our mentality a bit is not a weakness nor failure; it’s the first step in reclaiming our power and mental wellbeing.
When we take accountability for what may have been going on under the surface of our awareness, we have the opportunity to embrace our true autonomy. We can then create a healthier, more authentic perspective.
Mindfulness on Coronavirus
Again, not here to assess the genuine risk of the virus. You can find the professional/official perspective on that here. The perspective here is that risk or not – experiencing stress will not help whatsoever. If anything, the stress makes the Coronavirus pandemic worse as it compromises your immunity and therefore vulnerability to the virus.
We can all decide for ourselves the precautions that we want to take, assuming this virus locates to where we are. Just like we can decide our perspective on the matter.
On the practical level, it’s important to stay informed of the facts — to the best of your ability. And beware of only reading headlines, without educating yourself on facts. If you only see headlines, you’re populating your brain with something like the following:
“Live updates: U.S. braces for more disruption as coronavirus jolts business”
“Seattle feels like ‘ghost town,’ business owners say as they face life in coronavirus hot spot”
“Coronavirus Latest Updates March 4, 2020: Death Rate 3.4%”
“Coronavirus live updates: Death rate soars as WHO warns of ‘dangerous’ shortage of face masks, gloves”
It’s challenging to read these headlines and stay positive — but this is the challenge we must take on. For the sake of optimal health.
Attention is Everything
Whatever you put your attention on, grows. Have you noticed? The moment that you finally put your attention on that creative project, your relationship, your meditation — it grows.
It works the same way with negative facets of your life. If you put your attention on your stress, it grows. If you put your attention on drama, expect more drama. If you put your attention on the world coming to an end, expect to receive more proof of that happening.
If you need to be reminded of the harm that stress does in detail, you can check out this post. But long story short — stress puts your nervous system in a vulnerable state. When stress hormones take over, your body prioritizes your survival functions. Your body prioritizes your ability to sprint away from danger, versus warding off viruses.
For various reasons, our brains have been trained to uphold the negative. It’s the reason why negative news sells, why our negative thoughts about ourselves and others reign, and perhaps why the world is in such a state.
But the emphasis here is that the brain is trained — how? Through attention. Over the decades, by numerous entities, our brains have been trained to pay attention to the negative. If this weren’t true, then the negative news statistics simply would not be what they are.
Ultimately this is good news. If we trained the brain to worship the negative, we can retrain it to worship the positive. Easy? No. But absolutely possible.
And it’s simple by nature. It comes down to attention, every time. What are you absorbing your attention into?
Now is the Time: Move Beyond Stress
Again, how big of a threat is Coronavirus? We aren’t the officials to make that statement.
Regardless: Under no circumstance does stress, fear, and panic help the outcome.
If you want to stay healthy, we need to figure out how to stay calm. And this is related to the Coronavirus and beyond. Because, there’s always something. Right? If it’s not Coronavirus then it’s nuclear warfare or economic depression or global warming.
All of these things are legitimate. And if we let our mind go there, then they’re quite terrifying. But how is the fear helping us? What is the fear doing for you?
If you find fear and terror motivating, then that could be considered an advantage. But it’s also possible to source the same ambition from a calm nervous system. And when the body is in balance, we’re always more effective agents in society.
The challenge is to establish a sense of balance, calm, and peace — regardless of the headlines. This involves taking the mechanism of our attention off the negative, and onto something else of our choosing.
Much easier said than done. Retraining the brain is a practice, and it takes devotion and discipline. It takes the willpower to overcome negative habits of all varieties, to create a new perspective.
This new perspective may not change the headlines. Maybe we’ll still get Coronavirus — who knows. But within this perspective we can be empowered, and joyful, as we choose where to place our attention.
This does not mean complacency. Quite the opposite.
When we reclaim our attention from news outlets and the addictions of our minds, we move out of victim-mode and into deep strength. From this strength we almost always find the inspiration to make positive change in the world at large.
How to Stay Calm
There are so many ways to begin (or continue) this practice of retraining the brain. Of moving beyond stress. This might indeed look like meditation and yoga. These are systems which are naturally designed to move you beyond stress, and into the part of you that is unconditionally peaceful.
You may also find your calm in exploring nature, in talk therapy, communing with positive-minded friends, spending time loving your family, creating art, reading books, activism.
The how you are doing it is less important — the what is the most important part. It’s important that whatever you are doing helps you shift your attention off of negative thought and into positive or neutral thinking and being.
If you’re feeling stressed about everything going on off your front doorstep, we cannot think of a better time to start asking yourself the big questions:
* What makes me feel calm?
* Where do I find peace?
* What are the positives in my life that I can practice shifting my attention to?
* What positive outlets have I always been curious about, that I can start exploring now?
* What helps me move beyond stress?
* Who can help me move beyond stress?
Staying Calm: How Yoga and Meditation Help
Obviously, we’re biased. But we’ve found serious power in yoga and meditation as practices to help us move beyond stress.
Both yoga and meditation are practices which, through various techniques, allow you to move beyond the repetitive thought patterns in your mind. The ones that you feel there is no escape from — yoga and meditation will show you the exit door. And over time, you’ll start walking through that door into a space that is absolutely peaceful. Regardless of headlines, personal circumstances, habits, etc.
These are systems which are designed to help us cope with modern events, by leading us to the part inside of each of us that is naturally and unconditionally calm.
There are many different styles of yoga and meditation that you can try. It really comes down to what you’re naturally curious about, and then pursuing that direction with an open mind, knowing that it may take a little time to find your practice.
In the Meantime: Tips to Calm Down
While you find your practice, as you begin this journey, we can remind you of a few tips to help avoid Coronavirus panic, and the like. Whenever you find yourself exposed to news headlines, negative people or opinions, fear, terror, stress, all that jazz:
1. Create space to pause. If you’re alone, anywhere, close your eyes. If you’re around people, try to find a bit of privacy behind a closed door or perhaps in your car or on a park bench.
2. Begin to breathe deeply, and absorb your attention fully into the breath. Get as curious as you can about the breath — the way it feels, sounds, moves. The only thing that exists is your breath, and continue feeling into that breath. As intense fear and stress sensations course through your body, stay with the breath. Know that you can do this — you can get to the other side of any sensation, through breath.
3. At the same time or after you focus on the breath, begin to cultivate total body awareness. Become aware of your body as one, complete whole. You can scan your body from head to toe. Absorb your attention fully into the feelings of your body — pleasant and unpleasant. Allow yourself to feel everything, and if that feels scary, lean on your breath.
Remember that you’re not the only one feeling the intense negativity and events around the world. We’re all touched by this harshness. There are so many people who want to connect about these hard times, the fear and vulnerability — don’t be afraid to have or start those conversations.
And there are so many people who want to help! Remember that you’re not alone in craving support. In wishing someone could shine a bright light into the darkness. Begin looking around you for help, and asking questions about where you might find it.
In the meantime, how can we help? Feel free to comment on this post to get that conversation going. We’re always happy to point you in the direction of practices and activities to help you move beyond stress.
Just say the word.
Stay calm, stay healthy. Keep your attention on the positive.