by Nathalie Edmond, PsyD, E-RYT
What does it mean to move from surviving to thriving? I ask myself a variation of this question regularly. How do I even know when I am just surviving. I think about surviving as living from a fear or shame-based place. My stress response is firing and saying we have to do certain things to just get our basic needs met. There is some sort of external threat that we have to navigate. Living through a pandemic will automatically trigger our desire to survive, by any means necessary. I have found that crises, like pandemics, tend to exaggerate patterns, behaviors, feelings that are already there. If we tend to be pretty laid back, like myself, that may be exaggerated and I may not take pandemic precautions as seriously. If I tend to be more anxious and not like uncertainty I may be more anxious now and may find other ways to try and control my environment in order to calm my nervous system.
A little bit of fear is good. The fear propels us into action. Perhaps that gets us to stay at home, wear a mask in public places, take extra precautions to take care of ourselves, our families and our community. Too much fear moves us into scarcity mindset and parts of our brain go to sleep and are not available to us. Our frontal lobes tend to go to sleep when we operate in extremes of emotion (too much or too little) Our frontal lobes are responsible for long term planning, compassion, awareness, impulse control, maintaining dual awareness and soothing our fearful parts.
I have been doing some personal exploration in recent months in order to see where I let fear take over my life, particularly in my work life. David Bayer, a business coach, talks about how we can shift to a more powerful state of being and living where are limiting beliefs don’t drive our decision making. Limiting beliefs are stories we tell ourselves that get in the way of us reaching our potential or imagining what we think is possible in our lives. Here are some examples of limiting beliefs:
Joseph Sanok, another business coach, suggests living from a place of experimenting rather than pass/fail. That means we allow ourselves to see life as an experiment and not be so attached to the outcome. Through my meditation practice I have learned that my attachment to the outcome is usually what causes me to suffer. If I focus on actions I am taking and am trusting of the universe I can shift into an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset. My scarcity mindset says it won’t work out if I don’t hold on to old ways of being. If we experiment, we may try a new behavior such as taking a certain risk and see how it goes. We take the information we get from the experiment and decide if we want to continue with it or if we want to make an adjustment.
An example I have from a couple of years ago where I tried this experiment- I wanted to reduce the number of evenings I worked so I could spend more time with my family. I changed my outgoing voicemail to reflect that I was only taking new clients in the daytime. I was worried that placing that kind of limit on my work schedule would lead to me not getting new clients and hence make less money. I decided to challenge myself and try it out for a couple of months and ride the wave of anxiety and limiting thoughts. I was able to fill my daytime hours and phase out most of my evenings. Last summer I took the risk of expanding from my solo practice to a group practice. I had so much fear I started chanting every day to help redirect my energy and thoughts so I can approach the fear rather than running from it or playing it too safe.
There are many ways to break free from our limiting beliefs and help our frontal lobes be online more of the day- therapy, yoga, meditation are just some of the paths we can help you with. If you want help identifying and working through your limiting beliefs or navigating your emotions related to COVID-19 our team at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling is here to help. Call us or read more about us here.