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Hello everyone,

The coronavirus and its flock of exceptional measures is putting the population under stress, and understandably so.

The hygiene and contagion containment measures are well known by now, so we won’t come back on them.

But then, how can science help us battle the soon chronic stress this pandemic is causing in most of us, and what can we concretely do to adapt as effectively and serenely as possible?

NeuroLead is suggests here 3 ways to summon the faculties of your brain to adapt to Covid-19: Acceptance, Awareness of our CUNE, and the 4 C’s of Action.

Acceptance

The primary idea is that, to adapt to anything, one must first accept to confront the reality the way it is, whether one likes it or not.  It is neither powerless resignation nor blind approval, but it means accurately absorbing information and being as clear-headed and attentive in facing the reality in which we are placed..

We can choose to relinquish thoughts such as “It’s impossible! Why me? It should never have happened… Such and such is to blame…”. We also have the choice not to get locked up in thoughts like “I would never do that… these measures are made for the others… they are insane… they don’t realize… no way am I going to…”. We can decide to let go, to accept what is going on that we cannot control, and to focus instead on what we can solve and control.

Acceptance, as our English-speaking friends say, also means acknowledging that sometimes “Shit happens”. Let us then focus onLet’s clean up the shit…”, let us diligently apply the new safety, confinement and interaction measures that competent experts are asking us to follow. As for the rest, let us reflect deeper and do the best we can…

Awareness of our ‘Cune’

The second idea we would like to share with you is our CUNE

Let’s start by reminding ourselves that originally, stress is our best friend, as long as it is short-term. Stress serves to mobilize the resources of our body and mind in order to face a threat. The antilope that flees the lion’s attack…

It becomes harmful when it oversteps our resistance capacity because of its intensity –  that means traumatism – and above all, when it becomes chronic, meaning that it lasts in the long run, allowing no recovery, and prevents our physiology from going back to its normal state. Antilopes don’t run the whole day long…

Since stress has become the object of scientific study, it was found that there are only four things stressing human beings, biologically speaking, meaning four things that provoke a rush of the stress hormone – Cortisol – that can be measured in the blood. It is good to know it, because it gives us a target and prevents us from uselessly scattering ourselves. These four things are summarized by the acronym: cUNE

  • Control (lack thereof): it is the feeling of not having control or influence over the situation. Indeed, the spreading of the virus can seem uncontrollable.
  • Unpredictability: it is the perception that the situation we are in was unforeseen, taking us by surprise, or that the future situation is uncertain, putting us at risk. It is clear that with Covid-19 we experience a high amount of
  • Novelty: it is the understanding that what is happening to us is unprecedented, new, and comes to shake up our mental patterns, pull us out of our comfort zone. Covid-19 is definitely a novel situation that challenges our individual and collective adaptative abilities.
  • Ego: it is everything that questions who we are: our values, our beliefs, our personality , our job security, our social image, etc. By threatening our survival, our job, our values, our relationships, the coronavirus strikes our

A stressful situation can entail one or more of the elements of CUNE, and everyone is more sensitive to one or the other depending on their personality. But it is clear that Covid-19 engages all 4 to various degrees.

We can use this structure to identify the source of our stress, become aware of what is impacting us personally the most, understand and express what we feel, and thereafter target our actions.

Once you know what is hitting you the most, you can indeed react specifically. For instance, if what is causing you the most anxiety is unpredictability and that your “Plan A” is to talk about it with others, or on the contrary not talk about it at all and “pretend everything is fine”, but that it is not working to calm you down even a little bit, then maybe you can think about a more effective “plan B”, like talking to an expert, or getting information from reliable sources. The statistical curves of the situation in China or South Korea show for example that the measures can be effective in getting the contagion rate down and give an idea of the time when we can hope to see to see an improvement – at the time of writing this, there was only one newly declared case that was endogenous to China. This way, you can greatly reduce unpredictability, and your stress too.

In short, by choosing to reach your own CUNE diagnosis, you can become aware of and try to put “Plan B’s” into action for each of these elements.

The 5 C’s of Action

In order to put these “Plan B’s” and our best responses to use, the third idea is to leverage the “5 C’s”

The 5 C’s come from scientific research on concrete tools to help people stay resilient during catastrophic events (natural disasters, company restructuring, personal hardships) and to come back stronger than before. It mixes Growth Mindset, meaning the ability to learn from and evolve after the events (one can speak of “post traumatic growth” instead of “post-traumatic stress”) with “Hardiness” (the capacity to bear difficult circumstances).The studies show indeed that very few people remain unchanged after a catastrophe: either they nosedive, or they get stronger. Thus, we have a choice to make. On which side do you want to find yourself ?

Research shows that those who get out stronger of a traumatizing event put into practice 5 actions that all start with a “C” :

  1. Change : changing the way we perceive and interpret emotions. Our emotions are vital and useful. For starters, they inform us on the state of our needs, and suggest a primary behavioral response to best adapt to the situation in order to satisfy these needs. Fear, for example, prompts us to take actions to bring us to safety. Anger gives us the energy to ‘do something’. However, it is our emotions that should serve us, not the opposite… The point is not to deny our emotions, but to first hear what they have to say and then rephrase them in a constructive way in order to satisfy the needs that they highlight. For example:
    1. “I am anxious about the pandemic (for me, for my family …)” => my need is physical safety => do not say “I am calm”; it is false because cortisol is flooding your bloodstream, then use it to your advantage: rephrase by saying “I am vigilant”, “I am careful”, “I am helping my family reduce the risk”, “I am paying attention, “I am keeping watch”, etc. Observe how it gives you the feeling that you are acting rather than suffering and how your energy changes.
    2. “I am irritated by all the constraints it entails (in the supermarket, at home, at work, etc.)” => need to act => rephrase as “I am involved in managing the situation”, ”I have energy to be active and do what I can… », « I am getting busy to find a solution”.
    3. ”I feel powerless => need for assistance => “I need to / I will ask for help (to get groceries, to understand what is going on, etc.)

Our life is what our thoughts make it” said the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Remember that thoughts are built from words. Choose the words that help you, not the ones that get you down.

    1. Challenge: challenging the situation, seeing it in another light. The idea, again, is to be active rather than passive. It means reinterpreting the situation with an action in mind.
      1. Rather than “It is a big threat” => pick something along the lines of “It’s a great challenge. Notice the nuance, we suffer from a threat, whereas we take up a challenge.
      2. “It is unbearable to be in confinement » => “It is an opportunity to do the things I haven’t had the time to” (tidying up the house, writing an article, calling your friends…)
      1. Commit: in moments of great stress, we have a tendency to withdraw into ourselves, to leave the responsibility to “others”. Those who fare best do just the opposite. They get involved and engaged: “How can I be useful, how can I be in the game, how can I take part in the response, how can I be part of the group that cares for, where can I serve, how to keep myself updated…” Get involved in and commit to collective action.
      2. Control: stress is first and foremost powerlessness, the impression of not having the means to meet one’s goals or demands, the perception of not having the ability to face one’s responsibilities, the feeling of suffering, the permanent, all-encompassing mulling over, etc. Those who bounce back are those who replace rumination with action with a simple sentence: “in this situation, what is the smallest thing over which I have control or that I can do?”. And they focus their attention , their thoughts and their behavior exclusively on that. They move to action. No matter how big or small the action, it is important to get out of powerlessness by taking control over something: “I am sewing homemade masks” or “I am making my own hand sanitizer” (which shops are starting to do), “I am washing my hands regularly, teaching the kids how to do it, I am putting up single use paper towels and a closed trash bin, I am organizing things as best as I can”, I am exercising to boost my immunity”, I am keeping myself updated”, etc.
      1. Connect: last but not least, we are social creatures. Those who come back more positive do not push people away but connect with others… even in confinement – thanks to social media, meeting solutions and the internet. They do two simple things:
        1. When I need help, I ask for help
        2. I offer help to those who need it => bonding and volunteering actually strengthen immunity

And if you are in charge of other people, be it your family, or your team if you are a manager, don’t forget to organize the connection and interactions between each other.

We will all, sooner or later, easily or with difficulty, individually and collectively, adapt to this pandemic.

And we will learn a lot from it.

These lessons will change our lives.

It will depend on our choices.

NeuroLead is bringing this drop in the ocean to help you through it.

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