Build Mental Fortitude
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Times like these can easily produce anxiety, fear, frustration, etc. - a full menu of unwelcome emotions. Nevertheless, these times can also be opportunities to build mental fortitude. Basically, this means that instead of being overrun with bad feelings, we can CHOOSE to see the Covid-19, and the global shut-down, as a kind of heavy lifting, brain exercise.
Just as weight training at the gym makes us stronger physically, working hard to steer your mind toward positive things is a healthy way to exercise your brain. Our brains are Neuroplastic, which means they become better at what they practice. If you are practicing being fearful, and being overrun by anxiety, you are building cognitive pathways to reinforce this habit.
Consider the possibility that you may be a "pro-worrier". There is actual danger associated with this level of "expertise." Pro-worriers will typically suffer from lack of sleep, poor digestion, poor immunity, headaches, lack of strength and muscle tone, and inability to lose weight. Here are some signs you may be a "pro":
1. You don't have to TRY. For you, worrying is natural - it's automatic, even if things are going pretty well.
2. You can't remember when you last had a positive outlook. Real "pros" may need to work hard to think of anything positive, or they may not be able to identify anything at all.
3. The cup is always half full, and probably getting emptier. Any opportunity, concept, idea, vacation, adventure is observed through a pessimistic lens.
4. If you think about it, you're generally worrying about something most of the time.
If any of the items above is true for you, you are pro-worrier. Honestly, this is not the brain you want, or the kind of brain required for us to thrive. The GOOD NEWS is that this is not the brain you have to keep! The most amazing thing about our brains is that they are made for change! We are designed to adapt. In fact, humans are the best adaptor-survivors on the planet!
The BAD NEWS is that change can be difficult. I won't lie or sugar coat this. Changing the brain of a pro-worrier is extremely challenging. Why? Because, by the time he finishes reading this sentence, the pro-worrier has already thought of 10 reasons why this wont work. Unfortunately, a "truism" of neuroplasticity is that a brain that has convinced itself change is impossible will make this true.
The brain of a "pro-worrier" is like the brain of an addict. The habitual, negative thought pattern is so entrenched, that, initially, it will take constant effort to steer the mind toward new, untrodden paths. At first, it may be mentally exhausting to keep the brain on a positive track for 30 seconds, but remember...hard work is how we make the brain change.
You are incredibly powerful - a force to be reckoned with, and your brain is neuroplastic. It is capable of growth, and change throughout your entire life. Here's the pro tip for today: the harder a task is, the more challenging and seemingly impossible, the more it has the potential to change your brain. Our brains need activation to stay agile and sharp.
So, if you are a pro-worrier, or if Covid-19 is providing too many opportunities to practice your worrying pathways, give your brain a workout, and focus on other, more productive things.