Be mindful, not fearful

Has everyone lost their minds as we navigate this pandemic? What can we do to support ourselves and one another?

As we’re called to stay home and slow the pace of our lives in the outer world, the uncertainty and fear created by the coronavirus pandemic easily causes distress in our inner world.  

Many people are afraid.

We’re hearing about the illogical effects of fear with people hoarding what they deem to be essential items. Grocery shelves have been cleaned off, toilet paper is hard to find, and one couple is even hoarding meat.

Jokes abound on social media about the intelligence of these people, and it’s easy to feel angry about their selfish actions.

In reality, stress and fear cause us to do irrational things, as we stop thinking with our rational minds, and do uncaring acts.

I remember stories from people evacuated during the Kelowna 2003 fire. One lady reported packing a dirty ashtray among her precious belongings in the frenzy to escape her home.

Once safe, she thought she’d lost her mind, and in some ways, she had — fear, and the fight-or-flight response over-rides the thinking/rational part of our brains. People say and do things that would never happen under normal circumstances.

When we experience fear, we do illogical things because the rational, thinking, compassionate part of our brains are no longer running the show.

Our amygdalas, the fight-or-flight centre, take over and we go into survival mode; it can become survival of the fittest. We might be more irritable and reactive.

Most Canadians have never been through such an experience, and we’re all doing the best we can. But, maybe there’s more we can do for ourselves.

While it’s wise to have a two-week supply of essentials, some people are reacting with extremes. With this frenzied shopping and stocking-up, people feel they are taking care of themselves, in reaction to the uncertainty of the situation.

But, what’s also important in taking care of ourselves during these times is managing our inner world, as well as tending to our physical needs.

We, alone, set our internal environment. Our health and wellness are also dependent on our internal environments, which we alone determine; it’s an inside job.

It may not be the coronavirus that’ll affect us as negatively as the stress and anxiety about the situation.

While I’m taking every precaution, as recommended by the experts, I’m also taking care of my own internal environment.

Our attitude about what’s happening is vital to our health and happiness.

Of concern to me are the effects of sustained, heightened fear on our bodies and immune systems. Stress and fear impair immune function, which needs to be operating well to protect us.

Not only does fear cause us to become illogically reactive, it impairs our immune systems, and reduces our body’s ability to take care of itself.

Being angry, critical, and complaining is also harmful to our health and our relationships. Learning how to bolster our immune systems is important.

Our attitudes about what’s happening affects our health.

Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Although I admit to being disappointed about some wonderful plans I’ve had to cancel, I’m not dwelling there. I’m grateful precautions have been put in place to keep us safe.

I’m choosing to find opportunity in the restrictions. I’m learning new technology and excited to be ‘forced’ out of my comfort zone, and I’m doing it with humour.

I’ve upped my daily gratitude practice and acts of kindness. I choose to view my acts of social isolation as an opportunity to pause and rest. These practices enhance my health and immune system.

As I learn of each new precaution, I choose to remember that, for right now, I am safe and all is well.

I do this for myself, to remind myself that despite what’s happening in the world right now, I’m OK. And as I do this, I calm, and this also benefits my immune system and health.

As my ability to engage socially is diminished, I’ve decided to view this time at home as an opportunity to pause, and enjoy many of the activities I’ve left for a future date:

  • A bit more reading
  • Making those phone calls I’ve been putting off
  • Writing a note
  • Going for a long walk
  • Taking extra time with my mindfulness practices and prayer
  • Watching special programs feels like a treat.

My body benefits from these things, and as I do them, I choose to do so with a sense of adventure and privilege to have a bit of extra time.

How we experience these times is up to us.  A change in perspective changes our internal body chemistry. We each decide how we get through this time of uncertainty and concern.

As I often say, it’s a time to be gentle, patient, and kind, to ourselves and with one another.

As Rev. Dr. Deborah Gordon reminds us, “Be mindful, not fearful.”


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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