The brain is the source of our thoughts. The brain’s modus operandi is safety, survival and efficiency. It will do everything it can to keep us safe and alive, while favoring the thoughts we repeat every day, making it easier for us to think them by creating high-speed neural pathways for effortless use.
While our thoughts themselves are neutral, they contribute largely in part to how we feel. If habitual thoughts, the ones we think repeatedly, are positive, we feel good. If habitual thoughts are negative, we feel bad.
What we are experiencing now is a perceived loss of that safety, often known to us through certainty, and in some extreme cases, a defense of survival, producing pandemic fear. In the brain’s defense to regain control of the situation, it resorts to any self-soothing effort it can no matter how temporarily insane those behaviors might be, such as compulsivity and hoarding.
While a change in behavior provides short term relief, the stress and anxiety of this time quickly return if their source is not addressed: our thinking.
The path out of heightened stress and anxiety is real and requires as much attention and care as a committed diet and exercise routine. The first step is recognizing the stress and anxiety, then slowing down the habituated, high-speed neural pathways of the brain, known as thought. This can be done through evidence-based practices in mindfulness such as meditation and diaphragmatic breathing. The resources for this are numerous, at our finger-tips and now, many free to the public.
The second step, and most important, is to investigate the reasoning of our own habituated thought and ask, “If my sense of safety or certainness is gone now, what made me believe I ever had it? And, is that thing/ are those things that made me believe I had it, a trustworthy source of it in the future?”