Over the last several weeks, our life has changed as we know it and our stress has increased to a whole new level. Beyond hunkering down to do our part to flatten the curve, the biggest question on everyone’s mind is when will this pandemic crisis end so we can go back to our “normal life”?
Undoubtedly, all of us have struggled with the disruption in our life and not being able to do many things that we seemed to have taken for granted before COVID-19 was here. But as we ‘re starting to see a glimpse of light at the end of this tunnel I would like to invite you to take a moment to consider this:
Was “the old way of being” truly satisfying for you?
According to the latest survey of the American institute on stress, that doesn’t seem to be the case for most of us. Prior to the arrival of Corona Virus, almost 70% of us experienced moderate to severe symptoms of stress regularly, half of us laid awake at night worrying and over 60% of us turned to alcohol at the end of the day to relax!
How much do you really want to go back to this old running-on-the-hamster wheel life, feeling exhausted, stressed out, overwhelmed, disconnected from your values and the important people in your life?
Could this crisis be our opportunity to re-assess our life, re-shuffle the deck and re-align our untapped inner resources with the actions that will make our life a lot more satisfying and less stressful?
I want to share with you a framework that shows how you can use a crisis, challenge, even a trauma, to unleash your power and find the best version of yourself!
But first, let me tell you a story!
The unorthodox gifts of a crisis
A crisis, according to the dictionary, is defined as “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point; a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.”
By definition, a crisis is a “turning point” leading to “decisive change”. And I know all about this kind of change!
A few years ago, I experienced an unexpected personal life crisis, which changed my life as I knew it. At the peak of my outward success and my youth, not only I burnt out, but suffered significant organ damage of my spine, because of it.
Although my life’s twist of events left me feeling all alone, cast out and rejected because of my inability to satisfy my previous professional and social expectations, the truth is, I was far from a deficient person.
Prior to burning out, I had accomplished much in the eyes of the world. I had earned a great education in biochemistry and toxicology, synthesized five drugs for three different types of cancer in the laboratory and garnered a myriad of awards for my performance in both corporate healthcare and non-profits. Yet in the eyes of this same world, at that moment, I was perceived as a failure.
However, on the inside, there was a spark that burnout couldn’t touch.
That spark turned into a fire, and an incredible motivation to get to the bottom of how something like this could have happened to a top performer like me, how I could bounce back from it and how I could prevent it from ever happening again.
So, I delved deep into science and got up to speed on the latest findings in mind-body research in an attempt to make sense of it all and figure out how I could best adapt to my new reality.
As I researched different scientific theories and healing modalities, I came across the incredible work of Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn. Her research and work on trauma, led her to the development of “MetaHabilitation” (Mikal-Flynn, 2012).
Meta-habilitation (meta- going beyond and habilitation-recovery) is a new strengths-based model of recovery which taps onto our individual capacity to move beyond basic survival, grow and thrive, not despite of, but as a direct result of a personal crisis.
By reviewing Dr. Mikal-Flynn’s studies and research that led to the development of MetaHabilitation, I was able to find a new way to relate to my crisis!
More specifically, it gave me the opportunity to get in touch with reality and truths I had lost sight of, including re-assessing my life to provide structure in finding new meaning, cultivate resilience and ultimately build a new life and experience post-traumatic growth.
Looking back, I can now confidently say that my stress related crisis was in fact invaluable fuel toward my own personal growth and transformation, after I learned how to change how I related to it!
This change revealed to me the truth about stress and empowered me to launch Myndzen to systematically organize decades of science into practical, every-day things we can do to take the stress out of our life by the way that we live it.
Although my spinal injury recovery is ongoing, this was a very real silver lining of what seemed to be an insurmountable personal crisis.
How to turn a crisis into a catalyst for positive change.
As we’re going through this pandemic crisis there are many things that we can’t control!
But there is one thing that is 100% within our control and really the one thing that can effectively lower our stress level: How we relate to stressors!
The fundamental premise of both the MetaHabilitation and the Myndzen models of recovery involve ways of working with our mind to create thoughts and actions that prompt and inform an enhanced recovery from traumas, adversities challenges and crises.
By default, as a result of our brains evolution and past experience, when we’re facing the disruption of a crisis, it’s easy to get lost in thoughts about the negative aspects of the situation.
Although we can get overwhelmed by the many stressors of this time, we can instead tap into our innate capacity to stay grounded while we’re facing this crisis and choose a wiser response.
Scientifically speaking, we’re the descendants of anxious people, so if we allow our default reflexive reactivity to run the show, we’ll tend to worry, ruminate, and catastrophize. Our ancestors that didn’t worry and over-estimate threats, didn’t survive to pass on their genes to us.
Consequently, if we don’t realize that this crisis is an opportunity to change our default reactivity, when it’s over we may find ourselves right where we were before corona was here: confined in our compromised state, driven by our stress response, perfectionism, disconnection, and our relentless inner critic and imposter.
However, what we can do instead, is guide our mind to take a different path that leads to the intentional actions that build on our capacity to endure and find meaning in the worst situations.
I definitely want to acknowledge all our fellow human beings who are fighting the virus right now, the ones who have lost a loved one, the heroes on the frontlines-healthcare workers and first responders or the ones that legitimately are struggling financially to survive at the moment.
But for the rest of us, I would like to invite you to take a moment to consider this:
Is what’s stressing you out about the global pandemic something that is here in the present moment, or are they thoughts about potential negative outcomes in the future because of this crisis?
Could this challenging situation be a fertile ground to cultivate presence of mind and practice how to be in wiser relationship with experiences?
The simplest way to begin this process, is to re-direct our energy and attention from focusing on all the potential negative outcomes, to the small moment to moment adjustments we can make to stay upright in the tight rope of this adventure we call life.
A simple pause between a trigger, such as the overwhelming news we hear every day and your reaction, is a great start to taking back control of our capacity to choose a wiser response to the stressors of our time.
Then during this pause, observe the thoughts that the trigger elicits in a non-judgmental way.
Explore the validity of the thoughts as they pertain to the present moment.
And if the thoughts pertain to a potentially negative outcome that isn’t actually happening right now, gently let them go, and re-direct your attention to a neutral spot, something that is here in the present moment that makes you feel safe.
We have an average of 60,000 thoughts per day, 95% of them are worries, yet only 5% of what we worry about actually happens in reality!
The practice of consciously working with our mind to help us relate differently to life situations, won’t take away our challenges and stressors.
However it will expand our window of tolerance, allow us to shorten the time we spend immersed in the compromised state of our stress response and help us cultivate our innate ability to bounce back to our optimal grounded state from which we can choose a wiser response to the challenge in front of us.
And the great news is that several decades of research have revealed a myriad of techniques that we can occupy our mind with instead of worrying and catastrophizing. These techniques include, mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, reframing, breathing techniques and so much more.
There are many challenging aspects of life that we can’t control, but we can always control how we respond!
I’ve chosen to respond to our current crisis by launching a (free) virtual stress management group, which you can access by joining the Myndzen community when you click here.
The intention of this group is to become a refueling station where we can all gather to access insights, tools, tips, and resources which can support us to effectively lower stress, build resilience and en enhanced life experience.
In addition to offering multiple tools as a certified integrative wellness practitioner and a burnout and compassion fatigue specialist, I also bring some incredible guests to lend us their insights and expertise that address specific stress related problems we face during this collective crisis.
This upcoming Thursday (April 23, 2020) I am honored to welcome Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn to our groups live session, to help us apply her research which led to the development of MetaHabilitation in our own life.
If you would like to embark on the journey of learning how to transform a crisis into fuel for positive transformation, please join us by clicking here.
Life is a journey of a series of events, some positive, some negative and some neutral.
Undoubtedly, as we go through our life, we will come across many situations we can’t control, like the economy, our company’s corporate culture or how soon the corona global pandemic will end.
However, at any point in our life, we can embrace our own power, choose the meaning we give to life situations, and realize that every challenge, every difficulty and every crisis along the way, are ultimately catalysts to re-connecting to our true nature and changing our mind, our brains and our lives for the better.