All organisms in nature can handle short term stress- we’re built for it. The brain sends out the distress signal, and the body responds: adrenalin is pumped into the blood stream and all the energy is summoned to deal with the perceived threat. It’s a brilliant adaptation that served us well for thousands of years, but in this time of great uncertainty it’s working against us.
If weeks of lockdown have you feeling anxious and afraid your body is releasing a steady stream of stress hormones that are suppressing your immune system.
Luckily, there’s a way to turn it around. You have to take it to heart.
Neuroscience tells us that the mind can’t distinguish emotion from reality; if you’re feeling it, it becomes real, and it creates a response in your body. If you can start to feel better, your body will respond. Your thymus gland, located next to your heart will kick in and send signals to the T-cells. By choosing heart emotions like love, appreciation and gratitude you can actually activate your immune system!
So- how do you get out of your head and into your heart? Here are a few strategies:
Get some exercise: Literally get the heart pumping, and put your awareness there. Feel it. Listen for the sound of your heartbeat. Sense into your pulse. Inhabit your body fully in the moment and appreciate its magnificence.
Get some sleep: When our lives are busy, sleep falls down the list of priorities but it’s critically important for physical, mental and emotional health. Well rested people are more optimistic and experience more happiness. Now that we have the time, put rest and sleep at the top of the list. If you’re having trouble sleeping, don’t make that another cause of stress. Remind yourself that rest and relaxation are good too.
Get still and meditate: Sit comfortably and close your eyes, sensing into your heartbeat. Visualize the heart itself, or if you prefer you can bring to mind the colour of the heart centre; the most beautiful green you find in nature. On the inhalation, picture the heart centre growing bigger, and on the exhalation see it getting brighter. After a few minutes the heart energy will envelope your entire body. While you are in this space, you can choose to do a loving kindness meditation. Send love to someone you wish you could see in person, and wish them joy. Or send love to the whole world.
Get some evidence: We do this unconsciously all the time; we ascribe to a belief and then look for the evidence that supports it while ignoring evidence to the contrary. You can purposely choose to believe in love, and then look for the evidence. Focus on the stories about the helpers and the heroes. Feel appreciation for all the good things that are happening in the world.
Whenever you are experiencing uncomfortable emotions, bring your attention straight to the heart. What you focus on expands in your experience, so focus on love and more will into your life!
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