Taking Back Control of Your Brain During a Pandemic

aaron guyett jason dolby Apr 14, 2020

Proactive vs Reactive

If we begin the day reactively, it is quite easy to fall into a higher state of stress and anxiety.  Especially during a worldwide pandemic. Starting the morning off by immediately turning on the news in anticipation of learning something else horrific, reading through emails, or frantically responding to text messages is NOT good for your brain.

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Your brain just basically sees threat, no threat, or uncertainty.  And unfortunately, our brains pretty much see uncertainty the same as they see threat.  

During this Covid-19 outbreak, there seems to be more global uncertainty than anything else.  Which equals quite a bit of threat response and cortisol(stress hormone) dumping from our brains.  Whether it’s potentially life-threatening health risks, the health of your loved ones, health of your friends and coworkers, the health of the whole planet, your finances, your loved ones finances, wider economic activity etc.. there is more uncertainty that any of us would care to have all at once.

If we have the opportunity to proactively make decisions that will prevent us from adding more stress to a stressful situation, then why don’t we do it!?

Your stress reducing proactivity starts the night before.  

  1. Enforce a digital Sunset on yourself (don’t stare at devices two hours before bed) blue light equals angry brain equals crappy sleep.
  2. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep (prevents starting the morning with a fresh cup of pissed off brain)
  3. Allow yourself 20min to an hour of Ritual time to yourself and or family (no touching the phone, devices, tv, or newspapers)
  4. Ritual (your own) be good to yourself and do what makes you feel good. Some examples: Stretching, Meditation, Prayer, Exercise, Reading a book(or audiobook), Telling jokes with your fam, do a painting w your kids, tend to your plants, play w your pets, or work on that long overdue project.
  5. Do Good be Good.  (If you’re able bodied and are able to help someone who may need it, do it)  Giving to someone else is one of the most natural and rewarding things you can give to your own brain. Getting groceries for senior citizens etc.

By giving yourself the gift of a proactive morning, it allows you to now, with a calmer happier brain, open up to the rest of the world and its demands and digital distractions with more confidence and less worry.  Worry will weaken your immune system.

Immune System Resilience 

We know that too much worry and stress will weaken our immune systems. And viruses thrive on compromised immune systems.   So why not take a proactive kickass approach to making our immune systems as resilient as possible?!

Get good sleep! Aim for 7-8 hours (as mentioned above) it is during our sleep when the mind and body repair it self from physical and mental stressors from the day prior.

Exercise!  If your morning ritual does not have enough of it, make sure that you make time for it!  I recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week with no greater than 70-80% max effort.  We are not certain how many more weeks we will be in quarantine, so committing to adding the exercise sessions into your stay at home schedule will have a huge carryover in immune system strength and mental resilience.  There are 2 reasons it’s recommend to not push over 80% max effort in your exercise sessions during Covid-19 outbreak. One reason is so that we don’t push our bodies to or past the absolute limit. This can punish the nervous system and require massive recovery, hence weakening the immune system.  The other reason is that we are much less likely to injure ourselves via strains, sprains, or falls. We don’t need to weigh down the medical system right now. Save the medical care for those who are in dire need of it at this time.

Get some sunshine a few times per week.  Literally schedule it! Normally when we are going out and about, whether to work or a weekend activity, we are getting so much more time in the sun than we realize.  We are not getting that healthy solar powered vitamin D while binge watching the Tiger King.

There’s no better time than now to fortify your diet with immune boosting foods!

  • Garlic (Costco bag pound it! Nobody can smell you in self isolation.)
  • Sauerkraut (high in vitamin C and probiotics for gut health), kimchi is amazing too.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar once or twice a day(2 teaspoons mixed with fresh squeezed lemon and water)
  • Turmeric (try to sprinkle some on each casserole or skillet concoction)
  • Ginger, can’t go wrong with this bad boy! However you want it.
  • Green leafy vegetables (if you can find them.)
  • Elderberry extract (massive immune system booster)
  • Multi vitamin mineral supplement
  • Vitamin D3 supplement, helps replace what you're not getting from the sun (immunity & bone strength)
  • Drink plenty of water!  You can boil your tap water if your concerned about it.

Worried about extending your toilet paper rations??  Bag O’ Prunes! You’re welcome. People in the stores have seemed to wipe out the Meta-Meusel and the Benefiber.  But the bags of prunes are squatting on the shelf, untouched and waiting for ya’.

Floss your teeth each day!

Take good care of your feet and toes!

Don’t weigh the medical system down.

Any kind of infection will put you at risk for lowering your immune system.  And viruses thrive on compromised immune systems.

Cold water winning!

Boost mental and immune system resilience by adding cold showers or ice baths to your routine.  Almost all mammals, including humans, experience something called mammalian diving response, where when we are submerged in cold water, oxygen is forced to the brain and heart.  The caveman's Red Bull! Try incorporating 30 seconds to 1min of cold water at the very end of your shower. The more time you spend training this into your routine, the more resilient you will become.  

Extending Food Rations

Do you want an amazing way to extend your food rations and potentially see those lines come back in your abs during the quarantine ??  Intermittent Fasting. Booooom! Stretch out your food rations, save money, and burn through your own body fat by skipping breakfast or dinner.  If you’ve always wondered about giving intermittent fasting a try, there’s no better time than now right?!

Going out and about (let it go, it’s not personal)

I was doing some shopping in Costco the other day and two separate people smashed into the back of my leg with their shopping carts.  Neither man apologized. I don’t even think either of them noticed. For a split second, I was pissed. Both times. But I took a few calming breaths through my two masks, and just moved to the side and let them pass.  “No need to have a confrontation or put a man In his place right now, not during all of this social distancing” I thought to myself.

Please remember this when you guys are out and about.  Many of these people are living reactively throughout the day and not proactively. Remember that many of them are floundering around in a grocery store frenzy, due to how much negative television and media they are taking in.  In a way, it’s not their fault. They are uncertain right now. And remember, their brains are recognizing uncertainty as threat itself. So if you are able, just let it go and let them go bye. At least until post 'rona.

Remembering Optimism 

Much easier said than done, but remember to be optimistic.  The brain has a negativity bias. Which is a great thing, well, for certain aspects of survival.  Like spotting the motion of something with eight legs moving toward you with your peripheral vision.  Or hearing footsteps a bit too close behind you in a parking structure. This kind of quick negative assumption could be the difference between life or death.  Yet, unfortunately, the brain likes to lean towards the negative side of too many things in our modern society.

This is why most of the news networks on television, work so damn well at keeping us locked into the screen.  They pump out a much higher percentage of fear building negative statistics and info, vs sharing the positive sides or silver linings of the same issues and stories.  I do feel that we should stay informed, listening to our governors or mayors giving updates or governmental recommendations. But we should not over-indulge. 

Covid-19 is a terrible thing, don’t get me wrong.  But for the majority of folks who are hunkering down, without the serious affects of infection and illness, adhering to pessimism is not beneficial in any way.  I keep hearing people saying that “It’s only going to get worse”, “The next two weeks are going to be so much worse!”, or “The Army is coming in tanks to make sure you can’t leave your home to get food!”

When your brain first perceives a threat, our threat response is very high, but after your brain realizes the same threat is here, but we are fine for the most part, it calms down.  This is great news!  

Meaning, because your brain has realized that you have managed the first couple weeks of quarantining ok, as much of a pain in the ass as it is, your initial pandemic stress and cortisol levels will be lessened in the upcoming weeks.  Well, as long as you’re not glued to the tv, inhaling the news from sunrise to sunset!

And for our brains, the “I’m gonna’ have financial struggles” stress is much more palatable than the “Holy crap we’re all gonna die” stress.  Just sayin’.  

So, control what you can, believe in yourself, empower those around you, believe in the power of optimism, and believe we will get through this together 

Written by: Jason Dolby


[email protected]

@dolbystyle on IG


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