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Red Brain vs Green Brain - surviving the Covid-19 virus

Keep calm and breathe!

I wanted to reach out to you all - with the Covid-19 hanging over everyone's heads, being in HR & H&S, I thought now would be a good time to impart a little wisdom <3

I studied psychology at university and I love learning how our brains work (probably read far too many self-help books as well). Recently, I have focused on how I can bring up my child as a resilient and happy child. With all my learning, I realised that the same applies to us as adults.

This is what I have learnt: You see we have parts of our brain that shut down or continue to work depending on where we sit mentally. Yes, I believe there is definitely a link between our mental health and our physical health.

Red Brain vs Green Brain

To keep it simple (as there are actually many parts of the brain) we will call these parts of the brain the red brain (fight or flight) or the green brain (logical and calm). Currently, while most people are worried about how the Covid-19 will impact their lives, businesses and families, the worry and anxiousness will start setting in. When we start reacting, we enter into what is called the red brain. The red brain is your fight or flight, which is great for short term life-threatening situations, but you see our brain can't decipher between a physical threat or a psychological threat. It sends us immediately to the red brain to cope. All our stress hormones peak, and if in the red brain long term, being in red brain can cause a whole raft of physical problems compounding the psychological problems. When I “stress” I lose sleep. Over time, for example, a lack of sleep causes my immunity to drop, and I get sick with a cold. I also can’t think straight, and react badly. Considering we are entering what may be for some a “stressful time” we must protect ourselves, keeping ourselves out of red brain. In doing so, we will be looking after our mental and physical health, something we will need to help us to survive, should we contract any virus.

I want to point out as well, that stress is literally the fear of something – so consider what you are actually fearful of (business losing money, not being able to pay for food etc) and journal that shit out.

Let’s talk now about the green brain – because this is where we all need to be! Our logical, calm, open to opportunities, responsive, and still working on our businesses like the impact will be minimal, or like we have a plan on how will cope during this time – green brain.

Our green brain is amazing, it allows us to keep calm, and carry on. It lets us see the issues and make good decisions that are helpful to the continuation of our lives, our businesses and our families.  It helps us to find new ways of dealing with the situation at hand. It helps us to listen. For children, getting them back to their green brain where they can listen and understand the issue is simple, it is time and using the breath.

Three ways to get into Green Brain!

#1 The breath is the only way, in which we can physically change the body into a state of calm.  We do not have the ability to slow our heart rates or to turn off or on certain parts of the brain but with breath, we can.

Your workplace can set time aside to practice this, and help staff to develop this life changing skill. This isn’t about becoming Yodas or Yogis but it is a great strategy to learn how to be calm. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. There are some great ways of learning to breath, and I’ve copied some good links below to help.

https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-relief-breathing-techniques#1

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324417

https://www.healthline.com/health/breathing-exercise

#2 We can look for the areas in our life where we are grateful – the weather is warm on our skin, your family is healthy, our government is taking action to keep us safe, we have food on the table, and we are still breathing! Keeping a little notebook for this beside my bed, and writing each night about the 5 things I am grateful for is how I keep my thoughts positive.

#3 Other things we can do, is to find a sense of belonging within our places of work, our communities, and in our families. Find the similarities rather than looking at the differences we have, builds our acceptance of others, and develops lasting connections. Even just supporting someone less fortunate can help us to find a sense of belonging and purpose.

Building Resilience

Resilience comes from being able to go into states of red brain, and then actively managing yourself out of the state to proceed into the green brain. We naturally do this with children, in playing peek a boo, or hide and go seek. You can just imagine a child of 4 months, with no object permanence (click here for explanation), playing peek a boo with his mother. The mother hiding her face with her hands, and the child doesn’t see the mother and gets a look on their face like ‘where has mum gone’. When the mother uncovers her face, the child looks relieved and smiles. Every time a child experiences this, we are putting them in a state of red brain (for a very short space of time) and in doing so, we are building the child’s resilience. This is a natural process, and we do this through play. Hide and seek is the same, a child goes and hides, and as adults we know exactly where they are usually because they are giggling away so much you can hear them. You wait, building suspence and then open the door and scare them a little. They scream and then laugh. This again is building resilience. Each is a step towards building healthy humans.

As adults, we can build our resilience, by doing the same thing. Allowing ourselves to go into a state of red brain, just long enough to stretch ourselves, also known as a growth mindset. Using the breath, we can then with practice, build our resilience and stay in green brain, during stressful periods, longer. Sometimes this is by no means an easy feat even for myself. Developing our awareness, checking in with ourselves and where we feel we are sitting, can ultimately develop our sense of resilience. As we head into the next stage of dealing with Covid-19, our mindset will ultimately help us to deal with this situation in a proactive manner, and find ways of working on through this short but difficult time in our businesses. As leaders in business, our workers will look to us for assurance even more. This is a time for calmness, strong leadership, and clear decisions.

On our next blog post, we will discuss how a strategic plan, and nutting out a continuation plan will prepare many workplaces for what lies ahead.

If you would like to be supported to work through a continuation plan, or set some strategic actions, please contact us on 0800 47 54 83.



 

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