Is Your Brain the Master of Your Mind Tricks?

Am I mastering my mind or is my mind mastering me? 

Our minds are a powerful yet subtle muscle that we can use to consume both positive and negative thoughts.

I experienced this myself a few nights ago. As I reflect on the events of that day, I was sneezing because I am mildly allergic to my cat Sadie. I also made the mistake of watching the news before I went to sleep.  

It was Saturday night when I awoke, sitting straight up in my bed at 1 a.m. My mind was consumed with thoughts of my dying of Covid19. I was in an absolute frenzied panic and had trouble calming my racing mind so I could fall back to sleep. 

Like me, have you experienced trauma and now live with PTSD? Has the Covid19 pandemic and constant reporting triggered your fight to flight response like it has mine?

I am grateful for my recent panic attack. The feelings of anxiety, fear, panic, and mortality were familiar, almost like long lost friends. You see, nearly 11 years ago, I was run over by a New York City express bus and for years, when I drifted off to sleep, I had serious doubt that I would wake up the next day.  

Over time my PTSD from the accident began to subside. There are many factors behind my overcoming PTSD of which include my SGI Buddhist spiritual practice with morning and evening chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, my continued therapy and anti-anxiety medication (she says without shame).

For those of us with trauma, there is no universal cocktail for happiness. Relief of trauma and its symptoms are personal and different for everyone. It has been my experience that you CAN Transform the Trauma to Triumph.

Although I suffered from anxiety through the night and long into the morning, I kept moving, sat on my balcony for fresh air, and reached out for help. With the help of my neighbors’ company (social distancing of course), my anxiety passed, and I began to feel better.

My AHA moment? My reaction to a situation and how I take care of myself are the ONLY thing I can control. I feel gratitude for being given this opportunity to practice the art of Acceptance, which I discuss In Step Two of my book: ’Dance Because You Can’.

Like you, I don’t like what is happening in the world now. I miss my normal life, I miss traveling, and I miss my gym. It feels weird and unsettling that we don’t know how long this will go on. We must accept this, for now, this is the way life is for the time being. 

How do I turn down the volume of anxiety and frustration in my head and replace it with something positive? Sometimes it takes a moment (or an hour or more) to recognize the habit of panic.

When I do, I ask myself a series of these questions:

  • Is this creating value?
  • How can I take care of myself right now?  
  • What do I need to replenish my life emotionally, physically or spiritually?  
  • What CAN I do to feel better?  
  • How can I change my mindset?

There are no right or wrong answers. You will intuitively know what you need.  For me, these are the steps I am taking to help myself adjust to our new circumstances-

  • I stopped watching the news.  
  • I practice mindfulness.  
  • I wear a mask and practice social distancing by staying home.
  • I eat well, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest.

Like so many, I am struggling to maintain a regular workout, so I decided to take it easy on myself. I do short spurts of exercise and stretching throughout the day and this keeps my body engaged. I celebrate and congratulate myself for each action I take rather than berate myself for what I am not doing. If I need to rest, I do. I recognize that stress is emotionally draining so I give myself permission to take breaks.

I am determined every day to be productive and I work to set myself up to WIN. I plan one or two activities/work projects to which I can give attention. 

At the beginning of my day, I think what will be a win when I go to sleep tonight? I keep it simple. Staying active and working yields a sense of accomplishment. We are all in this together. As a trauma survivor myself, it is yet another beautiful opportunity to create value and let go of the past.

I DECIDE how I will react. Will my reaction be filled with anxiety or gratitude? Am I mastering my mind or is my mind mastering me? 

It’s our choice.

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