“Move your brain towards thrive mode rather than survive mode.”
Hello Luna Tribe! My name is Amanda Chils, I’m a Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina and owner of Wildflower Counseling and Consulting. I’d like to take some time to provide support for anyone feeling stressed out at their lack of creativity and mental wellness during this time. What I know how to do is teach, so here we are. These times are hard, be kind to each other. Be kind to yourself.
This is your brain normally:
This is your brain during a pandemic:
Think of it like this when your body is feeling overwhelmed, your brain is constantly seeking safety. Our brains simply haven’t evolved to the point where it can differentiate stressors. To your body/brain, there is no difference between running from a bear for weeks and a pandemic. Any stress is stress, and all stress feels life threatening to your body/brain. When your body is reacting to stress certain things shut down so that essential functioning can continue -because again, in your head your life is literally in danger – and creativity is not an essential function. Even though your livelihood may depend on it, if you were literally running for your life you wouldn’t be composing or writing new material. You are too busy trying to survive!
In addition to your struggle, you’re going to have additional emotions that follow along during this pandemic, then made worse in the time of social media. Some common feelings are guilt, shame, comparing yourself to others, frustration etc. These feelings also lead to creativity decreasing, because now you are beating yourself up for a situation you have absolutely no control over. Y’all, this is a real-life PANDEMIC. This is not something any of us have lived through before, so naturally you are stressed. There are so many uncertain and scary things, and your brain is literally doing the best that it can to survive. When you are in survival mode, there is no thrive mode. They cannot co-exist. Your ability to handle stress depends on a lot of factors; and I don’t want to just be doom and gloom.
Here are some key coping strategies you can use to help move your brain towards thrive mode rather than survive mode. Pick any of these you like, but number one is a must:
- Practice Self-Care. Most of the time people think of self-care as avoidance strategies, but if all you know are avoidance strategies you stay running. Face your biggest stressors that you have control over. For example, call anyone you owe money to and ask them “How can you help me due to COVID-19.” Eat well. Move your body. Get outside in the sunshine. Turn off the 24-hour news cycle. Take an extended break from social media if you must. Get anything under your control, under your control. And for the love of COVID – ask for support if you need it.
- Release what you cannot control & continue to release it when it comes back. You and I cannot control the spread of this pandemic, the government, how long this will last or anything to do outside of your physical self and mind.
- Set aside time every day to create, even if it “sucks.” Make your own little create space and make it a habit. Whether you’re a songwriting or practicing your instrument, it doesn’t matter, keep creating. When your brain tries to trap you with expectations, kindly thank your brain and go back to creating. This may be nothing or it may be very useful in the future. A great book about the habit of creating is The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. She is wonderful, and you may have more time to read. Download it as a PDF version, you’re welcome.
- Practice self-compassion. Life is hard, life during a pandemic is harder. You are doing the best you can, your body and your brain are also doing the best they can. If you struggle to practice self-compassion reach out to a support who can give you some. Understand that some people have more resources than you do, so their stress levels will be different than yours.
- Find inspiration. Take this time to deep dive into an artist or medium you have been interested in but haven’t had the time to research. Dig into other types of art, perhaps inspiration will strike you there. Reach out to friends and jam with them, release the expectation that it has to be anything at all.
These times are interesting, scary, new and uncertain. Understand that you do not have to be “productive” at all during this time. If all you do during this time is take care of yourself, that is enough. It is enough to simply survive this. Whatever you do during this time is enough.