Change Emergency Kit
Apply The 3 Fs
Avoid the 3 Ps
1 Dose of Vitamin G
Apply The 3 Fs
F1: Get the Facts: What actually is changing? Gather as much information as you can without exaggerating or minimizing the situation, as if you were a newspaper reporter. This will help your brain stay out of horror stories with bad endings that do nothing but scare you and most likely will never come to pass.
F2: Tend Your Feelings: Unless you are someone who is excited by change, most likely this event has triggered the fear response in the part of your brain called the amygdala. Now it’s preparing the body for fight, flight, or freeze. It does no good to tell yourself not to be scared, because the amygdala doesn’t listen to reason. Try slow deep breaths, and relax your muscles as much as possible. This will counteract the fear response. And do the BBLISS meditation included in this kit.
F3: Reach Out to Other Folks: This is no time to isolate. Run, don’t walk, to help. There are three kinds of support other people can give, say social psychologists—tangible support, like money, food, shelter; advice and help with problem solving; and empathetic listening. Think about which you need most right now and who might be able to offer it. If you need something that you can’t get from family or friends, try a counselor, therapist, minister, support group.
Avoid the 3 Ps
What’s the story you are telling yourself? When a change hits, your brain takes in the facts and creates a story to explain what’s happened. It can’t help but do this. What story you tell yourself has everything to do with whether you cope well or poorly with what’s happening. Stories that are dangerous always include one or more of three Ps:
• permanent (it will be like this forever)
• pervasive (this has ruined everything)
• personal (I’m the only person going through this terrible thing, and it’s all my fault).
When we tell ourselves such stories, we easily fall into despair and find it harder to create a positive future. Instead, turn those Ps on their head with a story that says:
• Impermanent (This is temporary)
• Limited (The rest of my life is still good)
• Impersonal (This is happening to lots of other people and doesn’t have anything to do with me as a person)
Dose with Vitamin G
Right this moment, stop and think of what you are still thankful for in your life. What can you enjoy and appreciate despite what is happening to you?
Research on resilience proves that one of the best actions we can take in times of change is to practice gratefulness. It’s so powerful an antidote to negative emotions that I call it Vitamin G.
Give yourself a dose every time you feel down, scared, angry, frustrated. Really allow yourself to feel your gratitude for what you have, for all the blessings in your life. If you find your mind wandering to the future (for instance, I’m grateful for my house, but what if I lose it?), bring it back to this present moment: in this moment, I am grateful to have a place to live.
This is a five-minute meditation created by Dawna Markova that strengthens the neocortex’s ability to intervene during times when the amygdala is kicking into survival mode. It helps you get off the train of overwhelming, fearful thoughts and experience what’s going on for you in a different way—at the level of sensation and breath rather than story. But it only works if you do it!
You can do it anytime you notice your fear or anger. But because it actually increases the neocortex’s ability to be in charge, it’s even better if you also do it four set times a day—in connection with meals and/or waking and going to sleep. You can even set an alarm on your Blackberry as a reminder. The more regularly you do it, the less you’ll experience panic, day or night.
Bring your awareness into your body and do a body scan from your feet up to your head. Use your attention as a “flashlight” to scan your body and notice, without judgment or commentary, your feelings and sensations. For instance, “My feet are heavy, my chest is tight, my head feels like it’s being gripped in a vise, etc.”
Take 3 full rounds of breath. Each round should include a full inhale, noticing the space between the inhale and exhale, a full exhale, letting go of what is old, and noticing the space at the end of the exhale. Hang out in the space at the end of the exhale like hanging out in a hammock. Notice how the inhale comes back all by itself.
Listen to and notice the sounds around you. Let your hearing become receptive as if you are breathing in and out of your ears.
We are always telling ourselves stories about our situation. That’s one of the things our brains are designed to do—to take information in and then make meaning out of it. Listen to the stories you are telling yourself in the moment. Simply notice them, without judgment.
I-ACKNOWLEDGE THE “I” STORIES
Acknowledge the stories you are telling yourself. “I hear that I am telling myself” (fill in your own story in the moment). For instance, “I am telling myself that I will never be a mother,” or that, “I will always be alone.”
Again, without judgment, notice the sensations that happen in your body as a result of those stories. For instance, “My breathing gets more shallow, my throat gets tight.”
Sense the life force pulsating through you and recognize that you are alive. Name something you are grateful for.