Mental Health during Challenging, Uncertain Times

An ancient inner default mode of bias towards survival fear drives our stress reaction, which ultimately lowers immunity and causes inflammation

Imagine… feeling transformed, courageous, resilient, empowered and in complete clarity, calm and centeredness.
Amidst all the wild things happening in the world we all need a new perspective, something to shake us up a little and remember how amazing and strong we truly are!

We have an ingrained, ancient inner default mode of bias towards survival fear that drives our stress reaction. This comes from our survival instinct in the limbic system, shared with all living creatures. We also, however, have a superconscious mind that can serve as our guiding light during any time of challenge and trouble.

Stress is insidious and as a survival tool for fight, flight or freeze, it has an impact on every one of the 50 trillion cells in our bodies. This reaction is essential to avoid immediate, physical danger, such as hitting the brakes to avoid an accident. However, stress is mostly triggered by our inner default mode of how we feel and think – worry, fearful, ruminating, and angry. The body experiences stressful feelings as though they are physical dangers and the whole cascade of the stress reaction is triggered throughout our mind and body, all geared to stay and fight or run away. After many years of this incessant and unnecessary reaction, distress is the cause of all our chronic diseases and ailments, from mental to physical. It also robs us of our joy and sense of wellbeing.

We are able to explore and study many techniques to become consciously aware of, allow and acknowledge, then release, old subconscious memory triggers and physical symptoms, using our superconscious mind’s ability to inspire us to create intentionally our own lifestyle programme for healing and transformation: To set us free from our ‘learned helplessness’, as Martin Seligman said, to create healing within ourselves and pass it on to those around us.

Just as you have to upgrade the system on your laptop computer to be able to cope with changes in the online world, it is essential to upgrade your way of thinking, feeling and responding to the modern world.
As we learn to use the superconscious part of the brain and our neuroplastic ability to develop new neural networks, to tap into our innate intelligence, wisdom, creativity and spiritual guidance, we change the functioning of the mind, the body, the emotions and the behaviours, opening up to our higher spiritual guidance that is always there, patiently awaiting our willingness to open up to who we truly are. Only then can the healing, wholeness and transformation we need, become possible.

Let’s now return to our cells, the functional core of our bodies. Every one of our cells is an intelligent tiny being.  These intelligent little life forms govern what goes on in our bodies. What we tend to forget, however, is that they are extremely obedient. Our cells listen to every word we say, every thought we think, and emotion we feel – and follow our instructions to a ‘T’.  

And that is why it is very important to manage fear by monitoring, through constant awareness, how we feel inside.  It is essential that we learn how to keep the heart, brain and mind healthy to support immune system and heart health, while curbing inflammation. The wonderful, hopeful fact is that we can change our stress reaction through various practical ways and daily deliberate relaxation practice, to develop calm centeredness and peace of mind, at will. It takes some practice, perseverance and patience (the three Ps as I call it), but we can all learn to master our stress reaction through mental-emotional training. 

We all intuitively know how bad stress is for us and at the root of stress is fear.  Fear is destructive and has been around since just after we crawled out of the primordial soup!  It is therefore insidious and very difficult to overcome, because it has become an inlaid brain pattern with a survival bias – deep inside the reptilian, instinctual part of our brains, inside the limbic system.  Fear has been established over many years and many generations.  We get this default setting from our genetics handed down from our ancestors.  It is time now for us to break this negative programming and take back control of the instructions we give our cells. The good news: Every single one of us can learn how to do this!

Inner fitness with practical stress management and relaxation training for mindful mental wellbeing, using principles of neuroplasticity to rewire and reconnect to deeper values, are solutions we can use on a daily basis. We can choose to make new networks, because our brains are malleable. We can rewire for periods of pause, breathing, calmness and inner peace.

We are free, whole sovereign souls embodied in a physical body whose initial programming is to be happy, whole (root word of health), joyful and at ease!  Fear is an impostor and here is a way to deal with it using Dynamic Ease.

Fear (anxiety) is actually not our normal state. We rather want to normalise Dynamic Ease that ‘passeth all human understanding’. We want to normalise a sense of safety and security, a sense of serenity that is available within each one of us, all the time giving us permission to lift into this space, moment to moment. Inner peace then becomes part of what we take into the world, responding to life events differently, and finding new ways of being.

Become aware of – and feel – the fear (anxiety or panic), sit with it, find where it is located in your body and notice how it changes, like all emotions do if we pay attention to them. Don’t resist the feeling. Be with it, accepting and allowing, letting it wash through and out of you and drop through the layers to reach, even for a moment, an awareness of a deep place inside yourself. A place of stillness, of quiet and peace, of unconditional love. Imagine it as a memory of where you felt safe and secure before, or simply visualise such a place. Then ask, from within this space, what the right choices for you are. Believe it to be true and be firm and sure. Then go into the world well harnessed with an inner bubble of golden protection, embodying the essence of Dynamic Ease within. Choosing from within the ways to enhance and restore your natural state: health and wholeness, living in joy, serenity and inner peace, doing what you love – it’s all in the attitude, intention and mind-set of how you go about your life’s comings and goings. Should you lose the sense of Dynamic Ease, simply stop, breathe, and try again.

Practice this exercise every morning and evening, even if it’s only for five minutes twice a day and whenever you feel panic rising. This will go a long way to alleviate that ominous feeling of dread that we feel so often in our everyday modern lives and especially now, to send the correct happy messages to our obedient and hard-working little people (our cells).

Arien van der Merwe

Dr Arien van der Merwe is a medical doctor, author and holistic health counsellor. She developed and presents continued professional development training through VideoLearn and Synergetica CPD Courses on Mental Health in Challenging Uncertain Times; Heart Health; Inflammation both Friend and Foe and Neuroplasticity. These online CPD Courses explore ways to support both ourselves, our nearest and dearest, as well as our clients/patients. Dr Arien is the author of Stress Solutions, the ‘Relax & Unwind’ relaxation CD as well as the books Health & Happiness, Managing Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome and Herbal Remedies. Dr Arien teaches group and individual meditation and relaxation classes, as well as health coaching online (WhatsApp video consultations) and at her rooms in Pretoria and Hermanus. More info: www.DrArien.co.za

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