Wellness is an effort! For what once kept us alive, is now killing us. We are biologically programmed to be hypervigilant, which helped us stay alive at one point. Anything that we perceive to be a threat to our existence can create feelings of worry and anxiety. At one time, it was useful to anticipate the worst and look for danger. Think about it- if you see a fuzzy object in the distance, you can be positive and say “oh it’s just a rock”, or you can be negative and say “it’s a bear!” If you assume it’s a bear and it turns out to just be a rock, you can breathe a sigh of relief and move on. If you assume it’s a rock and it’s actually a bear, well then, you better run and hope you don’t get eaten. Negative thinking is clearly the better strategy for survival; those who worried, survived, then passed the gene onto others, and created a long line of negative thinkers. Additionally, ruminating and rehearsing past dangers helped keep our ancestors alive. Rumination helped them prepare for face-to-face meetings with danger, and likely increased chances of survival. Unfortunately, in a world where we rarely face true danger, rumination hurts our mental health.
In the time of the Coronavirus, it has awakened our vestigial needs and preyed on our ancestral stressors. The problem is that our bodies are wired only for short bursts of stress (acute stress). For example, we either were eaten or escaped. In the age of social media, many find it impossible to find a safe place, putting themselves in a state of chronic stress. Chronic stress has negative effects on our entire wellbeing. It is like leaving the water faucet on. Eventually, the pipes will rot and the system will fail. In biological terms, some of these negative side effects include increased cortisol, high blood pressure and decreased immune responses. Ironically, our state of chronic stress is weakening our defenses to what we fear most!
Our brains and behavioral predispositions were not created for the modern world. Our minds are still trying to solve the ancient problem of safety when fear and rumination were necessary to survive. We evolved to think this way and will not stop thinking about what might go wrong any time soon.
How then can we integrate our primal urges of fear (the emotional brain), with our prefrontal cortex (the evolved brain)? We can start by remembering that wellness is an effort. And with TLC-VR, we can help you make that effort. With the evidence based practices that we know can work, we can start to wage the war against anxiety . Through this interactive program, we will be taking questions and helping others manage their anxiety through support and knowledge. It is our goal to build up our emotional resilience against this current health crisis so we can make ourselves stronger.