Dr Gaya I Ep #4 | Emerging from lockdown

hey guys i’m tasha hey listeners this is ghooni and you’re tuned in to dot of the podcast where we chat and explore all things on integrative medicine pandemic fatigue is definitely a real

struggle at the moment guni you have come out of lockdown for for you guys so right now in london things are opening up there’s just general socializing that is increasing which on my side weirdly i’m kind of getting slightly anxious about this having to like seeing things getting crowded again seeing people out and people considering not wearing their masks and i never thought i would be anxious about this because i was all this time inside to a certain extent i think i got used to it but now i’m just anxious when i see so many people uh and i it’s weird well i mean i i don’t think it’s weird i think it’s normal i mean if we if we look at there are lots of studies happening at the moment so there was a university of basel in switzerland study that looked at 10 000 people in 78 countries a really broad set of countries and one in 10 repeated low levels of mental health right so so that was to be expected but they really noticed a negative effect of stress of depressive behaviors pessimistic basically a pessimistic view of life and society about half of them 50 said they had moderate levels of mental health challenges and and it wasn’t the same so hong kong more or less hong kong and turkey apparently had more stress than other countries usa had more depressive symptoms hong kong and italy also well-being was pretty lowest and in europe austria germany switzerland reported less uh sort of negative emotions than other countries so i think one thing is you know our culture our economic status but also you know what sort of safety nets you had but and everybody was afraid afraid for their lives afraid for their employment afraid for their families and we lost social support whether we agree or not we lost this yeah or that we take for granted but what every expert agrees with what we need is what they call support for psychological flexibility i suppose in lay terms what we’re talking about is how can we remain resilient because this is a very significant thing that happened to all of us at the same time so some countries may be in lockdown some may be coming up but it’s not over the pandemic is not over we’re going to go through these differences over months and some people even say over years so how do we look at the normal reaction that guni talked about we feel anxious you know and how do we build resilience and knowing now we really have to depend on ourselves right we have to go inside and figure out not just inside our homes but inside our minds and our hearts and trying around what we can do can you tell us a bit more about like what happens to our brain we very much uh a socialized society right as soon as we got into lockdown we’ve been cut out of that especially if people who live by yourself independently in your own apartment and you don’t have a partner and you don’t have a family but even for people who have families having to stay in this enclosed area like can you tell us a bit more about how our brains may have evolved or changed in this time well i think luni asked the question she’s asking herself as the lockdown seems to ease where she is am i safe right and that’s the fundamental question your brain asks you the brain i mean we’ve survived for so many millennia because our brains ask the right question it’s always asking look around look around look around always am i safe am i safe am i safe so the brain evolved to keep you safe not to keep you happy right well so it’s a basic survival thing so if you’re not saying if you can’t you know we we wrongly think in modern society purpose of life is to be happy but the purpose of biological life is to be to survive and to reproduce that’s the purpose of biological life now when we have a have something that threatens our security you know we’re walking home on a dark night we hear a noise right that’s true yeah your heart starts beating faster right yeah right i mean even to the strongest of us or you know you you see something bad happen you you have not just in your mind you feel your heart beat faster your palms get uh sweaty you know you feel cold sometimes you get goosebumps now this is the deepest parts of your brain some of the oldest part of our brain in the limbic system there are two little structures one on either side called the amygdala i don’t know if you know the size of an almond they’re very small but they actually regulate this fight or flight response right so if something threatens you what happens is it works so fast it releases neurochemicals or hormones straight into the blood adrenaline cortisol goes into the blood and what does it do it helps you fight or flight right so it diverts all the blood to your to your heart your lungs and your big muscles right yeah and so and your pupils dilate so you can see better you know so you’re getting you are trying to survive now what happens is this happens for a moment you know you you walk faster you leave the scene right you you leave so that’s done it’s finished it’s gone it’s finished but what’s happened in lockdown for 14 months 15 months we’ve lived in a constant state right so it’s when this is constantly there then we have lots of problems it could be the pandemic it could be something else right so so what has happened is when the amygdala does that it doesn’t consult the rest of the brain normally your frontal lobes your your sort of more evolved what we call the executive center is saying yeah you’re walking along it’s logical you know everything is fine but soon as something scares you in a survival mode you you may not know it’s scary but something threatens your survival what happens is the amygdala hijacks your whole of your brain these two tiny almond size structures hijack the whole brain so you’re no longer logical you’re no longer rational right and you are this emote back of emotions and reaction right now that’s called actually an amygdala hijack daniel goldman in 2005 wrote a book on emotional intelligence and he called this amygdala hijack and that’s what it does it hijacks you your rational self is not listening now what you need what we can do is we can have build skills to notice that and instead of allowing it to react we pause and then we respond and that those are some of the skills that are required for building a resilient person a resilient mind but you know with the with the lockdowns and because the pandemic has gone on for more than a year people have been in this heightened state for a long time so it’s very difficult and we all know the long term uh results of anxiety we’re influenced by experience and emotions and remember for memory emotions are the metadata for memory so our brain stores everything memory is about taking it out again right retrieving it you have all this data in your brain but you can’t retrieve it but what is easily retrievable or memorable is things that are hooked to emotions whether they’re positive or negative right so your brain is now now swimming in this right this is my reality this is my experience i’ve stayed safe we all walk the path of least resistance so people like to just keep doing what they’re doing we’re in lockdown we’re continuing lockdown even intellectually you say no you need to leave lockdown right when sri lanka for example was in a civil war people adjusted to the fact that you know you might have a bomb that will blast you know in few kilometers away from you and that’s normal and that adjusting to that normal state it was completely abnormal for me i would have all my family members that would just say yeah it’s just another day and so adjusting to that normal what normal means to them but i’m wondering if lockdown is my new normal so people get these sense synthesized right so we you know we see violence all the time we can become desensitized to it we see we pass a beggar on the street every day a homeless person we we can forget if if that’s the first homeless person you’ve seen you’ll be shocked by it you know the first bomb you’ve seen you’ll be shocked by it again we remember what is normal for an individual now when we used to share an environment in society so you know gunny and i was with sri lanka and if we lived all our lives in sri lanka you and i have a pretty no pretty close sense of what’s normal right but now that we leave our normal is is very different so that’s also part of how isolated we can be because we don’t share the same normal yeah so you in lockdown in sri lanka is very different from your relatives in lockdown in sri lanka so you can’t even communicate and understand each other because what is normal is very subjective to you if you share the same environment for a long time then you can have a shared experience to talk about right so the brain really is trying to struggle with all these threats and these changes right and then because of this reaction of the brain and the neurochemicals and the emotions it produces we identify with our emotions we think we are our emotions right so you are anxious and you think i am anxious but that’s not true you’re you are you and you have these feelings which may be fleeting or last a little bit longer so we equate ourselves to our emotions and this is one of the big challenges so you will say i am sad and you believe you are defined by sadness instead of saying i feel sad or i notice sad so you know again if you want to become more resilient you have to be able just to shift your perspective a little bit understand that your experience and feelings are very subjective and to you yeah the modern world with our unique environments we may not share any normal with anybody else right even your partner you may be living in the same same apartment or same house but you go to work you have completely different normal normalcies and you have very little time that you share together so it’s very this is why loneliness is a very big problem isolation is a very big problem even if you’re living with other people right and then if you’re living alone people eat it’s very difficult to put words to your reality to somebody who is not experiencing it so resilience is really trying to understand what i feel is not me but i can notice what i’m feeling and i can take control of that like how would the different personality types how would the impact be on different personality types for example like introverts versus extroverts like for me i would consider myself when i socialize more of an extrovert but due to like certain circumstances and then also going into lockdown i’ve become a lot more introspective and realize how much i appreciated the introspection introspective time and kind of think that i’m a bit more of an ambivert now but um yeah i felt like at the start of the lockdown it was really challenging because i didn’t understand why everything was happening and how why i was feeling the way i did and it was so much more challenging at the start but then it kind of improved over time but then i spoke to some introverted friends like guni for example they were just like oh this is totally normal like i’m really enjoying this time yeah because like when you think about it is like what is that differentiating a differentiating point where it’s it’s a personality traits that takes over and it’s not my survival mode that actually that seeks for comfort you’re asking a question that philosophers philosophers have asked for thousands of years but how do we unpack it i don’t have an answer but how can we unpack it so i think let’s differentiate between emotions yeah and and personality right or or traits character traits or personalities well first of all i think we should say you don’t have a fixed personality yeah for sure yeah nobody you don’t have it i don’t have it you know there is wisdom which says your thoughts right becomes your actions your repeated actions become your character and your character becomes your your destiny right so all this to say nothing is fixed in stone you’re also evolving over time there are a lot of personality tests that will say are you extrovert introvert you know whatever there are lots of and they they all useful and they all are flawed nobody there is no universal test of personality at a particular time in your life you may say i behave in an introverted way i really want you to separate this thing i am an introvert and i tend to behave in an introverted way your behavior is not you it’s like a child child or something naughty a parent shouldn’t say you’re a bad child your behavior was not good it was bad you have to separate the two first of all so i think this modern concept of i am this and i’m unchanging this is this is to be challenged the second is to explain the difference between emotions and personality if you take climate and weather personality is more like the climate but even that’s changing as you know and uh emotions are more like weather it’s more transient right so we live in a temperate climate in europe with the four seasons generally right but today it’s rainy tomorrow it’s sunny so emotions are like weather and personalities like climate but remember even climate and personality evolves and changes we have climate change which is the big defining issue of our times so it’s not fixed emotions tend to be shorter lift you can watch it come and go you can be angry this moment and feeling sad the next moment and happy the next moment climate could be i tend to be a very positive cheerful person so people label me that is my trait right so first nothing is fixed but there is a link and there is some research about the link between the two but it it’s not a global understanding we can see how some emotions are more frequent in people with certain character traits right so i think it’s good to let go of the idea particularly between the two of you you’ve seen yourself evolve in the way you describe your personality over this time i myself everybody would have said i’m an extrovert everybody i know whereas during uh pandemic i use that time really to go inside my mind of your heart and then people started seeing me as an introvert in fact my mother is very angry because uh you know i’m quiet i don’t talk so much and she thinks i’m upset with her but oh my god this is like so true for me too it’s so interesting that you point that out because i think it’s such a mindfulness practice and and also a benefit you achieve with meditation because you start identifying the different parts of you and that you are not you know your thoughts you are not your personality and you kind of release this attachment to all these traits that and labels that you’ve identified with right but the trap is if you think you are this or that you are not black and white so true it’s all good or all bad or all clever and when you realize that you try you start having compassion and kindness to yourself you forgive yourself that doesn’t mean you do terrible things and forgive yourself that’s not what i mean you you you look at yourself with kindness and say that you did something very stupid there let’s figure out how not to do it again but i but you’re still loved right anyway you stopped judging other people so and so didn’t use lockdown to grow their minds so what yeah objective we are responsible for ourselves but of course we can share what we know with each other so that we can increase the choice that everybody has so that they have a bigger choice to draw bigger resources to draw on to to be the best self they can be and i think this is kind of my key takeaway from what you’re saying is really the power of words as you as you want to describe a situation or a feeling emotion or behavior and the word i am versus i feel or i tend to um has so much impact subconsciously if we go back to like anxiety um and and kind of emerging from from a new situation because at the end of the day it’s it’s changed right um what are three practical things we we can start integrating in our daily routine to kind of overcome um this anxiety so i think you know i i work in learning and development and we use the model of competencies a competency right is made up of your attitude your knowledge and your skill so if you have just a good attitude you know you want to be happy you want to go out and meet people now after locked down so you can say i have a positive attitude but if you don’t have the knowledge of how to do it and you don’t have the skill that could challenge you so i think the three things are around those so what is the attitude we should have i think the attitude is really an attitude of we are in control and we can change what we want right nothing is set in stone you are not your feelings everything that’s you know so really this attitude of yes i can change this of course i feel anxious about it but i can change it the second is really at the knowledge you need and it goes back to really understand your brain and how your brain works right and people can go on youtube just type in amygdala hijack and you can learn but learn about it learn that this is an automatic reaction this is not you know a moral judgment on you you are there to survive and your brain short-circuits everything you get rid of the logical brain and does this and it creates thoughts emotions sensations and that’s the knowledge you need now the skill you need is to to notice this you need to know how to disarm this hijack right so if somebody hijack a hijacker you have to disarm the hijacker so to do that you have to notice so you should notice the physical and mental signs of when you’re hijacked and it’ll be slightly different for all of us you know i feel heat in my face or you know i and my heart is moving for us i find myself speaking faster at a higher tone right i i notice my body language so you have to notice mind body and behavior what this trigger does to you you have to get to know yourself before you get to the others then the most important thing is to disarm the hijack is to pause because it’s going on a continuous fast automatic reaction so instead of reacting you pause and you then you uh react now how do you pause you’re in a meeting it’s very civilized or you’re with your family somebody says something that annoys you you feel the signs you notice you just pick up a glass of water you take a sip it gives you three seconds that is enough for your logical brain your executive brain to take over very simply you breathe you take a deep breath you know when you’re listening to people but you’re you’re you’re conscious of your breath and you count one in your mind two three four out two three four and you continue that’s enough to calm you down simple as that right it will save you a lot of trouble and a lot of grief so you notice you pause to break it and you take control and so you’re not reacting but you’re responding right but all the while no judgement no i you right right so whether it’s between two people whether you’re negotiating with terrorists whether you are trying to convince yourself to go out right that that little pause is what you need to disown so knowledge attitude and skills that’s that’s pretty powerful i just um thinking i need to travel everywhere with a bottle of water there’s something that’s free that you don’t need to travel with and it’s air and breathing having a physical i mean yeah no it does it does actually let me give you another one some people have a calm ring so they they have an object that they like and when they feel their emotions rising they just touch it to remind them yeah but you have to practice that this is and as soon as you touch it you say calm calm in your mind you know how to come as something happens but let’s say gunny you’re anxious about going out and you’re anticipating it right you’ve got this sense of apprehension there are other things you can do i think one thing is just to close your eyes and then to visualize you said it’s tomorrow morning i’ve got dressed and i can see myself going down the stairs opening the door you know you visualize and you actually do that visualization experience and then you notice what you feel and then you practice disarming that that actually would prepare you so really visualize notice practice and then learn you know you say to yourself okay gunny and talk in the third person okay guni uh what did you learn from that okay what really worries you about this that’s before you do it but actually what we should be doing is on the longer term having building resilience for this right for any situation so it’s not just locked down and exiting it and and i i use what i call the three r’s first relaxation most people don’t know how to relax you have to find how you relax is it by having a long bath is it listening to music is it going for a walk is it reading a book right you have to relax find your way of relaxing the second art is reflection how do you reflect on your feelings on your experience do you keep a diary it’s a terrible thing people don’t keep a diary anymore journaling is really good just write on a piece of paper you know how am i free what did i learn today how did i feel you know how what does this teach me for the future and the third r is really resilience practice and that it could include meditation or yoga you know something that really really resonates with you that builds your internal uh strength and really resilience is your elasticity so when something stressful happens you don’t break you’re not a state that breaks but you you are a rod that bends and comes back practice the brain changes when you change your thoughts when you change your habits your brain it’s called neuroplasticity it is absolutely able to grow new connections that make this normal over a period of time so once you do this over a period of time it just becomes normal you know people say oh you’re very resilient but so i i think that those are at three stages we must think of it yeah you you gave us attitude knowledge and skill and now and the three r’s relaxation reflection and resilience everything comes with practice but i think that these are great guides to start off with so thank you if you enjoyed this episode go ahead and select that follow a subscribe button for now stay safe and we’ll see you next week you

Dr Gaya I Ep #4 | Emerging from lockdown

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