Archive for March 14th, 2020


Covid-19 ( the Corona Virus) is a clear and present danger. It demands our attention and our rational thinking in preparing and caring for our own health and that of our brothers and sisters who are especially at risk. What militates against doing so is, simply: fear and fear mongering.

In his 1996 book on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman makes reference to the “Amygdala hijack.” The amygdala is a part of the limbic system, our emotional circuitry, that reacts swiftly to danger. It is the triggering agency for the so called “flight or fight syndrome”.

When stress is especially peaked, it over-rules the frontal cortex responsible for reasoned thought. That’s when we go off “half-cocked” and are especially susceptible to conspiracy theories, exaggerated emotionalism, and herd behaviors ( like wiping out available supplies of toilet paper). We go the way of the lemming.

What to do? Well, RELAX!

OK, I know, that’s easier said then done when the news is filled with an anxious narrative and hourly drumbeat about “community spread” and tropes like, “It will worsen before it gets better” and the rising curve of confirmed cases. Seeing your IRA tank doesn’t help either. Believe me, I share your pain.

Weeks of minimizing rhetoric, deceitful denials and claims of a partisan hoax issued by an uninformed and out of touch White House further stoke uncertainty and create conditions for the perfect emotional storm. Notwithstanding the absence of real leadership, what does make complete sense is prudent and proactive personal leadership and taking commonsense precautions.

It does us no damn good to weaken our immune response by chronic, unremitting anxiety. It only feeds our impulsive actions and, through “mirroring,” sparks the impulsive action of others susceptible to the same phobic responses and obsessional thinking. Here’s the great news: We are indeed wondrously made, and there is a fact of our physiology worth remembering. Breathing slowly and deeply, and laughing are incompatible with the levels of stress that propel the amygdala toward ” tilt” and undermining our capacity to do what we , as a species, otherwise, is known for: Thinking!

There are a number of straightforward things we can do that cost nothing (or very little) to help unleash our “better angels.”

  1. Family Board Games: In that we need to stay put and spend more time away from public spaces, how about a good game? If we live with others, let’s pull out a favorite ( skip “Pandemic,” a good game but untimely) and enjoy each other’s company. How about a game of cards?
  2. A Good Book or The Good Book: These are both treatments of long-standing practice.
  3. Meditation/ Prayer: Start with slow breathing. Yoga or Tai Chi are a great prelude and potent reconditioning actions if you practice either.
  4. Draw/ Paint/Write: All three demand the kind of attention that is incompatible with the rapid breathing that is correlated with rising stress levels.
  5. Comedy: How about a trip to Red Box, or dialing into your favorite source for movies? I myself am quick to reach for movies that make me laugh hard. I personally turn to comics like Larry David ( Curb your Enthusiasm) or a TV series like Grace & Frankie on Netflix ( 6 seasons so far) .
  6. A Long and Undisturbed Bubble Bath: Let time pass unnoticed for awhile and let your body center itself and feel refreshed.

This is just a small list and there are many other things we can each make time for as more time is now available by virtue of these circumstances. Let’s use the time to do a reset. It is Lent: a good season in which to be more singularly focused and reflective.

Beyond the individual things we might do to reduce random thoughts of Armageddon, there is none so powerful as to ponder what is beautiful. Look around. What is it that is beautiful in your sight, or in your hearing, that is the stuff of Joy. For me, it is my granddaughter’s laughter, her infectious smile ,and spontaneous dancing as a 2 year old toddler with a sense of the miraculous!

Stay well and be calm.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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