We are living in a world where every day feels like an episode from the “Twilight Zone.” High levels of uncertainty and the compounded stressors of the crisis are leaving most of my naturopathic clients feeling depleted and emotionally spent. They are not alone. (source)
New research published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity reviewed 43 scientific studies that examined mental health since the current crisis. They found that, overall, people are experiencing higher levels of depression, anxiety, and poor sleep quality.
Many may think that the best means to cope with all these changes would be by pushing through them. I feel, rather, that the top priority should foremost be one of being gentle with ourselves. This does not mean that we are being passive.
In this post, I’ll explore how to move through struggles with a better mindset. To do this, we need a combination of self-kindness, purpose, and perseverance.
Using Purpose to Move Through Adversity
Adversity has been found to upregulate genes coding for inflammation and downregulate the body’s ability to defend itself. One study measured the association between two of the most well-known stimuluses for activating this “conserved transcriptional response to adversity” (CTRA). Specifically, the authors analyzed how perceived social isolation and having a sense of purpose and authenticity, or, more specifically, eudaimonia well-being, impacted the CTRA. (source, source, source)
The results of the study, that utilized both genetic markers and subjective measurements of these aspects, found that eudaimonia mitigated the negative effects of loneliness. The authors stated, “These findings are consistent with the possibility that psychological resilience factors can, at least in some circumstances, outweigh the effects of a well-established and quantitatively robust psychological risk factor such as perceived social isolation.” (source)
In other words, when one felt a sense of purpose and well-being, they were able to mitigate the unwanted epigenetic expression of inflammation and downregulation of a healthy response. This has implications for how one’s perceptions, beliefs, and values can modulate unwanted physical and emotional impacts during times of turmoil.
The Interwoven Aspects of Compassion, Purpose, and Grit to Move Through Struggles
Courage, persistence, and compassion are not mutually exclusive. In the article, “Courage as a Process of Pushing Beyond the Struggle,” the authors demonstrate that helping others, a personal sense of integrity, and a desire for thriving are all linked:
Six qualitative studies have been carried out to better understand courage among individuals who range in age from 14 to 94 years and are experiencing a variety of lingering threats to their well-being. The purpose of this meta-interpretation was to synthesize those works and further delineate an emergent formal theory of courage. Based on the findings, courage is a dynamic phenomenon that is precipitated by a perceived threat. The ability to be courageous develops over time and includes efforts to fully accept reality, problem solve based on discernment, and push beyond ongoing struggles. Courageous behavior is characterized by efforts to be productive, make contributions, and help others and results in a sense of personal integrity and thriving. Courage is promoted and sustained by several interrelated intrapersonal and interpersonal forces as well as the reflective awareness that one has developed a courageous persona.
Something within us, not outside of us, seems to be the more powerful driving force in overcoming obstacles. This means, to successfully navigate the trials in life, it is our inner sense of self-worth that surpasses the need for external measurements of success.
This internal drive can be fueled by self-compassion. Self-esteem is based on assessments outside us and can fail us when things do not turn out as expected. Self-compassion, on the other hand, allows us to pick ourselves up and keep trying, because we are relying on our inner strength and values. A Forbes article states:
Neff’s early research compared self-compassion to self-esteem as a source of resilience. Self-esteem relates to one’s feeling of self-worth and is often built upon accomplishment or comparison to others. Unfortunately, because self-esteem is based on an external assessment of our worth, it can desert us when we most need it—when we fail. We are left with feelings of inadequacy and self-judgment. Self-compassion is there for us. As director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Emma Seppälä notes, “With self-compassion, you value yourself not because you’ve judged yourself positively and others negatively but because you’re intrinsically deserving of care and concern like everyone else. Where self-esteem leaves us powerless and distraught, self-compassion is at the heart of empowerment, learning, and inner strength.” Self-compassion has also been linked to resilience in adolescents and young adults and to reduced effects of trauma among Iraq war veterans.
How Being Mindful and Calm Can Lead to Bravely Living Our Purpose
If one is constantly repeating that they “have to do things,” and in a state of urgency, it is like having a huge flashing danger sign over your eyes. This makes it virtually impossible to move from a flight and flight response to a rational response using our prefrontal cortex, the area involved in executive functioning and getting things down. In other words, the harder you try in a state of panic, the worse results you get!
Regarding mental health and emotional balance, practicing being mindful, calm, accepting, and being more present not only produces better emotional and physical outcomes, but also makes for wiser decisions, cognitive flexibility and strengthens neuroplasticity (new pathways in the brain). (source, source, source, source, source, source)
If accept where you are, relax into a state of calm, and reconnect to your values and purpose, you may just find your grit and bravery to get through just happens.
Building Resiliency through Self-Care
How can one focus on what is important if they feel so miserable and stressed-out?
Previously, I listed ten natural ways to take care of your self and nurture your wellness as well. These practices allow one to reconnect to their inner wisdom. They included:
- Breath work
- Spending time in nature
- Self- acupressure
- Restoration and unplugging (from media)
- Human connection
- A daily routine
- Cognitive re-framing
- Having faith
Two of my favorite tools that I use most often to foster resiliency, acceptance, self-compassion, and emotional balance with my clients and loved one are essential oils and EFT (emotional freedom technique.)
I have written a few articles that provide formulations of how to shift our perceptions with blends of essential oils that we can use as a single intervention or while tapping.
When one is calm and more connected to their own truth, it is much easier to move through negative feelings that prevent one from living their purpose.
Moving from an inward to outward focus is something that seems to be a theme in today’s world.
The old way of doing things is making way for a more sustainable, purposeful, enjoyable, way of living.
One of the positive aspects of “staying at home,” is that many have been given ample time to sit with themselves and really determine what matters in life.
Let’s not stop doing this as we re-emerge.
Let’s all move gently, compassionately, and bravely in alignment with our values as we make our way into this temporary abnormal world and build a more beautiful one.
Only when we are connected to our inner strength and morals do we have the courage to move through adversity with purpose and integrity.
*Safety reminder: Please be extra sure to check with your doctor if you have a seizure disorder. The Epilepsy Society of the UK lists certain essential oils implicated for their antiseizure effect as well as those that have stimulating properties.
For additional safety and medical information, please be sure to visit my essential oils database. This includes a full category on how to use essential oils safely and potential drug interactions that can occur.
If you and/or your physician are interested in consulting with me to assist with supporting the integration of essential oils safely into a therapeutic protocol, essential oils consultations are available.
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.