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  • Writer's pictureDr. CK Bray

Creating Peace and Calm in a Warring World



It was the moment my pre-teen age child asked about the "WARS" (yes plural!) going on that I realized how terrifying the state of our world can be. In an increasingly interconnected world, global events, such as the conflict in Ukraine and Israel, touch all of our lives. Whether we are directly affected by people we know or connected through different media channels these events can induce stress, fear, and a sense of helplessness. I wanted to provide some hope and strategies to cope with these challenging and uncertain times. By drawing on neuroscience, positive psychology, physiology, and cognitive psychology, I hope to shine a light on finding ways to thrive and survive difficult times.

1. Neuroscience: Harnessing the Brain's Plasticity

Our brains are inherently plastic, meaning they can reorganize and adapt to challenges. One of the ways this happens is through the process of synaptic pruning, where less-used connections weaken while more frequently used-ones strengthen. By intentionally focusing on positive information and experiences, we can, in effect, "train" our brains to be more resilient.

Strategies: Engage in at least 5 minutes of quiet each day, if possible outside (put away that phone!). This has been shown to strengthen the prefrontal cortex, a region responsible for executive functions like decision-making and emotional regulation. This not only helps in managing stress but also in maintaining perspective in tumultuous times.

2. Positive Psychology: The Power of Perspective

Positive psychology emphasizes the importance of positive emotions, strengths-based character, and constructive narratives. While it's essential to stay informed, we should also be conscious of our media consumption. Constant exposure to negative news can lead to a phenomenon called "mean world syndrome," where individuals perceive the world as more dangerous than it is.

Strategies: Cultivate gratitude by maintaining a daily journal, highlighting the positive events of your day. Embrace a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and growth, rather than insurmountable obstacles. Ask yourself throughout the day what good things have happened. Tune your brain to the positive.

3. Physiology: The Body-Mind Connection

The body's physiological response to stress, known as the "fight or flight" response, has been an evolutionary adaptation to respond to threats. While it's beneficial in short bursts, chronic activation can lead to health problems like hypertension and decreased immune function.

Strategies: Engage in regular physical exercise, (walking is great!) which releases endorphins, natural mood elevators. Activities like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation can counteract the body's stress response, promoting relaxation and well-being.

4. Cognitive Psychology: Reframing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive psychology studies mental processes like "thinking, memory, perception, and problem-solving." One of its applications, CBT, can help individuals recognize and challenge negative thought patterns that can exacerbate stress.

Strategies: When faced with stress-inducing news or events, challenge catastrophic thoughts. Instead of thinking, "This is the worst thing ever," ask yourself, "What are some alternative ways to view this situation?" or "What's one step I can take right now to address my feelings or concerns?" Also, ask yourself, "How can I help others suffering during this time?"

While global events like wars and conflicts can be overwhelming, they also offer an opportunity for growth and resilience. Remember, the human spirit, complemented by science, is formidable, capable not just of surviving but of thriving, even in the most challenging times.

 

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Cover of book How To Raise Remarkable Kids Without Talking To Them


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