The Science

For now, I am probably more accurately giving you the context behind the one minute meditations. If your feedback indicates you would prefer the corresponding journal articles as supporting evidence I can work on adding that.

Amygdala Hijack

Here’s the short version.

No offence but there are still parts of your brain that are primitive. When a threat is identified those primitive parts try to take control to get you out of danger. Causing the fight, flight or freeze response.

When its needed it helps us survive a crisis but in challenging and stressful times, like say, a world-wide pandemic the added adrenalin and cortisol floods our system which is particularly bad for those with ME/CFS. With the thinking centres offline it also causes people to feel better if they rush out and buy all the toilet paper they can find.

The one minute meditations are designed to help short circuit the feedback loop that keeps you trapped in a cycle of anxiety and stress.

It may sound patronising to someone who is genuinely in an at risk population right now but forcing the primitive parts of your brain to back off the controls allows you to rationally assess your situation and what steps you need to make to reduce your risk.

Focusing on your senses, which I will outline over a series of exercises, is the most effective way to active your parasympathetic nervous system and the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain you need to process what you are feeling instead of instinctively reacting to what you are feeling.

Deescalating and stepping out of catastrophising allows you to calm your stress hormones. I’m not saying you don’t have every right to feel stress and anxiety it’s about not letting it take over so that you can’t use the part of your brain that will help you navigate this extremely stressful time. 

Naming and Externalising Emotions

The simple act of naming your emotions takes the power out of them by helping to quieten the amygdala. When your emotions are high it can feel like you’re the passenger in a speeding car. Naming the emotion allows you to see you’re in the drivers seat and can take your foot off the accelerator. (Putting your foot on the brake might take a bit more work but you’ve done step one.) Because you’re now in the driver’s seat again you can more easily make decisions about what to do next. This is especially effective for worries and fears as you can now more accurately determine the likelihood of the event happening or what steps need to be taken to give you the best chance of preventing it from happening. Once the amygdala stops the blaring warning sirens you can also more effectively draw on what’s worked in the past in similar circumstances or what’s needed to get through the situation in the future.

Naming emotions also allows you to normalise them. Sadness and anger is a natural reaction to hurt, loss and disappointment. Anxiety is a normal reaction to anticipated hurt or loss or threats to well-being and safety. For those with health conditions it also means some of your energy is no longer being diverted to trying to push the emotion down.

Naming and externalising the emotion takes the intensity out of the emotion because is allows your brain to file it in the appropriate folder. If you hear something go bump in the night you naturally start running through all the possible scenarios from naughty cat to burglar. Our grey blobs between the ears do this for everything, what’s the danger and what needs to be done about it. The more details you bring to light, the more the brain will stop trying to rally your precious resources and search for the source of the threat.  

This next part is the opposite of science. But I’ve added it in case you need a different way to see how it helps. Think of if as having a conversation with your brain.

Me: I feel fear.

Grey blob between the ears: Oh, okay, that’s what that churning in the pit of my stomach is. I need to know if there’s enemies inbound or its normal, being a human being in a scary world, type fear.

Me: Its fear of hospitals. So it’s being a human being in a scary world, that’s extra scary right now, type fear.

Grey blob between the ears: I’ll just slap a label on it and put in the folder before the fear of snakes and move the fear of clowns to the back for now. I’ll have a go at stopping the churning for a little while. Feel free to go about your business. But I’m pretty sure the way you’ve coped with this kind of thing before is to watch the trashiest reality tv show you can find to distract yourself for a bit. There might be more effective ways to cope though.

Me: Where’s the remote?

Disclaimer: If you kept reading, I did warn you it didn’t belong in the science section. 

Tai Chi

I am going to outsource the science explanation on this one. Click here if you want a general explanation of the benefits or click here if you want an article about the comparative effectiveness of Tai Chi for fibromyalgia.

Including even minimal Tai Chi movements with any meditation is of course subject to your available energy envelopes and the severity of your illness.

More to Come

There will be more information to come to show the supporting evidence behind the one minute meditations. It will be based on feedback about how much you want or need to know and how much proof you want that it is evidence based. Or if you just need to know I’ve done my homework and I don’t need to show off.

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