I’m a neurosurgeon. I use a simple hack to keep my anxiety in check during the pandemic — here’s how it works.

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With the daily challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ongoing social unrest surrounding the nation’s racial inequities, many of us are living in a constant state of fear and anxiety, whether we realize it or not. This unique intersection of high-stress circumstances has created tumult in which no one knows what to do or how to do it. 

I can’t think of another time in recent memory when I’ve experienced more cognitive dissonance — and I don’t think I’m the only one. Cognitive dissonance is that mental discomfort you get when struggling to wrap your brain around two conflicting ideas that place values and actions at odds. It’s that nagging feeling that something’s just wrong.

For example, while people may realize the scientific value of social distancing to protect collective health and safety, they also just really want to get back to their regular lives. Others might experience cognitive dissonance around race and discrimination, realizing that things need to change yet feeling ill-equipped to make a difference. These competing realities make us conflicted and uncomfortable.

Bridging the gap between dissonance and consonance

As humans, we are programmed to seek consistency. Whereas our minds struggle with cognitive dissonance, we thrive when we’re able to achieve cognitive consonance. It’s a state of harmony between our values and actions when you feel confident that you’re fulfilling your life’s purpose. You’re operating in a state of consonance.

To achieve personal excellence, everyone must travel that difficult road from dissonance to consonance. But you must create a bridge between these two opposing mental states and that requires cognitive dominance: Enhanced situational awareness that facilitates rapid and accurate decision-making under stress with limited time to make decisions. 

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When life throws us a curveball, it induces a natural fear response that can cause us to freeze or freak. But the more constructive way to deal with it is to override these primitive reactions by systematically analyzing unexpected events and taking action based on a more measured perspective. That’s cognitive dominance, and it enables us to outthink fear and plot a successful course despite uncertainty. This journey from dissonance to consonance makes our lives more vivid and meaningful.

A simple system for outthinking fear

To combat the tendency to freak or freeze when calamity strikes, I developed a simple hack that trains your brain to engage in cognitive dominance under pressure. It’s based on a four-quadrant cartesian coordinate system that will help you navigate the unexpected, think through fear and anxiety, and plan next steps when you don’t know what to do.

I created and refined this system over decades of practicing neurosurgery in order to engage effectively with fear and enhance my professional performance. I also use this approach in my personal life — as a husband, coach, and father — and you can too. 

When you experience an unexpected, stressful event, first break it down to its essential components. Ask yourself:

Objectively, what are …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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