Lately, my head has been pounding more than normal.

You can probably all relate at some level.

Seasonal allergies, not being able to do the things we normally do as a family, and just being a parent in this time of coronavirus can give us all lasting headaches. When we are in this state, it’s very challenging to think clearly and see positive outcomes.

Actually, the way our brains work, it is near impossible in this state. Our amygdala sends messages to our brain to play “movies” that are primarily around fight/flight type responses. These responses don’t have long term views, by definition. They are immediate and responsive only.

When we can get clarity, after some water and headache remedy of choice, we can consider a positive outcome. When this burden is lifted, we can imagine clarity, no pain, happy moments. We can problem solve and come up with creative solutions to resolve issues. We are able to create abundance.

In this time of massive change and unknowns, many of us are in “headache” state. It’s hard for us to see past the daily news blasts and restrictions to a positive life outcome. Because of this, it’s hard to problem solve, create solutions, resolve issues and create abundance.

So, is there a way we can get to that state, regardless of the circumstances? Without pretending things are great now (because they aren’t for most of us), how do we make a positive target end state?

In a word, yes. The brain science research at Harvard clearly shows a pattern that can get us out of the headache state, and be able to realize how resourceful we are. It’s be used with tens of thousands of people, from schools, to mental institutions, to everyday people.

Is it a miracle drug we can get a prescription to? Is it a product we can buy? Is it a new diet?

No, no and no.

It’s actually free, straight-forward, and something we can all practice and do right now.

What can get us out of this fog and free our brains to problem solve is – empathy.

In hundreds of studies, empathy demonstrates unlocking activity in our cortex, in the areas we can collaborate and solve problems.

Let’s get to a specific example you can use, right now.

In your next conversation with a friend, child, relative, try this. Take your listening up a few notches.  Here are six practical steps to take it forward:

  1. First, stop your instant response. Many of us are thinking of the next thing we want to say, or do, instead of being in the moment with the person talking.
  2. As you listen, consider where they may be coming from. Get curious about their background, stressors, mindset.
  3. After you have heard them, echo back to make sure. It can be something like “sounds/feels/looks like you are upset about XYZ. It makes sense that XYZ would be challenging.”
  4. Let go of the notion that you get to talk now. You might not. It’s okay. Breathe. The other person may say and need more empathy.
  5. As this happens, they are letting go of garbage keeping them stuck in fight/flight. And, what’s interesting, is the listener’s heart rate also slows and they regulate a bit as well.
  6. Once this happens, both of you can start to envision things a lot better. When you can envision things, you are giving your brain a target it can achieve. You can start to plan against this vision to achieve and move yourself forward.

There is a vibrant life past what is going on right now. Our choice is clear – we need to choose if it is having us or we are having it.

After the water, headache medicine, coffee and peppermint essential oils – I worked to really listen to my son and what was on his mind. We then spent the rest of the day defining fun thing we could do together – and likely couldn’t without this dedicated time together.

Very best to you and your families – you’ve got this!