Prologue: This is one in a series of stories about nasty self-talk. The things we say to ourselves as we go about our daily activities and that grows louder when we need to sleep. These saboteur messages are based on a body of research that includes Positive Psychology, Neuroscience, Performance science & Cognitive Psychology and adapted for the Mental Fitness Program designed by Shirzad Chamine author of “Positive Intelligence”. The stories are based on how I experience the saboteurs.
The Nasty Voice of The Hyper-Vigilant
We are being bombarded by messages that trigger the fear centres of our brain. Just think about the shift we have made in our common greetings with one another, which used to sound like: “Have a nice day” or “Good Day”. These days every email greeting and personal interactions end with “Stay Safe” or “Stay Well”. These are messages that tell us to be on guard, to protect ourselves from other people who might carry the virus. Health authorities are reminding us daily to put on personal protective equipment and keep the circle of people we interact with, small. These are important and valid messages for our physical health.
But what does this do for our inner sense of peace?
Quite the opposite, we are being triggered to stay alert and vigilant to the dangers that are ever-present and nearby, not only from those we don’t know but people in our tribe, even close friends and family.
The pattern of a hyper-vigilant inner voice is destructive to our inner peace, to our wellness. When we are constantly on guard against an invisible enemy, we spend our energy reserves quickly. Even if you sleep well, get exercise, eat properly and stay safe you may be wondering why you feel a general emotional pal or listlessness. It stands to reason that your sense of possibility and optimism for the futures is fuzzy at best or becoming quite dark.
Personally, I tend to be hyper-vigilant at the best of times. I am quick to note how things could go wrong, what we don’t have to make something work, not enough of time, money or ability, …. It is an exhausting way to live each day. There was a time when I thought that this type of constant vigilance protected me from making mistakes or losing. Now I realize that I squandered my best resource by spending energy with very little ROI.
Vigilance, on the other hand, is my friend. Perseverance and steady action towards my goals while remaining alert to risks ahead that need to be managed. This is a very different energy spend compared with extraordinary sensitivity to danger, and constantly expecting the other shoe to drop!
I have crafted a motto or mantra of sorts to shift my energy and awareness: “Relax with the problems to have energy for the solutions.”
Dropping your hyper-vigilant armour does not mean becoming casual or carefree, seeing only rainbows and buttercups. It means you take decisive action when the situation poses real danger. Wearing face masks and physically distancing yourself is decisive action in the face of a real danger. Use your energy to discern and analyze risks objectively rather than panicking with every imaginable concern.
Can we shift the tone of our interactions from hyper-vigilance to healthy vigilance by choosing a more positive greeting? Please leave your suggestions in the comments section.