It’s time to build your psychological immune system

It’s time to build your psychological immune system

It’s time to build your psychological immune system

You are walking through the woods. You hear leaves crunching behind you. Your heart begins to race, your breath quickens, and you feel beads of sweat form on your forehead. You turn around to see a small rabbit frozen, staring at you, then darting into the trees. You take a deep breath and start to calm down.

Being able to tell the difference between danger and safety is necessary for survival. In this situation, you were able to quickly realize the “threat” was not a threat at all.

Unfortunately, your brain cannot tell the difference between a real threat and a perceived threat. Our brain wasn’t designed for 24 hour news coverage, political divisiveness, and the onslaught of social media and constant connection.

Throw in a 2+ year global pandemic that has left our nerves frayed, and our brains and bodies tired. Yet, our list of to-dos isn’t getting shorter, and the demands on our time and energy aren’t lessening.

In order to regulate stress, battle burnout, and improve well-being, you have to intentionally build your psychological immune system.

If it is not possible to reduce the “threat”, you have to increase your sense of safety. Every time your brain gets a signal of safety, it replenishes your psychological immune system.

We can create safety signals, cues that we learn to associate with a lack of threat. These signals can be physical (an article of clothing, smooth stone, pet, etc.), or they can be mental (imagining being in your favorite place, thinking of someone you love, remembering a calming smell).

What are your safety signals?

Identify a few of your safety signals. What helps you feel calm, comfortable, and at peace? It is important to create a collection of these proactively so that you can pull from these resources when you need them.

While it’s easy to rush through this list, I want to challenge you to take a few moments to really think about the ones that resonate with you. Write them down, take time to visualize, and internalize the feelings you get when you think about your safety signals. This helps your brain and nervous system associate them with being calm and relaxed.

For example:

  • An object that brings you comfort
  • Something you can nurture and care for
  • A person in your life that makes you feel safe and loved
  • A personal strength that has allowed you to overcome challenges and setbacks
  • An accomplishment that brings you joy and pride
  • A place that helps you feel calm and centered
  • A memory that brings up positive emotions
  • A personal sense of meaning and purpose
  • A community that gives you a sense of belonging

A collection of safety signals helps you to take back control in a world that can feel very out of control. This week, pay attention to safety signals, take some of the pressure off, and allow your psychological immune system to reset.

Stay brave and resilient,


Read that again. 🙌 ...

I played piano from the time I was four years old until the age of 15 and during that time, I had a lot of recitals. I remember being so nervous before each recital. What if I played the wrong note? What if I forgot the music? My dad would look at me, hold my hands, and say:

Whatever you do, DO NOT think of pink elephants!!

At the time, I had no idea why in the world he would say this. All I do know is that when I sat down to play, all I saw were pink elephants, and I was able to tackle my nerves.

Turns out my dad was helping me to practice the ironic process theory which explains that when we try to suppress our thoughts, we focus on them even more. Seventy to 80% of our thoughts are negative and repetitive. If not managed, intrusive thoughts can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of mental health challenges.

If you tend to get stuck in rumination, or if your thoughts sometimes get the best of you, here are a few ways to take back control:

1️⃣ Recognize that your thoughts are not facts.
2️⃣ Use your brain. Do a math problem, practice a different language, or play a puzzle game. When you access the prefrontal cortex, the higher level thinking part of your brain, you get out of the emotional limbic system.
3️⃣ Distract yourself. Sometimes a simple distraction gives you enough distance to quiet your intrusive thoughts.
4️⃣ Practice mindfulness.
5️⃣ See a therapist. When negative, intrusive thoughts impact your ability to do your job, maintain relationships, or start clouding your judgment, it may be time to get help. As someone with plenty of intrusive thoughts, therapy has helped me tremendously.

Don’t forget, your thoughts and feelings are not facts. They are simply habits that need to be shifted. Be patient with yourself, and if all else fails, whatever you do, DO NOT THINK OF PINK ELEPHANTS!

Pets provide a deep sense connection and unconditional love. I don’t know what I’d do without without these two nut jobs! Happy National Love Your Pet Day! ❤️🐶 #mindfulmonday #mindfulness #petsnuggles #ilovemydogs #petsofinstagram #nationalloveyourpetday ...

I hope your Friday includes donuts. 🍩 ...

Midweek reminder: Reset your mindset. 🧠 ...

Read Up on Resilience!

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Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.

Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 3 books. Her newest, Mind Over Moment: Harness the Power of Resilience, is available on Amazon now.

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