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How to Think Upside Down in a COVID World

by jcp
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Kim Rutherford – Mental health expert, psychotherapist 


When it comes to the COVID-19 crisis, this has literally turned our world upside down. The daily activities that we took for granted such as going grocery shopping, sitting at a coffee shop, or going out to dinner was basically taken away from us. People lost their jobs; their homes and many businesses went bankrupt. And how can we ever forget all the lives that have been lost through this pandemic. This caused everyone to go into isolation, and it triggered our nervous system responses of fight, flight and flee. Some people fought against the CDC guidelines of social distancing, others hoarded and ran away with toilet paper and water from the markets, and many froze as they watched the news feeling overwhelmed about what to do. Over time however, survival reactions were replaced with bravery, as so many front-line workers sacrificed their lives and courageously took on the challenge of caring for their communities and committing to a cause greater than themselves. And as bravery and conscientiousness expanded, through global cooperation of public health measures such as social distancing and greater health safety practices, we were able to slow down the virus and begin to come back to some form of normalcy.

And as the world is establishing a new normal, it is time to individually come back and rebuild a life that was better than what it was before. So how can you do that? By revisiting every area of your life that is not making you happy and listening to the nervous system reactions that come from it. When you do, you are transforming from a survival space to a quality-of-life mentality. And when you give yourself permission to do so, you are now ready to break “The Vicious 3T Cycle”. The 3T cycle represents the cyclical interaction of:

  • Toxicity– the physical environments that are not healthy in your life
  • Triggers– the emotional triggers that come from your toxic environments
  • Trauma– the pains of your past that are stored in your nervous system

And as you begin this second act, understand that the fight response will protect your limited beliefs through anger, the flee response will make you want to run away in fear due to the belief in dependency, and the freeze response comes from being overwhelmed due to believing that you do not have the ability to choose.

For example, if you are in an unhealthy relationship (toxicity), and it is causing you deep resentment (trigger), explore this response to fight and protect your limiting beliefs about love (trauma), and assess if you have outgrown your partner and if it is time to move on. Similarly, if you are in a job that you are uncomfortable in (toxicity), and it is causing you great anxiety (trigger), honor this nervous system response to run away (trauma) and explore the skillsets and traits that you need to develop for greater independence and freedom in your career. Also, if you are in a situation where an important life decision cannot be made due to others being overly involved in your world (toxicity), embrace the mixed emotions of indecision (trigger), and honor this nervous system response of freezing (trauma) by letting go of trying to please others. When you do, you will naturally become clear on the decision that you need to make. By honoring the nervous system involvement in your emotional world, it will lead you to answer the following questions everyday:

  1. Fight– What limiting beliefs am I still protecting that I need to move on from?
  2. Flight– What skillsets do I need to develop to become more independent in my life?
  3. Freeze– What do I need to let go of in my life that is no longer serving my growth?

Kim Rutherford – Mental health expert, psychotherapist





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