Did you know that when we’re stressed we stop thinking? Its not that we don’t have thoughts in our head, we do but they’re all reactive. When we are stewing in cortisol, adrenaline and the 25 or so other negative hormones the brain releases when we feel under threat, all normal functions shut down.
That’s why being in a stressed state for long amounts of time makes us ill. Because we have switched off our digestive system, our auto-immune system, all systems considered non essential for fight or flight. Freeze is an altogether different, more traumatic and troubling response.
So we stop thinking creatively, logically, rationally. We catastrophise. Everything starts to spiral out of control as we keep reacting to what’s happening rather than taking a step back and give our minds the space necessary for problem solving thinking.
But when you’re in the mind of a crisis, when your brain has been hi-jacked by fear, stress, worry, how do you switch over to the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic nervous system that brings our homeostasis systems back on line?
There are quite a few very simple techniques to get this done in fact and I used several in a process I know works and describe below. They bring you back to conscious awareness of your problems and your ability to resolve them, rather than staying in a subconscious loop of under resourced reactivity.
The first thing you have to do is become aware you’re lost in a repetitive loop of poorly resourced thinking. The running around like a headless chicken, shouting that the sky is falling is a clue!
It might look like worry, anxiously examining an issue you’re facing over and over again and not seeing any viable solutions that appeal to you. They all feel uegh!
Or it may show up in you as anger, wanting to lash out and smash things, because you’re so frustrated at this problem and don’t know how you can solve it. And we usually end up lashing out at an innocent bystander, or worse, someone who cares about us and wants to help.
Just stop and become aware of where you are, the surroundings, the temperature, what you see, hear, smell, feel and what do you taste. Fear can have a distinctive flavour. And all stress is fear showing up in various guises. So don’t get hung up on the word fear, feeling fear is a normal human thing to do, if you don’t feel fear then you’re a psychopath or something.
As you use your senses to bring you back to the present moment, stand up tall. Imagine a gold thread running through you pulling you up straight, your back straightens, shoulders pulled back, head tilted slightly up. (There’s great research to show that looking upwards can actually help combat depression and anxiety)
Now take 3 deep breath, counting on the inhale for six, hold for 4 and exhale for 6.
Now, I want you to bring to mind a memory of a time when you felt safe, happy, content. A beautiful time in your life and it can be real or even imaginary, just make it feel real and have all those happy feelings flowing through you, feeling safe, warm, nurtured, protected, loved, taken care of.
And as you keep that in mind, feeling the feelings that image invokes like a warm blanket of comfort around you, gently stroke your inner wrist/arm with the fingertips of the opposite hand and feel the pleasurable sensations that arouses, warm, gentle, soft, safe.
As you start to feel good, you can say to yourself, ‘This problem can resolve itself and it will be easy and fun.’
And as that feeling of safety, warmth, being taken care of wraps around you and deepens, allow yourself to think of the thing causing you stress and anxiety and notice how it doesn’t feel so overwhelming anymore. Because you’re back in control of how you feel.
And keep doing this, keep feeling good while examining the thought that once made you feel unsafe and fearful, stressed and frustrated.
This is neuroplasticity in action. You’re changing how your brain thinks in real, observable actions in a short space of time.
After a while and you’ll know when it feels right to you, you can start to think of the problem and notice actionable, creative solutions come into your mind. Your many mental and emotional resources come together to offer elements of a fix, a result that works to your best advantage.
I’ve had some people say to me, ‘that sounds like hard work.’
Nothing harder than staying stuck is what I say to that.
I say to myself, every time I face something that is upsetting me, ‘This problem can resolve itself and it will be easy and fun,’
And just by saying that I shift how I feel about it.
How we feel is everything.
If you are stressed, feeling tight and constrained how on earth could you ever hope to access your higher level of thinking?
Be light, let it be easy and fun. Even the hard stuff.
This is the discipline, to be able to look at what life is throwing at you and say, ‘I’m okay with this, this problem will resolve itself and it will be easy and fun for me.’
Your mind is the most powerful tool you have to get through life the best you can. Most of us don’t know how to use it. In these posts with me, you are learning how your mind works and how to use it to your own advantage.
I wish I knew better sooner but I know what I know now and I use it every damn day. And life feels a thousand times better than it ever did begore.
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- A good father who sets an example of how to live well to his children.
- A committed, loving husband or partner.
- A super productive success at work.
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Want to know more? Email me or message me directly and I’ll fill you in on the details.