Our tiny, ancient reptilian brain (the amygdala) is scared, selfish, hungry and horny. We’ll talk about the ‘scared’ part in this blog and leave the others for now!
This is the part of the brain that triggers the ‘fight or flight’ stress response, creating a cocktail of hormones designed to help us escape from a grizzly bear. Cortisol and adrenalin give us the strength, speed and agility to get to safety.
We’re not escaping from bears much these days, but many of us are living in a near constant state of stress. External pressures provoke the stress response and flood us with the same hormones that help us escape from physical danger. We can easily turn on the stress response by our thoughts alone. If you’ve ever woken up at 4am filled with fear and worry you’ll know what that’s like. We can terrify ourselves when we’re safe and warm in bed.
Two interesting things happen when we’re in the stress response state:
- Time is of the essence. We must act quickly.
- We narrow our focus to deal with the specific real or perceived danger.
When we’re in physical danger, we need to act quickly to survive. But when we’re dealing with a difficult situation for example, our stress response forces us to act quickly. It distorts our sense of time, which we interpret as pressure, adding more stress. It’s an unhelpful loop that makes the situation worse.
And as our focus narrows, it naturally means we are less creative. It’s not a time for blue-sky thinking. There are fewer possibilities, less options open to us. We act in haste with a limited capacity to think. We’re in survival mode.
What you can do to help
- Move. Take a short break and move your body. Stretch; go for a quick walk; dance; jump up and down or shake out your arms and legs. Physical movement helps process the stress hormones. It restores balance and opens up our creative thinking again.
- Be mindful. Mindfulness simply means ‘present moment awareness’. Take a few deep breaths. Notice how you’re feeling. What’s happening in your body – is it tight? Relax your shoulders as you breathe deeply.
- Try repeating the simple statement ‘I am unrushed’.
- Meditation. A regular mediation practice helps us learn to calm down our racing minds. We remind ourselves to relax our bodies and to easily access this feeling when we need to.
- Exercise. Regular exercise helps us manage everything better. Feeling strong, fit and alive helps keep our priorities straight and we’re less buffeted by the external circumstances of life.
Contact me if I can support you in your work.
With love xx