Monday, May 24, 2021

Stress, Anxiety, and Fear: Who Is To Blame?

Tonight on a very public live forum (CBC News live chat...) that was discussing Covid 19-induced stress, I made a by-the-way comment that stress is a perceived emotion.  I got 3 negative reactions, and no positive support... telling me that these people think stress is caused by outside forces. Which is sad.

Stress is an automated (subconscious) reaction to a perceived threat. This fear reaction can be tamed, particularly when life and limb are not at stake; the reason being, our mammalian brain cannot differentiate between real or just interpreted threat. Training oneself to differentiate between the two can be life changing.

Degrees of threat can range from physical survival, to getting a bad job review, to not getting a parking spot near the doctor’s office.  Most of today’s threats for most people do not involve being eaten by a bear or lion, so unless you’re hooked on the juice that stress gives you and its subsequent impacts, you can train your brain to give stress the middle finger (again, unless there is a viable threat to life and limb...)  

Key point: too many people are actually addicted to their “stress” story, and prefer to live there. This is a subconscious negative feedback loop that energizes them; you can detect it when they give every excuse in the book why they don’t / can’t change, and say no to anyone wanting to help them out of their rut. It’s scary how prevalent that is.

Brain training out of stress involves a few simple and very effective tools.  Anyone using these tools consistently attest to not just reduced stress, but reduced anxiety and anger... which find their origins in fear.

Short-circuiting this mammalian threat response is done by convincing your subconscious that you’re safe; that everything is okay. A disciplined approach to the following simple tactics will have lasting effects.

1) Hydrating. Drinking adequate amounts of water tells your brain you’re in a safe environment.

2) Suck on candies (even low-cal ones meant for diabetics). The pleasurable feedback soothes you.

3) Deep breathing. Take three HUGE deep breaths every hour.

4) Guided meditation. Find some audio recordings of 10 to 15 minute sessions, and do them once a day.

These four things tell your brain you’re not under threat, and go a long way in calming your nerves. “Trite” you say? Don’t knock till you’ve tried it. This advice comes from a long line of psychologists, life coaches, hypnotherapists, doctors, and therapists of various disciplines. I’ve done my homework on this, and it does indeed work. 

The question remains: who do you want to blame for your stress? You can stay stuck in a rut, or you can move on. Your choice.