Does this remind you of anyone? Time to get up (late and tired), get the kids ready, get myself ready, wonder what we will all eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Crap, you didn't feed the dog and of course no one else did either. Good thing you are running late, have a meeting you need to be at, your feeling fat, have no time to exercise and good thing that inside you are seriously annoyed at your significant other, but that can wait. For now, just "Grin and Bear it." But first, you take a moment to grab your phone and check your email and spend some quality time with social media because, well, your late.
Could this be you? This my friend is your SNS (sympathetic nervous system,) the fight or flight mode on overdrive. The other nervous system PNS (parasympathetic nervous system,) or rest and digest has gone back to bed. Although they both are always at work, your SNS has hijacked your brain.
In all honesty, this day is just another day like any other but our perception of it is stressful. The fight or flight system is not a bad thing, we need it. When a car is about to run over an old lady or a tiger is chasing us or an ax murderer is under your desk you can thank that system to: raise your heart rate and blood pressure, fire up your muscles to run, make you more alert and laser focused, increase the stress hormone cortisol and on and on. Sound great? Yes, except I am 99% certain there is no old lady, tiger or ax murderer around. And, this fight or flight hijack, day after day can take a toll on your overall health, is a waste of your energy and it truly plays hell on the neurological functioning of your brain.
Our world today, with nonstop information firing at us and a tidal wave of technology, does not help us to activate our rest and digest system (PNS), the one that creates balance and equilibrium in our body. This system does things like: conserves energy, slows the heart rate and increases intestinal and glandular activity. Rest and digest sounds way more fun than fight or flight, right?
Back to your ignorant significant other and the "grin and bear it" mantra. Does that make it easier, make you look cool and in control, does it make it go away? No. Suppressing emotions actually makes the emotions grow stronger. The brain is constantly trying to figure out if your world is dangerous or friendly and sending us signals through our emotions. Burying them does more harm than good. It is our "perception" of our world that guides us to run away (danger) or toward (reward) something. Running away, sadly is usually the response that wins. Just perceiving you are in danger makes us feel nervous. When you learn to identify and regulate your emotions and perceptions, now you really are calm, cool and collected and will enjoy the rest and digest part of your nervous system. And you are also healthier, sleeping better, thinking better, and gliding through life instead of stumbling through it.
What to do?
- Slow down
- Become more self-aware
- Feel your emotions as they arise
- Live Mindfully...
There's that “mindful” word again. It's not creepy or religious, you don't need to wear a robe, sit under the Bodhi tree or take a week off to attend an expensive retreat where they take all your technology away (although that does sound blissful.) Meditation and mindfulness tools will in fact combat stress and make you healthier. You need to take action and discharge the stress rather than waiting for it to dissipate on its own. Use these tools to become more stress and body aware before the next hijacking of your nervous system takes place.
Wake up (5 minutes early) after a good night’s sleep feeling refreshed and energized. Take those 5 minutes to do a simple body scan and breath awareness meditation. Sitting in a quiet place, close your eyes, just take one minute or so to bring your attention to each part of the body, release all tension, then relax over the next four minutes by non-judgmentally observing your breath, in and out. Super simple and a good start to learning about meditation! Now breeze through the kitchen grabbing food that you remembered days ago to stock the fridge with, gently remind the kids to feed the dog. Take one minute to feel the irritation inside of you, feel it again, take a few deep breaths, let it go. Congratulations, you just hit the reset button and you are now ready to mindfully take on the day!
If you want to learn more quickly on what actually happens to your brain from stress check out this short video - https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-stress-affects-your-brain-madhumita-murgia