When you are stressed out, your anxiety goes up. You lose intellectual control and move from your intellectual brain to your primitive emotional brain. Your heart rate goes up, you sweat, your stomach churns and you don’t think straight. When you live in this heightened state of stress day in and day out, you try to distract yourself by comfort eating, watching endless tv. Or you can lose all control over your mind and let your primitive brain takeover completely, and this mind always operates within the primitive parameters of depression, anxiety and anger, or a combination of all three.
Does this sound familiar?
We can avoid getting this far by understanding how the brain works, and its natural stress responses. When we are in the grip of strong emotions, anger, fear, or new love, our judgement becomes clouded. We adopt black and white thinking; we are in the right and nothing anyone says or does can change that. In fact, when we are in the grip of strong emotions, we can become downright stupid!
The stress responses and emotions are generated from a part of the brain called the Amygdala. This reacts by getting the body geared up for a ‘fight or flight’ response by initiating a release of neurotransmitters and hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones make it easier for our bodies to fight whatever we are facing. In survival terms, can I eat this, or will eat me? Can I fight, or run away?
The fight/flight/freeze response is very rapid. When we are in some sort of perceived danger (a rustling behind a wall, an animal approaching) the Amygdala responds first by initiating a fight or flight response, before our intellectual brain (the Prefrontal Cortex) realises what’s happening, or what it is we are actually facing. This communication happens by sending a signal to the Amygdala, telling it to turn off the stress response, and that all is safe and well.
These two parts of the brain can work in a partnership, with the Prefrontal Cortex (intellectual brain) adding perspective to the Amygdala’s emotional responses. But there are cases where we are stressed, and the Amygdala hijacks our rational thinking. In these cases, it’s imperative we learn how to balance our responses, and take back control.
How do you regain control?
Get to know your triggers: Scale yourself at set points throughout the day. What happened that made you lose your temper? Was it your boss’s feedback? What made you stressed? The workload or your colleagues? The kids? Whatever it is, this information gathering is valuable. Slow down and think before responding. What is it about the situations that upset you so much?
Be mindful: Studies show that people who practice mindfulness daily have a better communication between their Amygdala and their Prefrontal Cortex.
Separate yourself from the problem: When you are stressed, angry or scared, you become overwhelmed and you feel as if you can’t see straight. Remember, you are notyour strong emotions; you didn’t come to life stressed. It’s something that’s outside yourself. Once you do this, you are accessing the analytical part of your brain. You will find that whatever stress you’re going through is something you do have control over. And you can make it go away.
Exercise: Studies show that when we exercise, we trigger a release of happy hormones such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These improve our cognitive functioning, stress responses, memory, and accelerates information processing.
Widen your perspective: When you are experiencing strong emotions, your entire physical and mental energy is directed towards defending yourself from the perceived threat. Expanding your perspective gives you a chance to think at a different level, allowing you to see things in a different light and to come up with solutions you haven’t considered before.
At Key To Change Hypnotherapy we can help you find that balance you are seeking. We combine powerful solution-focused discussions, followed by encouraging a relaxing trance state so the ideas and solutions discussed can then be explored and utilised by the brain for positive benefit.