Why is stress management such a problem for people? I don’t know about you, but I’ve put in some time searching for a magic bullet. I’ve looked for that “once and done” thing I’m going to learn or think or do that will make me stress-proof.
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If you’ve done that, please join me in a little visualization. Imagine all the books, articles, authors, teachers, trainers and friends you’ve met in the quest to master stress. I find it helpful to picture them wearing party hats, snapping on the lights and jumping out from behind furniture as in a classic surprise party scene in a movie.
There isn’t one. Like it or not, we cannot simply put stress management on a list so we can check it off and move on. The good news? We don’t seem to object to repeated tooth brushing or hand washing. We know these things are necessary, and their effectiveness has a fairly short shelf life. Hygiene is important when it comes to staying healthy. Guess what? That’s true of our minds and our emotions, as well. And, it’s not because we are particularly weak in those areas.
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It’s the equipment: when we don’t understand we’re not able to use it to maximum efficiency. Earlier versions of the human brain were built to respond to immediate, life-threatening situations — the kind that resolve in no time flat. You know: run fast or become lunch. The time from noticing stress and resolution (safe or dead) was brief. And finite.
Modern stress is different and a great deal of it is not life-threatening. That’s both good and bad news: our lives are not in danger, but the stress mounts, without resolution. Imagine what that does to the more primitive part of your brain? (When it comes to danger, that’s your personal “first responder.”)
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Modern stress is very different than the kind the original equipment was built to handle. Knowing that allows us to take control and make different choices about the manner in which we interpret and respond to the data our primitive brain is trying to share.
We can make a choice to use the data from the primitive part of the brain as something helpful, or allow it to run around unsupervised until it becomes part of a full-blown “freak out.” Hmm…. taking breaths to stretch or take breaths suddenly doesn’t seem like such a big deal, does it?
You can get The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head on Amazon.