I was talking with a client last week, and I was trying to come up with a way to describe why she was not feeling or behaving like her normal self, feeling out of control of her thinking and her reactions. I observed that she was describing what it feels like to be under the influence of some mind-altering substance and then I made the connection. She is!
We’ve been living in a prolonged period unusual levels of anxiety, fearfulness and confusion. We’ve been in a heightened state of awareness and hyper-vigilance for an extended period of time. We have experienced an excess of stress hormones and adrenaline.
For most of us, this is not normal. Unless we have been in a war zone, served in the military or been in some other consistently life threatening situation, we are not used to this level of stress. Sure, we’ve had high stress jobs and a stressful lifestyle, but not like this. We aren’t used to it.
Our brain has been operating under the influence of these chemicals. Here are just some of the effects of stress hormones on our brain:
- We tend to binary thinking (also known as black-or-white thinking) where there are only 2 options: good or bad, right or wrong, enemy or ally
- We see polarities: people who disagree are our enemies, those who agree are our allies. There is no in-between
- We see threats everywhere – real or imagined
- We feel a compelling need to make ourselves feel safe, because our brain is telling us that our survival is at stake
- We feel an artificial sense of urgency
Of course this is our primitive brain (amygdala) at work, but it is loud. In fact, it is shouting so loudly that that the more advanced parts of our brain can’t even think straight.
We are operating under the influence of fear and stress hormones.
Once we become aware, there are things we can do to “sober up” and return to ourselves.
We can add in things that help. We can facilitate getting these hormones down to lower levels in our system through exercise, rest, staying hydrated, eating well, meditating, and similar practices.
We can crowd out things that don’t help. We can reduce the amount of fear and stress hormones our bodies create by limiting the triggers, such as newsfeeds, social media, toxic conversations, stressful situations – it’s like doing a detox, and you gradually add back the things that you can tolerate.
I think that the stress triggers aren’t going to go away anytime soon. We need to develop ways to keep from operating under the influence. I’ve been piloting a beta course on using Color Thinking to get things back under our own control, and the results have been wonderful. I’m going to modify it a bit and release it soon, once I get through the book launch, which is on July 27! If you’re interested, let me know.
In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!
Love and light, Maggie
My Book, The Rainbow Onion, is now available for pre-order at a discount on Amazon (here) until July23rd – then it goes up to full price.