Demystifying the Stress Epidemic

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According to the World Health Organization, stress is the number one health epidemic of the 21st Century. Life is always going to happen on its own terms whether we like it or not. Shit happens, people act out, things change. We can accept, reject or resist our experiences, yet the only control we have is how we react or respond. Yet it’s our own thinking and feelings about our experiences, that really cause us stress. 

A primary function of the ego mind is the illusion of control. It ‘thinks’ it can control people, places, and things in an attempt to avoid stressful thoughts and feelings. ‘If only everyone would behave and everything go my way Life would be good and I’d be happy.’ Nice thought, yet life doesn’t work that way. Ultimately it is we who are responsible for our own thoughts and feelings. 

Brain technology tells us that thoughts create emotions, which create feelings, leading to physiological and physical reactions and actions. Worry and fear thoughts alert our brain to release the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol increases stress, signals our sympathetic nervous system, affects our thinking, health and wellbeing. When we are in fear it triggers an amygdala hijack, shutting down the brain’s neocortex, preventing us from rational thinking and emotional regulation. This is by design because the human brain was designed for survival. It’s a default setting and a vicious cycle.

The brain is a database of memory and a record of our past. Repetition creates neural networks that fire and strengthen becoming habits. These unconscious habits become hard-wired to create a baseline neurochemistry unique to each of us. Today the stress baseline has become the new normal for most humans living on a steady diet of overwhelm and busyness. 

There may be temporary reprieves and calmer times, yet with a stress baseline, anything out of alignment causes the brain to alert to the body something is wrong. Our bodies have memory and its job is to maintain our baseline whatever it is. In other words, our neurochemical baseline controls us. We become addicted to our thoughts and feelings and states of being while unconsciously creating external experiences that feed the cycle.

Stress, like anger, is referred to as a secondary emotion. Underneath lies a myriad of feelings and thoughts about those feelings which cause us stress. In the absence of awareness, we blame or attempt to change external circumstance invariably dropping into victim mentality and the dreaded drama triangle of victim, persecutor, and rescuer. We cycle through these roles desperately seeking something to release us from our habitual thinking and our uncomfortable feelings.

Over time, our habits become our default settings running unconsciously on autopilot. We learn to attach to and define ourselves by our thoughts and our feelings, and our circumstances. We are not our thoughts nor our feelings. They are thoughts and feelings, they are energy forms. Our experiences and circumstances do not define who we are unless we allow them too. We can detach, observe and regulate. We can practice mindfulness and meditation to strengthen our neocortex and shrink our fear brain.

The only way out of this cycle is in. We must become conscious of our unconscious patterns of thoughts and feelings, be accountable instead of blame, change the lens, shift perspectives and be willing to change. I’m not going to lie to you. Even for the most emotionally intelligent and conscious aware, changing brain habits take a great deal of self-awareness, a willingness to be uncomfortable, and daily practice.

Sure, there are temporary fixes, yet to transform our brain and transcend the mind, we must learn new ways of thinking and feeling, establish new baselines and memorize new states of being. We can overwrite existing files and hard-wire new neural pathways. We are not the victims we’ve been programmed to believe, we are creators. Our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, intentions and actions create our realities.

There is no greater freedom than the freedom from our mind. It is possible to choose the thoughts and feelings we attend too and lead consciously from our hearts. I speak from personal experience about my own transformational journey of transcending my brains programming and habits.

As a coach, I know value of a thinking and accountability partner, who can mirror back what we can't see and provide am actionable framework for lasting transformation. I have guided many clients through this journey with life altering results.

There is an old Navajo saying “There is a Sioux saying: The longest journey you will make in your life, is from your head to your heart.” There another saying “let go or be dragged.” We don’t have to wait for our cosmic 2x4 to awaken consciousness, we can choose to become conscious and change.

For information on coaching, training, workshops or speaking engagements, visit http://hmlcoaching.com or DM me.

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