The Mind And Stress
Lesson 11 Chapter 4
‘It’s not the load that breaks you, it’s the way you carry it’ – Lou Holtz
In the last chapter, our focus was on getting you to physically feel better so you can think better. This is great, but it’s not the full story, there is still a lot more you can do to improve your mindset.
In this chapter, we will be looking at how your mood, attitude and mindset are more often than not adversely affected by stress and what simple things you can do to make things a whole lot better.
However, so that you know, one thing I won't be tacklinge here are issues concerning stress directly resulting from financial problems or unsound money management and how best to deal with them.
They are big important subjects which I will have to leave for another course. That said, many of the suggestions made in this chapter will help your mindset if you are currently struggling financially.
So are you ready to proceed?
Okay, let's go…
A bit about stress
First off, I should say that not all stress is the same and not all stress is bad either. In fact, a bit of the right kind of stress is pretty important.
Without it, we would never get out of bed in the morning, get anything done or even feel frightened if we walked in front of an out of control speeding lorry.
But, and it’s a pretty big ‘but’, these days we are bombarded with lots of different types of stress. Possibly more so than ever before. And frankly, many of us are finding it difficult to cope with it in such an abundance. This is a major reason why so many people feel and behave less positively than they would under ‘normal’ less stressful circumstances.
Fight or Flight
When we become stressed our brain sends an alarm message to the hypothalamus to take over our breathing, heartbeat, brain function, digestion and metabolism via our pituitary gland and endocrine system.
When this happens, a hormone is secreted that alerts the adrenal glands that it’s time for some action and in response they release adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream.
The effects are immediate and perfect for fighting a wild boar or running away from a sabre tooth tiger – but not so good for sitting in a traffic jam when you are late for an important work meeting or fretting over how you are going to pay your mortgage and credit cards this month!
The evolution of stress
The key problem is that humans are not really designed to cope with the long sustained periods of low-level stress that we now find in the modern world. Our ‘fight or flight’ response served us well during our evolution, but nowadays is all too frequently left on (or at least triggered much too often). And this leads to us feeling anxious, worried and sometimes, in the worst cases, results in full-blown panic attacks.
What happens to us when we get stressed?
In a nutshell, we all deal with stress differently and sometimes situations can be so personally stressful for us that we simply cannot cope – this is known as PTSD. But for most of us we tend to display some or all of the following symptoms:
• We become irritable
• We have shorter tempers
• Worry about everything
• Have difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly
• Feel agitated
• Have trouble sleeping but are constantly tired
• Can become down, depressed and lethargic
• Feel detached
• Develop ‘irrational’ fears and phobias
• Reduced libido
• Develop relationship problems
Simple Stress Busters!
Okay, first off let's have a look at some basic 101s.
If you are displaying any of the above-listed symptoms (or think your mindset is being negatively affected in some other way by too much stress), here are some simple things you might want to consider taking on board to help:
1. If you drink a lot of coffee reduce your consumption or switch to de-café (or even better some healthier herbal teas). If you're drinking a lot of energy drinks, just stop. Seriously.
2. If you're drinking a lot of alchohol i.e. everyday, waking up hungover or hiding it from people, then you need to cut down. Period.
3. Learn to breathe more calmly and centre yourself.
4. Develop a routine of relaxing activities i.e. yoga, tai chi, pilates etc. I find yoga especially good for relaxing as it:
a) Activates the 'logical mind' (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, parts of the cingulate cortex and parts of the hippocampus) as opposed to the 'emotional mind' (the amygdala and its connections and medial forebrain structures including the medial prefrontal cortex) - that trigger our bodies stress responses.
b) Holding yoga posures also sends our body 'relaxation' signals via switches in our neck that are triggered when we bend forward, backwards etc.
c) Acts as a form of meditation.
c) Can be a great workout!
5. Listen to some relaxing and uplifting music*
6. Learn to mediate or even teach yourself self-hypnosis via books, the internet or a therapist.
7. De-clutter your surroundings. A messy environment usually just adds to your stress levels.
8. Learn to do less. Look at what actions and things you are doing that are unnecessary, superfluous or unenjoyable and (if you can) eliminate them.
*NOTE: Music has a VERY powerful effect on your moods. So much so that some music scales (e.g. Locrian) were once actually banned because they were considered to be bad for society, individually damaging and even demonic!
In the next chapter, we will be looking at how you can raise your spirits via some soul food to make you feel more mentally strong, positive and confident about yourself!