Which of the following is the best method for dealing with stress?
You guessed it - All of the above are excellent for dealing with stress. But limiting yourself to one or two approaches is not very effective.
For example... improving your skill at managing time so you can squeeze more into your already over-burdened schedule is like taking out a credit card every time a payment is due... sooner or later you have to pay the bill - emotional, spiritual, and physical bankruptcy - aka BURNOUT! The best thing to do is combine all of the above methods for a powerful, synergistic effect.
The brain is now believed to have a lot of plasticity - In other words, it’s highly adaptable - It adapts to any environment we subject it to over a period of time.
An "environment" can be external to the body as well as internal. This adaptation creates a familiar balance or "Steady-State" in the brain.
Here are some examples of INTERNAL environments:
Negative Internal Environments:
Positive Internal Environments:
Here are some examples of EXTERNAL environments:
Negative External Environments:
Positive External Environments:
The dendrite connections in our neural networks are not set in stone as once thought... Every time we learn something new, dendrite connections are changed and new ones are made that didn’t exist before. So, the Internet of our mind is constantly changing - updating and adapting to the environment in which we place it. The purpose of this adaptation is to achieve and maintain a biological balance known as homeostasis or "Steady-State".
It appears that the brain likes predictability and consistency. Once we have acquired a certain steady-state our brain will act to maintain that state... even a state of chronic stress or depression! The good news? - With discipline and repetition we can change our steady-state to a "new steady-state" - or neo-homeostasis. For example, if one prefers regular cola a switch to diet cola would initially be difficult because of the aftertaste. However, when a switch to diet cola is made for three weeks or longer the taste buds - or more accurately the neural networks associated with them - adjust themselves for the diet cola... Now the person cannot drink regular cola without an aftertaste.
Whenever we try to make a significant change in our neural networks the effort is initially met with resistance. But if we persist with discipline and repetition we can make the changes we want. Some networks are so deeply ingrained that they do not go quietly. Consider the person who grew up in a dysfunctional, chaotic and alcoholic home - then later on fell pray to their own addiction...
This person’s accumulated neural networks of abandonment, shame, and contempt from childhood - coupled with the negative consequences of their own addiction network - is likely to cause their internal steady-state to be chronically painful. By "chronic" I mean always present. Pain becomes their steady-state... something they are used to. They may never have known anything else. In cases like these, depression can become familiar and accepted as a way of life. In fact, any attempts to recover from chronic conditions like depression, codependency, or addiction are usually met with strong resistance in the form of self-sabotage as the subconscious mind tries to regain and maintain it's normal steady-state.
When someone says, "that’s just the way I am" - it’s true... However, the unspoken implication is "I can’t change" which is NOT true. If it were true there would be no recovery from addiction...no healing of depression, codependency or Adult/Child Syndrome. While these networks have become deeply ingrained - part of a chronic steady-state. With awareness, dedication, and action, they can adapt to a "new steady-state" called Recovery. The proliferation of the twelve-step movement is testimony to that.
Neurogenesis means brain growth - it’s the creation of new dendrite connections in the Internet of the Mind. In a recent article, William Horton, Ph.D. writes:
In other words, if you live with a steady-state of chronic stress then all kinds of imbalances occur due to the neuro-toxicity - causing neurological, physical, emotional, and spiritual degeneration (breakdown)...which leads to pain and more stress.
Healthy-balanced living, on the other hand, leads to neurological, physical, emotional, and spiritual regeneration (growth)... and ultimately health and happiness.
Stress plays an important role in our life - indeed in our very survival.
There is good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).
Eustress is a short-term physiological reaction that helps us rise to meet a challenge... It is a function of the survival systems of the brain - also known as the fight-or-flight response...
Let’s use as an example of a primitive hunter being chased by T. Rex...
The moment his unconscious mind perceives the threat... the hunter’s brain became flooded with a stress hormone called CRF which heightens anxiety... creates hyper-vigilance... then sends instructions to the adrenal glands to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, another stress hormone, to prepare him for action.
As a result the hunter becomes hyper-alert, all of his muscles tense up making him ready to act, his heart rate increases, and all his senses became sharper to the point he is able to automatically assess the situation in a fraction of an instant and respond without thinking - with subconscious perception.
This fight-or-flight stress response requires a lot of energy... Accordingly, the brain shuts down unnecessary systems - such as the digestive system - diverting the energy from those systems into reacting to the current situation.
Once he finds safety... the "Don’t Get Eaten" switch is turned off and a relaxation response follows.
There really is no such thing as "bad stress". Distress is not actually caused by stress... It's brought about by the lack of an adequate relaxation response.
An inability to create an adequate relaxation response can be due to several factors, many of which may spring from the woundedness of unmet childhood dependency needs...
Growing up in an abuse and/or neglectful home causes:
These things create patterns of chronic stress resembling the diagram below:
When consistently excessive levels of stress become a steady-state it throws our whole system off...
Take, for example, that during challenging periods the energy it takes to respond to that challenge is diverted from other systems such as the digestive system...
Since the digestive system is not operating at an optimal level it becomes more difficult to lose weight. There may also be a pattern of comfort eating - The extra weight combined with excess amounts of sugar and carbohydrates cause even more stress on the body.
Very little energy is left over for neurogenesis and healthy exercise causing even more stress on the body.
To make matters worse, the excess amounts of cortisol and adrenaline coursing through the body cause it to run in overdrive on a daily basis - This is especially true when one lives in survival mode such as many adult-children of dysfunctional families.
This is why it does not surprise me that I see a lot of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalsia in my work with those who have long histories of codependency - Carrying the weight of the world on one’s shoulders day after day is bound to take its toll sooner or later.
The use of objects like chemicals and food...or events like gambling and compulsive spending for comfort and relief is a short-term fix at best - one that has very serious long-term consequences...
This kind of "solution" actually makes the problem worse by increasing stress at all levels:
Negative self-talk is one of the most effect ways to keep toxic levels of stress going...Talk about pollution of the mind!
...These are signals from our unconscious mind that something is wrong and needs to be attended to... When these signals are ignored they get "turned up"... but no avail because our denial prevents us from taking heed of the signals.
Eventually... we become increasingly unable to carry out the responsibilities of our life roles...spouse, employee, parent, friend, brother/sister, son/daughter, etc.
Explore the following links to delve deeper into the workings of your very own super-computer: