Are you struggling to stay focused, meet your deadlines and have enough energy left for your family? Are you in a state of emotional chaos? It may not be your fault!
There is no template for what we are experiencing as individuals, families, communities and in business right now. These are certainly stressful times. Yet, some people seem to be managing the isolation and restrictions with ease. Why do some of us seem better able to manage in this environment of stress and uncertainty?
The reason according to Dr Stuart Shankar, author of Calm, Alert, and Learning, and Self-Regulation Interventions and Strategies and the founder of the Mehrit Centre, could be related to our ability to self-regulate. Shankar is of the mindset that we are not all created equal. Some of us have had an easier time of it. He explains that those of us who had the luxury of a low-stress environment in our childhood, may be better able to self-regulate in times of crisis. This relates, of course, to factors like our genetics, our environment during our early years, whether it was emotionally safe, was there enough sensory stimulation (but not too much or too little) and to our social exposure and experiences.
Shankar’s opinions are backed by the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience research that have established a clear link between the health of our bodies and the health of our minds. We now have evidence to show that prolonged and/or excessive exposure to stress (particularly experienced in early childhood) can significantly affect those higher functions like language, social cognition, awareness, executive functions and even our self-regulation.
Studies are showing that our brain regulates the amount of energy expended in order to deal with stress against the energy allocated to then recover from the stressful event. If we encounter too much stress our brain and our autonomic nervous system become overloaded and we might start to see a decrease in our physical and attentional abilities, a increase in poor behavioural choices that may appear as anger or irritability and eventually, the potential emergence of mental health concerns.
Picture your brain as a very large house. When you are under stress and cannot pay your heating bill, you may opt to shut down some of the heating vents in the rooms that you aren’t using regularly. This helps to focus the heat in those rooms of the house where you spend the most of your time.
Our brain, like the house when it senses stress, shuts down some of the heating vents in those rooms we aren’t using. This promotes a strong response against the stressor. However, if we live constantly in this state of stress, then those rooms without heat may start to develop other, ancillary issues like mould, condensation on the walls or paint peeling. These side effects happen in the brain as well. We can become emotionally flooded over the smallest event, be less able to problem solve and more susceptible to illness as our immune system has become compromised. The ability to function socially can also be effected, as well as our concentration, memory and time management skills.
If you are someone who is struggling, please be assured that there are things you can do to eliminate and mitigate stressors moving forward. Most importantly recognize that you are under stress and reframe your response to it. Instead of feeling overwhelmed that you can’t complete twenty tasks a day, admit to yourself that in times of stress it’s okay to get 15 tasks done well and recognize that you don’t have the emotional resources to get any farther.
Once you have begun to acknowledge that you are under stress, it becomes easier to pinpoint what exactly your stressors are. When you can recognize and give your stress a name, for example: going to the grocery store or engaging in on-line studies with the kids, then you can also work out how to mitigate the stress. One way is to reduce the amount of time you spend on those activities that send you over the edge. You may choose to shop just once a week and take turns with your partner to work with the kids during on-line studies.
Don’t forget to reflect on your stressors. Be aware of what they are and when you can best manage them. Personally, I am better able to manage in the morning, so I tend to get those things that cause me grief out of the way first. And finally, remember that we all respond differently to stress. Your response and my response will be different based on a number of factors that neither one of us could control.
In short, if you are struggling with emotional stressors, try making a list of what you can and what you cannot control. Choose to focus on those items that are within your control, so that you can reduce your response to stress and find that place of calm more readily. Don’t forget to reflect on what a great job you are doing!
If you want to hear more about self-regulation and it’s importance to your mental and emotional health, experience increased success and to live a life of your own design, please call to book a 30 minute phone session with Simone Usselman-Tod, Dynamic Visioning Coach, Certified Life Coach & Business Coach and Certified NLP Master Practitioner. Learn more about Dynamic Visioning.