Day 21: Enjoy the Struggle

Smooth seas never made for a skilled mariner
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
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Day 21 Self Reflection:

On page 26 of your workbook identify what gets your blood boiling and where your “window of tolerance” lies.


Day 21 Micro-Science: Name it to Tame it

Your emotional mind wants to be taken seriously and needs to be acknowledged in order to calm down. The way this becomes possible in the brain is when you put a label on an emotion by activating the language dominant left hemisphere of your mind. When a label is put on an emotion the right hemisphere feels like its done its job and starts to quiet down. This is one reason why psychotherapy is so effective because it allows the client to step back and put a name it what they are going through and once the problem is effectively interpreted it easier to understand what to do next.

  • FACT: People who can more accurately report what emotions people are going through during a face recognition task, report drastically lower levels of lifetime anxiety

  • TAKEAWAY: Emotional intelligence is a real thing and brings up much higher levels of life satisfaction and increased quality of interpersonal relationships.

Day 21 Meditation: Stop and Smell the Garbage

New age mindfulness is really just old buddhist techniques repackaged to be more appealing to a western audience. Mindfulness practice really started out with a bunch of monks sitting around contemplating “vile” things, such as decomposing bodies and sewage. The point, at the time, was to help monks be more accepting of the underbelly of life and not run away from lifes downsides so quickly. Today, mindfulness is all about looking at the positive and taking the time to see whats great in the world. While this is a great objective, this isn’t where mindfulness all started.

  • FACT: Focusing on a stressor moves brain activity away from the rumination centers and towards the visual processing areas of the brain, therefore decreasing ratings of personal distress.

  • TAKEAWAY: When you ignore or deny a stressor it actually creates a stronger hold onto you. Focusing on or moving closer to a stressor helps you to better understand it and make changes that lessen your reported levels of stress.

Day 21 Meditation: For today’s meditation pull our the trash can in your kitchen, hopefully its borderline gross but not downright repulsive and take a good look. I’m not saying put your head into it, just set the timer for three minutes and see if you can turn off your emotional response and accept that even “trash” is part of life. It may take a minute or two but hopefully it will help put things in perspective and you won’t be so quick next time to run from “uncomfortable” feelings.

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I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best
— Benjamin Disraeli

Day 21 Action Task: Immune Neglect

The brain can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. When a problem hits our brains tend to go to the worst case scenario and when making this simulation fail to factor in our natural coping skills that will make the outcomes much different then we imagine. This evolutionary hiccup in the brain is called “immune neglect” because humans tendency is to only imagine the effects of a problem without acknowledging our already established coping skills that will make most problems manageable. For instance, its pretty normal to freak out when your told that a test you thought was two weeks out is actually happening this Thursday. However, once you take a deep breath(coping skill) or go for a run (coping skill) the problem dissipates and you come up with a plan of attack. Forgetting your coping skills exist, however, is pretty common and causes alot of us to over react.

  • FACT: Hypothetical stress that is current or real is still registered in the thalamus (cortisol distribution) and amygdala (fear center) as currently happening. If too much cortisol (stress chemical) is released during anxiety holes will start to appear in the brain’s hippocampus (learning center)

  • TAKEAWAY: Your brain will react to a anticipated stressor as if its already happening to prepare you for action. If you stay in this stage of fight or flight for too long the learning centers of your brain will start to deteriorate. Causing a vicious circle where the person with anxiety will then become much less likely to “learn” coping skills to get out of your anxiety.

Day 21 Action Task: Today’s action task is to make a list of your top five to ten coping sklls (I.e running, talking to my friend Lewis, walk outside, or yoga). Save this list someplace, either on your phone or someplace you can easily access. Try to remember to check the list when your minds in a frenzy and you forget which way is up. Hopefully a tangible document of your coping skills will remind you that you have gotten through hard things before and can do so again.


Bonus Material:

#1) Ted Talk: Emotional Intelligence: Using the Laws of Attraction:

Check out this super interesting Ted Talk by Emily Fletcher that may change how you look at stress. Turns out that stress may not be the villain that everyone makes it out to be. Maybe stress isn’t the problem, maybe ignoring stress is what causes the problems.

#2) Ted Talk: Change Your Mindset

This short TedX talk by Dr. Alia Crum that explores what a mindset is and how certain mindsets can either negatively or positively effect our health and well-being.