-photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash
I'm a big fan of the author Brené Brown. She talks a lot about how to communicate with anyone and how toxic shame is to our society. She opens herself up, making herself vulnerable, in all of her books and talks, and I love what she teaches about bravery.
In my book, as well as my articles, I talk a lot about how to talk to oneself, and the importance of being a positive self-coach. I hear a lot of judgment from all parts of society these days. It's the human condition. People are saying openly hostile things to each other, sometimes questioning each other's sanity, and the truth is, most of us are also saying incredibly hostile and judgmental things to ourselves as well. Think about how you talk to yourself when you're upset at the end result of your efforts. Would you put up with a friend who treated you that way? Think of the stories you tell yourself when you're afraid. Are you always positive and encouraging, or do you dwell on the negative? Would you treat a small child that way? We carry parts of our childhood selves with us for our entire lives in our unconscious. We have to learn to be careful of how we talk to ourselves.
I think one of the purposes of life is to figure out how to rise above our programming. It helps to realize that everyone's got programming that prevents them from seeing things any differently than how they're currently seeing things. Especially in times of stress, all of us tend to react with our emotional and primitive brain. The trick is to learn to stay aware and present as this is happening so we can avoid it. Tools like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, Focusing, and therapy offer us a chance to stay present so that we can be in the executive level thinking offered by our prefrontal cortex. If we feel our anger rising, if we feel our indignation mount, if we sense self-righteousness, if we are aware of fear, jealousy, insecurity, I guarantee that our thought process is being hijacked by the emotional and primitive brain. When we're triggered, it feels so normal, so safe, to indulge in emotional or primitive brain thinking. That's how I spent the first forty years of my life. Learning how to develop and practice tools to stay present is an ongoing challenge, but one I'm so grateful for. I'm happier and calmer than I've ever been.
I talk about how shame helps drive the opioid epidemic in my two part article on Thrive Global. Here's the link to part I. Here's the link to part II. Let me know what you think. And check out Brené Brown. She's awesome.
Studies have shown that believing that our stress response is harmful to our health can stress us enough to kill us prematurely. So rather than putting a negative spin on the word stress, how about a big old smile? As health psychologist Kelly McGonical points out, belief that stress is bad for you is the 15th leading cause of death in the US. People who experienced a lot of stress, but who didn't believe that stress is harmful had the lowest death rate in the study, lower even than the people with the lowest stress levels.
While some of us may worry about our stress response, it's not all a hardship for the body. In fact, part of our stress response is to release oxytocin, which causes us to reach out to others for support and inspires us to notice others' stress so that you can support others. Not only that, but oxytocin acts in the body to protect us from the effects of stress. It's anti-inflammatory and helps our blood vessels stay relaxed when under stress. Oxytocin also helps the heart repair itself. So your stress response strengthens your heart. We have biologically built-in ways to develop stress resilience when we reach out to others. So take heart.
You can find Kelly's talk here: