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Desperate Minds Create Desperate People! Desperate People Do Desperate Things!
This week’s article is all about learning the basic factors that the stress center of your brain absolutely needs in order to simmer down and for your mind to be calm, cool, and collected.
Why is this so important? Because our brains (the hardware), need well-functioning software (our minds), in order to stay strong and healthy. People tend to make very poor decisions and engage in destructive, health-blocking behaviors and thought patterns when their minds are not in a calm, healthy, and stable state.
In other words, desperate minds create desperate people, desperate people engage in desperate thinking and behavioral patterns, and desperate thinking and behavior cause damage to our brains and body. And this creates a very destructive, bi-directional feedback loop. You see, body influences mind and mind influences body.
Before diving into this topic further, I first need to provide a little back history on myself to give this article some context.
We Always Have A Choice For How To Respond To Life’s Events
In 2012, after 15 plus years of maintaining a highly stressful career as a high-school teacher working in a water damaged, mold-riddled building while also trying to heal from Chronic Lyme & Company with countless protocols, my health and life hit the skids hardcore. I also need to mention that I was dealing with major strife in my marriage at this time.
I suffered a massive nervous breakdown that rendered me disabled but also served as a necessary catalyst for me to transform my life. This breakdown came with the message of “Jen, you have two choices here. You can either choose to continue approaching your health and life as you have always done, which clearly has not worked out, or you can open your heart and mind to new approaches, realms, and possibilities.”
After a year of laying in bed due to incapacitating fatigue, feeling immensely sorry for myself, ruminating on all the awful things that had happened in my life, catastrophizing about the horrible future I was “destined” for, and sitting with this message, I finally chose that latter.
When I made this choice to embrace transformation is when I realized and embraced the necessity to rewire my mind for wellness.
My mind, although greatly intelligent in so many ways, had become my biggest obstacle to healing. Bottom line, our minds can either be our greatest ally or our worst enemy on the journey to heal our bodies and transform our lives.
The Body Will Not & Cannot Heal Amidst A Chronic Stress Response!
I knew that all the best bio-chemical interventions in the world in the form of diet, supplements, detox protocols, pathogen eradication protocols, etc., were not going to be effective in helping me recover my health with my mind constantly freaking out, perceiving everything as a threat, and succumbing to despair.
Just as the battery in a flashlight that you forget to turn off will quickly run out of power, so will the body when the on switch to the stress response is turned on more than it is turned off; which is so common these days for so many people. Our mitochondria (which are the batteries of our cells) cannot withstand being continually bathed in stress hormones. Over time, they will wear out and become dysfunctional. Mitochondrial dysfunction and reduced cellular energy are the underpinnings to ALL dis-ease!
I knew I had to learn how to re-write a new, more nourishing mental script for my nervous system to read from. And so I began my quest to learn all I could about brain health, the mind-body connection, and how to go about doing this.
New Ways of Looking at Health and Healing!
This quest led me to discover Neurosculpting®, which is a specific meditation modality rooted in neuroscientific principles and created by Lisa Wimberger of the Nuerosculpting Institute in Denver, Colorado. After listening to the Intro to Neurosculpting CD I was so impressed that I enrolled in the program to become a certified Neurosculpting Facilitator. This was one of the first of many neural re-wiring and mind-body coaching trainings I have completed to date. You can learn more about Neurosculpting® here.
It was in this training where I learned all about the neurobiology of the stress response, how a chronically activated stress response will prevent healing and even create dis-ease, and the specific things that our minds need in order to calm down and develop new, more supportive neural pathways.
What Your Mind Needs To Simmer Down and Chill Out!
Today, I want to share some of this knowledge with you and provide you with some basic strategies for calming the stress centers of your mind as to help you create the necessary for balancing your nervous system, healing your body, and transforming your life. This knowledge came directly from my training and is part of the Neurosculpting meditation template yet with my personal spin on it. To learn more about Neurosculpting go here.
The strategies involve providing your stress center (aka: limbic brain) with the 3 ingredients it needs to calm down and then providing your prefrontal cortex (the area of your brain that represents the BEST version of you and is home to higher level thinking) with what it needs to wake up, come back on line, and engage.
The three ingredients that your stress center (aka: limbic brain) needs to simmer down and become calm, cool, and collected are a sense of:
Support (knowing that your most basic needs in the moment are met)
These three factors are absolutely essential for you to move out of a stress response and into a state of rest, digest, and repair. We must move out of a limbic (or stress response) in order make use of higher level thinking skills and healing states of mind such as empathy, reason, strategic and big-picture thinking, creativity, connectedness, relatability, ability to learn from mistakes, and so much more. These states of mind reside in the prefrontal cortex.
Novelty, Aha Moments, and Awakening Your BEST Self!
The ingredient that your prefrontal cortex needs to engage is NOVELTY/CURIOSITY. Remember, the prefrontal cortex is home to the BEST version of ourselves and it needs to be engaged for you to move into a state of rest, digest, and repair; which is where cellular healing takes place.
Novelty is a sense of having an “aha moment”, or when your brain says “This is new, interesting and different! I like it, I want to pay attention, and I want to learn more”
This is when the magic known as neuroplasticity happens! From this space the mind is ripe, ready, and able to learn new ways of thinking, behaving, and showing up in the world. And this is the space needed for deep healing and transformation to occur.
You see, each time we choose to engage with the same ol’, same ol’ mind stories of the past such as “My life is doomed, I’ve already tried and done so much and nothing ever changes so why bother!, or I have been handed a bad deck of cards” we are reinforcing our stress circuits, making them the dominant pathway for how we respond to the events in our lives and the world around us.
And, when we continually engage our stress center, because the prefrontal cortex and the stress center have an inverse relationship; meaning when one is engaged, it recruits blood, glucose, and oxygen away from the other, we actually cause a brownout or perhaps a total blackout in our prefrontal cortex.
This is why it is so common for people to make very poor decisions and engage in destructive thinking and behavioral patterns when their minds are in a stressed state more than a relaxed one. As stated previously, desperate minds create desperate people and desperate people tend to engage in desperate, unmindful, and health-blocking behaviors.
What Can You Do To Help Simmer An Out-Of-Control Stress Response?
Ok! So now that I established why learning tools for simmering the stress response and rewiring the mind for wellness is so critical it is now time to present you some basic steps you can implement for helping your mind become more of an ally. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Become A Non-Judgmental Observer Of Your Thoughts! We can only shift what we are aware needs shifting. For this step, it is important to begin watching your own thoughts and cultivating a sense of what they are capable of triggering in your body and in your life.
When you notice your mind ruminating about the past, fretting about the future, or obsessing about something in the moment, gently say something to yourself (out loud is best!) along the lines of “I recognize that this is my mind protecting me the best way it knows how based on past survival habits. I now understand that this pattern is outdated and no longer supportive or healthy for me. I am choosing to become empowered, learn ways to shift my thoughts, and help my mind become my ally beginning NOW”
Step 2: Focus On SAFETY. An effective way to elicit a sense of safety for our minds is to focus on the concept of consistency in the moment. The most consistent thing we can focus on in the moment is the consistency of our own breath. Begin this step by gently guiding your attention to noticing the pattern of your own breath; with no intent to change it. Simply notice where you first feel the sensation of your own breath (your nose? your mouth? your lungs?), the rate at which you are breathing, and the depth and strength of it.
Take notice that your belly and chest rise and fall in a consistent pattern with each inhale and exhale. Notice and appreciate that your breath actually breaths itself in each and every moment that you are alive with or without your conscious awareness. This is truly and utterly amazing when you really stop to think about it and appreciate it!
From here, I suggest consciously slowing and deepening your breath. As simple as it sound, slow and deep breathing has profound calming effects on your mind and body. From this space you can then begin focusing (if it feels right for you) on other factors that instill a sense of consistency and ways that help feel safe in the moment.
Some examples of this could be the waves of the ocean coming in and then receding out again or the pattern of the sun and the moon. You could also bring to mind something in your life that represents safety and/or consistency for you. This could be an object, a person, a smell, or even something about yourself.
The idea here is to focus on the concept of safety. What represents consistency and/or safety for you? And if the word “safety” had a color, a texture, and/or a sound what might those be? How can you help your mind focus on the concept of safety in this moment?
Step 3: Focus On A Sense Of SECURITY. To do this, guide your awareness to focusing on all the ways you are secure in this moment. Think about the home or building you are in (if you are inside) that is protecting you from the elements. Focus on feeling the sensation of your feet on the floor (if they are) and your body making contact with the surface on which you are laying or sitting.
As you do this, strive to allow your bones and muscles to relax and sink more deeply into the surface beneath you. Focus on the fact that in this moment you are being held by gravity as if perhaps being cradled by the hands of God (if that feels right for you), the Universe, Spirit, or whatever resonates with you. From here, you can then begin focusing on other things that symbolize security for you. Perhaps this is a special blanket, a scent of some sort, a memory, a pet, or a person. What represents security for you? And if the word “security” had a color, a sound, or a texture what might those be?
Step 4: Focus On the Concept of SUPPORT and Your Basic Needs In This Moment Being Met. To do this, simply guide your awareness to noticing all the ways in which are supported and how your most basic needs in the moment are met. For instance, take notice of having access to food, water, and clothing. Take a moment to truly acknowledge and appreciate how this factor is so easily taken for granted. From here, you can then begin focusing on other ways in which you feel supported. Perhaps for you this is thinking about your husband, partner, or a parent that is currently working to help support your financial needs. Or, perhaps it is something entirely different?
What are all the ways in which you feel supported and your needs are being met? Don’t allow your mind to focus on needs that you feel are not being met such as “the doctors that made you feel invalidated”, “the friend or colleague that said something judgmental to you”, or the “the boss that does not value you.” The whole point of this exercise it to calm the mind, focus on what you DO have, and help your mind stay focused on the present moment. And remember, what we focus on grows bigger in our lives!
Step 5: Give Your Prefrontal Cortex Some Candy In The Form Of Novelty and Curiosity! Once you complete steps 1-4, your prefrontal cortex will be much more receptive to engaging. To do this, simply guide your awareness to noticing something simple about your body or personal space that you have never thought to notice before. For instance, imagine what your heart might look like from the inside as it works to pump blood and oxygen throughout your entire body. When was the last time you thought about what your heart looks like from the inside, if ever?
Or, try to imagine one single eye lash on your eye magnified 100x. What might that look like? Or, try holding your hands in a new and unique way with your eyes closed. Notice how it feels to hold your hands that way. Really notice with as much focus and attention as possible. All the while, take notice that your breath continues to breath itself and support you with or without your conscious awareness.
And, from here you can take it all a step further by engaging in an activity of your choosing that will give your prefrontal cortex plenty more novelty to focus on. This does not have to be done right away after completing this exercise or it could be.
The idea here is to weave this into your daily routine, keep your stress center calm except in situations where it is truly needed, and also supply your prefrontal cortex with plenty of novel things to focus on. As stated earlier, it is in a state of calmness with novelty that our brain’s and body’s are best supported and we can begin re-writing outdated scripts.
Some ideas to supply your prefrontal cortex with novelty are cook a new recipe (the prefrontal creativity in the kitchen), adult coloring books, a stimulating puzzle or game of some sort, an inspiring and thought-provoking movie, doing a task of any kind with your non-dominant hand, listen to an interesting audio book, learn a second language, learn an instrument, learn to dance, journal about your vision for a vibrant life, and the list goes on. Your mind craves to be exposed to new and interesting life experiences while in a calm state.
The whole point of this process is to interrupt habitual patterns that are keeping you stuck, prune back the neural pathways of a dominant stress response, and create new, more health and life supporting neural pathways. Each time you make a conscious choice to not allow an old and stressful “script” to hijack the present moment and engage with a new way of responding, you are doing just that.
And these 5 steps, implemented with intention, focus, and consistency will help you lay a solid foundation for transforming both your health and your life.
Stay tuned for part IV of this series where once again, I will share more of my wisdom of brain health and the mind-body connection with you. Until then, I do hope you try this process out on a daily basis for at least a month and that it provides you with as many health and life transforming benefits as it continues to provide me.
And always remember that each of us possess incredible power to shift our lives and intention, focus, and consistency are the fuel needed for transformation.
If you are interested in learning more about how I help people rewire their minds for wellness and life transformation, I invite you to book an initial FREE Exploration Session using the button below.