What I have noticed when people are struggling with stress and anxiety, is how hard it can be for them to get ‘out of their heads’ and retain a connection with others. The example that come to mind involves a friend who can get so absorbed in how they are feeling and their difficulties, that when presented with a situation where another expresses feeling ‘off colour’, for example, they struggle to empathise. Instead they come across as ‘competing’, with responses such as ‘I bet it’s nothing compared to how I feel everyday…’
What can we do to help shift focus from themselves to others?
As a Neuroscience Practioner who provides NeuroCoaching, I came across this useful document from the MentalHealth.Org.uk. It resonates with my work of providing knowledge of how a person’s brain is operating with solutions to building mental strength and new neural pathways, to increase resilience to face real or perceived stress and anxiety situations.
With the image as reference, I’ll focus on 4 areas and link to the brain’s chemicals and applied neuroscience and brain health.
Talk about your feelings
With time to talk day on Thursday 6th February – Having trusted people to share feelings and experiences with helps to put words to feelings. From a brain perspective if we have people we trust in and who care for us, this stimulates oxytocin and our sense of belonging. A key part of being human. It is also an opportunity to help connect people to other resources that can help their situation.
Movement is an essential tool for shifting brain chemicals. If you are in a state of high anxiety moving will help shift the cortisol. 10 minutes of exercise will boost endorphins and dopamine. Exercise that takes concentration (e.g. climbing, yoga, a team sport) will also distract you from the stress situation. Playing a musical instrument and or listening to uplifting music will help to shift mood positively.
Brains use enormous amounts of our energy – it will work as well as it can with the fuel you provide it. It loves: Greens, Salmon or Tuna, Berries, Tea and coffee (not too late though) and nuts. The least processed food the better. Eating with others enables social interactions which support a sense of belonging and stimulates those ‘feel good’ chemicals.
Care for others
An essential for humans is to feel connected, part of a group, accepted. Doing something kind for others has an enormous impact on feeling positive, valued and important. By helping others, or giving a complement or smiling at someone, you enable yourself and them to feel connectedness. This triggers serotonin and oxytocin for both parties.
There is so much more to add, but lastly, it’s really important to acknowledge achievements, successes and pleasant experiences. The brain will then be more likely to store these in your memory of positive reference points to draw on in the future. Dopamine is the chemical that helps this and physical recognition – high fives, fist bump, a pat on the back can send a shot of dopamine that links to that event. Your brain likes dopamine and so the more you acknowledge the positive moments the more you will find them.
To understand more about the brain’s chemicals and how to control them at times of anxiety or stress, do not hesitate to contact me.