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  • Writer's pictureAbbie VanMeter

Learning | Daily Mindful Moment #12

What is something that you learned recently?

I'll go first... Let me start with some context: I have had a pretty stressful week. Full of ups and downs, hopes and let-downs as I wait for some news that I have no control over right now. I noticed that I was experiencing really big mood swings with even the smallest of stressors. I was excited and calm one moment and crying and anxious the next. I wasn't feeling able to control my emotions or take in the stimuli in a logical way. My emotions were just instantly triggered and I was helpless. After a while, of course, I calmed down but those first moments were so intense. I thought, "What is wrong with me?"

Nothing, or so it turns out.

Thankfully, after talking about these experiences with my therapist, she explained to me that I was experiencing a totally normal phenomenon. Sometimes our amygdala (the part of the brain that controls the emotions) gets so stimulated that it completely overrides the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that handles logic and critical thinking). It can then take some time for the prefrontal cortex to regain control.

While those intense low moments weren't fun, it still made me feel more at peace knowing that this wasn't really something to be fixed, but managed.

My therapist explained that my usual response was to try to logic my way out of these intense emotions, to try to control or deal with whatever external stimuli had prompted the strong feelings. Most of the time though, I don't have control over the stimuli, and besides, trying to use logic when my brain is in such a heightened state wasn't really working out anyway. "What if instead of dealing with the stressor, I try to address the stress?" she suggested. Maybe I can't control what is happening outside of my body, but I can control what is happening inside.

Having an understanding of how our bodies and brains work can help us to tend to them better. This is harder said than done if you weren't taught to speak the language of your body. One thing I am going to try now is splashing cold water on my face in those moments of stress. Apparently, coldness, especially on our faces and under the eyes, triggers the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the body that calms us down after stress). The same goes for doing deep breathing, screaming, crying, or running. It can help to speed up the process of bringing back the prefrontal cortex and quieting the amygdala. Think of it like this: It's like you are a car and the amygdala highjacked your body. Using cold to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is like getting the prefrontal cortex back in the driver's seat and returning the amygdala safely to the back seat.

Do you see how this (like everything) goes back to communication?

From now on, I will be better able to communicate what I am experiencing to others because my therapist gave me the language and understanding to talk about the very human process that I go through when dealing with strong stressors.

Also, I am better equipped to communicate with my body. Listening is not just for other people after all. As I said, most of us may have more distant relationships with our bodies. We didn't learn to communicate with our bodies and respect what they might be telling us.

What kind of a better social world can you imagine if everyone learned how to listen to their bodies, tend to them in a healthy way, and communicate their physical experiences to others?

How does something that you recently learned relate back to communication? How can it help you communicate better?

How can you share the things you have learned with others to create a better social world?

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