Joy is the ultimate fuel for your brain. You are designed to run on joy. Your brain was literally built to experience joy as it’s life-giving substance. Having “glad to be with you” experiences is the high-octane fuel that provides the smoothest ride for your life.
However, without joy, the brain uses a different fuel. This backup fuel source will run you ragged and never seems to be in short supply. This fuel is FEAR.
Fear has more impact on us psychologically and physically than most of us realize. Fear puts our amygdala in charge, and sends messages throughout the body that something is not right.
Sometimes we are aware of our fear, but much of the time, we are so “used to it” that it becomes our normal.
Obviously, this is a problem!
At one point in time, fear was probably put “in charge” for a reason. Maybe something bad happened to us. Maybe we saw something that really was scary. Maybe we just didn’t get the things we needed in life, like a basic understanding that we were truly and completely loved from the beginning. Perhaps the brain’s order to “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” was 100% necessary.
But, is it still necessary? Is it possible that the messages that your amygdala are sending to the body and the brain are “Old news”?
I can appreciate my amygdala. It has protected me well. It has fueled my life and kept me alive. However, it was never meant to be “in charge” all the time!
I recently watched the Pixar movie, Inside Out – a great “picture” for sure- and I’d like to draw from that as an example for a little bit. In the movie, when “Joy” goes missing, Fear takes over the control center of Riley’s brain. Fear “runs the show” for a while.
It’s quite obvious that fear is not equipped to run everything! Fear runs the show from a state of overwhelm and is constantly on the lookout for danger. Fear doesn’t know how to do anything different. Fear draws from the past and applies what happened long ago to everything that’s happening now. It doesn’t even notice the good things around it.
Can you imagine how exhausting it would be if Fear was always in charge? It’s not a fun thing to think of, let alone experience on a daily basis.
Do you know that you actually have the power to take back the driver’s seat of your brain? You are allowed to tell Fear to move over and make room for someone else to run the show.
One of the ways that we can do this is by convincing your brain that what’s in front of you right now, at this moment, is not worthy of the Code Red alert status! Our brain might react to things without us realizing it, (below conscious level), but once we do become aware of things we can give our brain a chance to look at ALL the incoming data instead of that 1 thing that made us scared. Remember, that 1 thing that made us scared might not even be truly in the present, it might just look similar to something from the past!
Once we can stabilize the “alarm” that fear sets off, then we can decide who is in the driver’s seat AND get the proper fuel!
Here are 6 ways to stabilize the nervous system so you can take back control:
1. Deep breathing exercises- (4,6,8) Purposefully slowing down our breathing rate, requires our heart rate to decrease as well. The heart cannot race and slow down simultaneously. Begin with consciously breathing in to a count of 4, making a point to draw that breath down into your belly instead of just up in your chest. Hold for a count of 6, then exhale to a count of 8. It might help to pretend your exhale is through a straw. The longer, slower exhale helps our brain to produce serotonin! (If you can't do 4,6, 8 at first, start with 2, 4, 6... just be sure that your exhale is much slower and longer than your inhale. Eventually you should be able to work up to a 4, 6, 8 breathing count)
2. Use your senses- Purposefully using all 5 of your senses to become more aware of the existing world around you has a powerful impact on stabilizing your system. It forces your brain to get all the information it needs rather than just focusing on the issue that set the alarm off! Start with 5 things you can see. Name them- either out loud or on paper. Then 4 things you can touch- what do they feel like to you? Slow down and really "zoom in" on what they feel like. After that, name 3 things you can hear- what do they sound like? Are they loud? Quiet? Soothing? Abrasive? Then try to name 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Be specific about what these items are doing for your senses.
I made this image to help you remember them, feel free to print it out! (but honestly, if you can’t remember the “order”, feel free to 5,4,3,2,1 any of the senses!)
3. Tapping- Try tapping on the different points of the poly-vagal nerve as you practice self-affirming thoughts. This technique called EFT is interesting. I am not associated or “trained” in EFT therapy however, the science behind it looks promising.
Here’s a quick breakdown I found on another website:
If you want more information about it check out http://www.thetappingsolution.com/ I believe that when used in combination with talking with Immanuel it would be even more effective! (for example instead of only saying "I deeply and completely accept myself" I might add in statements about how God loves me and is with me and is glad to be with me as I feel upset)
4. Appreciation- Pull out that appreciation journal I’ve suggested you start keeping! Review the items you’ve written down while you were NOT in a place of upset. If you can connect with 1 or 2 of them, and walk yourself though the memory until you feel appreciation again then you will be essentially moving fear out of the driver’s seat!
5. Nature- Take a walk! Go outside, soak up the sun, swing in a hammock, and engage your spirit with the beautiful world around you. Fresh air, trees, flowers, and wildlife are wonderful gifts God has given us that can actually help us calm our nervous system! Check out this study proving the benefits of being outside in nature! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23467965
6. Shalom for my body exercises- The Shalom for my body exercises that Life Model Works created for helping us to restore our Relational Circuits also reset the nervous system. Here’s a video of me doing these exercises (with 1 hand). For more information, schedule a session with me or join a Connexus class near you!