So… how would you rate your levels of stress over the last week? We are in the middle of a very busy period: shopping, cooking, cleaning, more shopping, family gatherings, meeting friends etc. There is no doubt that towards the end of the year we are exposed to many challenging situations. We may find ourselves in stressful circumstances… often involving our own family members! Our communication skills and ability to be assertive become a priority. Without them we may lose our temper and say or do things we don’t really mean. This is the moment when we look for a quick remedy, something that will help us to stay more in control of our own emotions and ultimately ourselves in the middle of the storm (should one happen).
Here’s some great news that we’re happy to share with you. It’s been proven that we are capable of choosing our emotions. That means, it can be totally up to ourselves whether we feel angry, frustrated or stressed. Sounds intriguing, or maybe if you’re prone to being ruled by your emotions, it might sound like freedom! So how can you do it….. ?
Here’s the science part
The stress hormone – Cortisol – is released in your brain every time you find yourself in challenging circumstances. A quick dose of this substance makes us more alert to what’s happening around and alarmed, in case a quick reaction (fight/flight) was necessary. If you are in a life threatening situation then you want this happening. However staying stressed and alarmed every day and responding this way to every situation in life is not good for us at all.
In order to choose the response to the event, the key is to understand that the Cortisol that is released stays in our body for only 90 seconds. In her book “My stroke of insight”,Dr Jill Bolte Taylor explains that in simple terms if we continue to experience strong emotions beyond 90 seconds, it’s a result of our own choice. You can’t control the quick chemical response, but you can choose what happens next.
When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop. Something happens in the external world and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds.
This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away. After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking – that are re-stimulating the circuitry – that is resulting in you having this physiological response over and over again.
Steps to use the 90 seconds rule
Start by tuning into yourself and experiencing the feeling. Don’t deny it, acknowledge it instead but don’t give into it. You know that your immediate decision is needed to shift your thinking and bring your attention elsewhere. You have a power to select. Your conscious awareness will enable that. Find your own individual, best solutions that work: count to 90, clench your fists, breathe or do whatever else you can to get through the emotion.
So what can you do to manage what happens next? What works for you? The next step is to give your brain something else to do. You can replace your thoughts and redirect your attention towards topics that are more positive and relaxing. This means that you will continue to rely on your left hemisphere. Or you can choose to focus on your senses and e.g. notice the environment (what you smell, taste, see, hear and physically feel) which will mean that your right hemisphere is stimulated. Move your thoughts away from the stressful matter, before you even begin to believe that what you are thinking is true.
Our natural ability
If you can master your own emotions, you can truly trust yourself. Using the 90 second rule can enable that in a very real way. It takes practise, but it can be done. This method is entirely based on neuroscience and the mechanisms that occur in the brain. It is aligned to how we as humans function. It answers questions about the way to use the natural processes that happen inside us to make our existence more effective. Practice this and become the master of your emotions.
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