Hi everyone! Dr. Neil here.
Wow! If you’ve been exhibiting any of these signs above, you are definitely a victim of what we call an “amygdala hijacking!”
The amygdala is that part of your limbic (emotional) brain that ignites the human stress response (“fight or flight response”) and it is triggered anytime you have to deal with situations or challenges that exceed your ability to cope.
Activation of your fight or flight response is helpful in the short term, because it makes you more alert, energetic and focused on managing the crisis at hand, but if the amygdala stays in charge too long, it eventually hijacks the blood supply away from your thinking, rational brain—and the result is predictable: you start to make really bad decisions, stupid mistakes and perceive everyone around you as the enemy!
So, just what can you do to disengage your amygdala and re-engage your rational brain?
I’ve got three powerful, science-based steps that can help, but before I give you those, let me take a quick moment to address one big misunderstanding when it comes to managing stress.
Most every patient I treat tends to see stress as something they just want to get rid of in their lives. The problem is—without stress—none of us would be challenged to grow, change or improve. Let me prove it to you.
The great author Tim Gallwey, in his classic book The Inner Game of Tennis, says to a crowd at his seminar, “I can teach every one of you how to never lose again at a game of tennis. Would anyone be interested in learning that?” All kinds of hands go up in excitement. Then Tim says, “Okay, are you ready to learn how to never lose again in a game of tennis?” “Yes, yes, we’re ready!” cries the crowd. “Okay,” says Tim, “Here it is. Here’s the tip: Never play anyone better than you!”
A disappointment spreads over the crowd! Tim asks, “Why are you disappointed? I just gave you a powerful tip on how to never lose again at a game of tennis.” “I’ll tell you why,” says Tim, “because life develops itself in and around our ability to overcome obstacles in life!”
The fact is: every difficulty, every stress, every challenge, every obstacle we face in life presents us with an opportunity for a breakdown or a breakthrough.
This philosophy is reflected in what I call the “Stress Mastery Mission Statement,” which says:
“The ultimate purpose of all stress mastery is not to retreat from problems in life nor to make them magically disappear, but rather in the process of overcoming them, to grow in wisdom, character, contribution, ability and goodness.”
In other words, to win your battle against stress, you must first realize that “stress is not your enemy, it is your teacher.”
So whenever you feel stressed, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this stressful situation that will help me grow stronger, wiser and more capable?”
One of my favorite quotes on stress comes from the great Mother Teresa, who said, “I know that God would never give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!”
When you can learn from your stress and grow stronger, wiser and more capable from it … then you are destined for lasting health, happiness and peace of mind.
So now let me give you a simple three step formula you can use to “Emotionally Feel Good” in any stressful situation … it’s what I call the “EFG Formula.”
Step #1: Get Emotional Support. (The “E” stands for “Emotional Support.”)
There is—in the medical literature—almost no greater predictor of longevity, happiness and successful goal achievement than finding and nurturing a strong emotional support network in your life. Harnessing the power of social support to help you realize the achievement of a worthy goal is a powerful stress reducer.
So the next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, speak to a friend, talk to a counselor, join a support group or go to a trusted mentor and get some guidance and support.
Emotional support rejuvenates your mind, body and spirit and it helps you to stay on purpose.
The great motivational speaker Jim Rohn, used to say “Each of us needs all of us.” In other words, we all need help at times and it takes great courage to make yourself vulnerable enough to ask for help, but when you do, magical things happen, stress begins to dissipate and the healing begins.
Step #2: Figure Out What You Really Want. (The “F” stands for “Figure It Out.”)
One of the key definitions that I teach in the stress mastery space is that, “Stress is the gap between our expectations and reality.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overstressed, overworked or underappreciated, then reality is clearly not living up to your expectations!
The beauty of this definition of stress is that it gives you two distinct paths to less stress: one, you can change your expectations and two, you can change your reality.
Holding on to unrealistic expectations—of yourself or others—invariably leads to unhappiness. Part of living a good life is having the wisdom to identify your unrealistic expectations and get rid of those that no longer serve you.
The second path to less stress is to change your reality. What does this mean? It means you can change who you are by becoming better, stronger, more energetic, thinner, happier, more grateful … or whatever you choose to improve about yourself.
Physician and author Deepak Chopra says, “We are all co-creators of reality . . . our goal in life is not just to be bright, alert or imaginative, but to shape existence itself. It becomes every person’s choice to take responsibility for his own inner reality.”
Changing your reality by refining your character … growing stronger, brighter and better … is a vital pathway to stress mastery. This is the essence of living your life on purpose and the medical literature is clear: a sense of purpose is a powerful predictor of happiness and peace of mind. The great scholar and Rabbi Menachem Schneerson used to say, “Where there is purpose, there is peace.”
Step #3: Give Gratitude. (The “G” stands for “Gratitude.”)
Being grateful for what you have is a powerful healing force and there is a wealth of medical literature that supports the stress-relieving benefits of gratitude.
Gratitude is one of those special forces in life that increases as you give it away. It is an energy of the spiritual realm, similar to the flame of a candle. As you “give away” your flame by lighting other candles, the amount of light—or gratitude—you experience increases. In fact, with your single flame you can light an unlimited number of candles, helping illuminate the world around you, increasing your ability to see the many wondrous miracles in your life.
Being grateful helps you enjoy all the good you already have in your life, even as you seek to achieve and acquire more … and become the person you were always meant to be.
I hope these three simple steps … “The EFG Formula” for managing stress (Emotional Support; Figure Out What You Want; Give Gratitude)… help you reduce your stress, stay true to your purpose, reignite your motivation, appreciate all the good in your life and help you move confidently in the direction of your dreams.
P.S. SPECIAL NOTE: If you would like more help managing your stress, finding emotional support or achieving your goals in life, Dr. Neimark has three powerful tools to help you. First, is his self-paced science-based stress management system called The Perfect S.T.A.R.T. Stress Management Program. Second is his powerful goal achievement course, called You Can Do It! Third, is his powerful guided imagery mediation called “Contacting Your Inner Healer.”
P.P.S. This article was originally published by me as a guest post for www.PeerTrainer.com, considered one of the leading social support sites for weight loss on the web. Check out my piece there at: http://university.peertrainer.com/stressed-out-and-angry/