Forces have been working diligently to turn you and me into the type of people we do not want to be. Our minds and bodies have been fighting wars on multiple “battle-fronts” throughout 2020. Each battle-front is filled with high emotional content and explosively divisive perspectives. As we close out the United States National Month of Gratitude, I want to encourage us to break away from those battle-fronts and refocus our minds on an attitude of gratitude.
The damaging nature of our current political discourse, racial unrest, and the dangers of a pandemic, activate portions of the human brain focused on stress and survival. This over-arousal of those areas eventually wears us down emotionally, socially, and physically. And to make things worse, we have had little to no time to recover this year. Our Allostatic load describes the negative effect that on-going stress can have on our body. It contributes to fatigue and can eventually lead to various forms of a breakdown.
I want to suggest that you and I must take deliberate steps as we close out the year to re-establish our positive and healing brainpower. We must refuse to let the news media, social media, or even friends who are filled with visceral anger continue to dictate the way we see the world. We must especially be deliberate not to perpetuate Allostatic overload into our loved ones and family members’ lives. This holiday season, resolve to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
To do so, we will need to cue our brain to focus on all the things for which we are grateful. I recommend following the Y.E.S. model.
Y= Yell, “Stop.” When you catch yourself focusing on the negative news or falling victim to addictive social media, internally cue your brain to quietly tell you to “Stop!” Remind yourself that you have the YES process and chose to move through each step to change which sections of your brain are activated at that moment.
E= Exchange. What we think about is what we will want to talk about. If you are always thinking about political discourse or another highly controversial topic, then that is what you are most prone to bring up in discussions. Consequently, others begin to see you as part of their allostatic load and may associate you with negative cognitive activation. This can happen even if they agree with your point of view. Ensure that most of your conversations through the rest of this year are about rebuilding and uplifting those around us. Now is a great time to start because many of us can easily be redirected to think about the things we still have in life for which we can be grateful.
S= Share. Share this process to help others shift their focus. When we share, we teach, and when we teach, we show we care. When we show we care, we once again activate portions of our brain that reduce our own levels of stress.
There are more than enough stressors coming at us every day during this crazy year. You must marshal your cognitive resources to better enable you to be healthy and helpful. Suppose we continue to go through our days allowing external media and electronic forces to batter us with non-stop stressors. In that case, we will find that our conversations make us look like the type of people we do not want to be. Say Y.E.S. to becoming part of the solution.
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