Being stressed to the max or feeling overwhelmed is a way of life for many these days. Unfortunately, it is also a way of shortening life. Too often, the power and effects of stress are underestimated. Likewise, the power and effects of being around negative people and events are underestimated.
We all know people who are so negative we cannot wait to get away from them. Science is now revealing that is exactly what you should do. Get away and stay away! It is actually harmful to your health. Although we all have a bad day every now and then, some people have bad days and drama on such a regular basis it consumes them. If you allow it, being in close contact with them on a regular basis will consume you also.
In addition to negative people bringing you down and affecting your mood, research in the field of neuroscience has discovered others can actually have an effect on the physical structure of your brain! Think about that. The words someone else speaks or the actions they take in your presence can change your brain! How you choose to spend your time and who you choose to allow into your sphere of influence matters greatly.
You may have heard the analogy of the human brain being compared to a computer hard drive. That is actually an excellent analogy because once information in any form is received, it is embedded into the neurons of the brain. Once information is embedded, it can be difficult to remove, just like when trying to remove information from a computer.
Experiencing negative situations or negative people not only changes the structure of the brain, but memories of those interactions get stored in the cells of the body and remain long after the event took place. This occurs at the cellular level when the memory of the event is encoded into the cells at certain regions of the brain and body.
The negative or stressful event creates “neural traffic” to and from the central nervous system and triggers a “fight or flight” response. During this traffic within the cerebral and peripheral nervous system, sensory receptors are either picking up information or carrying it away. Each sensory receptor then encodes the nature, location, intensity and duration of the stimuli.
The best approach for effectively dealing with negative input and managing stress is to be pro-active. Prevention is the key. You can do this through awareness and choice. It is essential to become aware of what is going on around you and within your body and mind.
One of the best and easiest things you can do in a stressful situation is to simply breathe. Remind yourself to take a few deep breaths and continue to control your breathing. Anxiety will begin to diminish. One, because you have redirected your focus, and two because breathing influences the sympathetic nervous system to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, circulation, digestion and other bodily functions.
When you are experiencing emotional stress, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and affects a number of physical responses. Muscles tense, breathing becomes either shallow or rapid, the heart rate increases and we begin to perspire. Controlled breathing causes stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system which then results in relaxation and reversal of the stressful responses that were elicited by the sympathetic nervous system.
Breathing also provides oxygen to the circulatory and respiratory systems to purify our blood by removing poisonous waste products that are circulating throughout our blood systems. Irregular breathing will hamper the purification process and cause waste products to remain in circulation. The lack of necessary oxygen leads to the build up of the waste products which in turn causes fatigue and heightened anxiety states.
In just a few minutes you can control your breathing and redirect your thoughts. With practice, simply saying the word “relax” (or any other positive word you choose that represents calmness to you) while you are breathing, your brain and body will react accordingly. Notice which areas of your body are tense and what symptoms you are experiencing while going through the breathing process. As you do, imagine a hand or massage roller easing away the tension in that area. You can also create a scene in your mind of a calm and relaxing place and see yourself in that place relaxing.
Practice the technique on a consistent basis until it becomes a habit. It typically takes anywhere from 30-45 days for new neurons and neural pathways to be formed within the brain. New neurons and neural pathways (connections to other cells) means new information is being encoded in those cells and pathways in the brain. When the new information overrides the old, the brain has a new reference point and a new habit is created. When it becomes a habit, stress management for you will be on autopilot within your subconscious.
Again, prevention is the key. Reduce or eliminate your time with negative people. When stressed, simply breathe.