QUOTES & WISDOM
TOP OF THE MIND
QUOTES & WISDOMfrom the Top of the Mind
QUOTES & WISDOM
Top of the Mind
Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL
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The Neuroscience of Negative Emotions
One thing I always try to do as a speaker, coach, and seminar leader is to bring new information to the table. This is especially important around the subjects of stress, frustration, and anxiety because there is so much information already out there about how to deal with these issues.
Also, it’s so important to truly understand what is actually causing these reactions, because the tendency is to point to some problematic person or situation. And, of course, when that is truly the problem (an abusive relationship or toxic work environment) then using these reactions as good information about what needs to change is a good idea.
However, when it is a situation that we can’t change (traffic, deadlines, the weather, etc.) or things that if we try to change only get worse (difficult people), then looking externally for the cause is rarely effective. Plus, this external focus really misses what is truly causing our stress, frustration, and anxiety, i.e., the way our brain processes information.
For example, those who follow my Life from the Top of the Mind philosophy know that the middle brain (or limbic system) functions as a scanner, processor, and router. It scans incoming data, processes or interprets it as either neutral, positive, or negative, and then either routes it down to the brainstem or up to the neocortex (what I call the Top of the Mind). Therefore, when this middle brain interprets any difficult person or situation as negative, it throws us into the part of the brain that is responsible for fight-or-flight. However, because few, if any, of these situations can be dealt with effectively from a fight-or-flight perspective, we can feel powerless and confused, which triggers more stress and anxiety.
So, the first thing we must do is shift to the clear, confident, creative brain (the Top of the Mind) so that we are able to interpret the situations we deal with in a way that allows us to have more influence with respect to how we respond. To do this, I have created a model that spells BRAIN.
It begins with breathing slowly and deeply, and saying “relax” on the exhale. This allows the upper 80% of the brain to regain control by literally taking over two functions (breathing and muscle tension) that is normally controlled by the brainstem. Once we have engaged this more purposeful brain, we can use it to shift from a focus on the problem to a focus on the solution. We do this by asking a future-oriented, solution-focused question, “How would I rather be feeling” or “What would I recommend to someone I love?”
Once we have determined what this is, we can then trigger a chemical change in our brain and body by imagining being this way. In other words, given that the brain doesn’t know the difference between a real and imagined experience, when we imagine being a certain way (confident, joyful, creative), we actually trigger the chemicals (serotonin and endorphins) that accompany these states of being. If we then take notice of how we feel differently than we did at the beginning of this process, that further solidifies our effectiveness and ability to influence our state of mind and state of being.
As mentioned, this model spells BRAIN (Breathe, Relax, Ask (how would I rather be feeling), Imagine (feeling this way), Notice the change. This puts us in the part of the brain where we can begin to deal with life from a more clear, confident, creative, perspective.
Of course, staying in this more purposeful brain is easier said than done, and then becoming influential with others who are trapped in their own lower brain is even more challenging. The good news is that I have created a complete system that is designed to teach organizations, individuals, and even families how to become more effective by understanding the true cause of how we think, feel, and act. If you would like those in your life to have this skill, I suggest you contact me, because until we understand what is truly causing our stress, frustration, and anxiety, and have tools to deal with these negative reactions, we will never be able to create the life we want for ourselves and those we love.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill