Written by Team Optimity
3 minute read
We all have a part of our brain that’s dedicated to our survival defences. It’s almost like having superhero powers that can be activated when we need to protect ourselves when we’re threatened or in danger. When we’re relaxed, this part of the brain goes about taking care of our regular body functions and it doesn’t cause any trouble. Once a threat is perceived, these superhero powers get busy: they speed up our heart rates and breathing, pumping our blood so that we’re all ready to fight or run! And when the threat has passed, these superhero powers become calmer and the survival defences disengage.
This part of the brain with superhero powers takes its job very seriously – it’s sometimes a little over-zealous! Sometimes, it has trouble identifying what is truly a life-threatening situation. A meeting, a test and even a difficult conversation can make us feel overwhelmed and stressed. The result? These superhero powers can wake up and gets BUSY!
So what does all of this mean for our mental and emotional well-being?
Good mental hygiene helps you learn ways to train your superhero powers to protect you only when you really need it. You don’t want to use your immediate fight or flight skills to deal with a meeting or a test. In these situations, you want to use the more advanced parts of your brain that let you proactively manage stress and panic.
Here is a list of daily skills, that will help you train this part of your brain and develop good habits under pressure. This will ensure that you are using your full brain capacity on a regular basis.
1. Breathe – breathe deeply, slowly and with awareness
Who would have thought that you had to be taught to breathe? The truth is that many people are breathing too quickly, as if their life is being threatened. This keeps a part of the brain on high alert mode. Your breathing needs to be slow, to utilize your whole brain.
Follow these 3 techniques for breathing:
- Breathe through your nose.
- Relax your tongue on the floor of your mouth.
- Notice the sensation of your breath coming in and out.
Be sure to check in several times throughout the day with how you are breathing and practice slowing it down.
2. Sleep – sleep soundly and for as much time as your body needs
Put yourself to bed like you would a baby. Have a nighttime routine, and make sure it includes a quieting downtime with no stimulation or screens. Sleeping requires a relaxing of all the defences. This part of the brain needs to feel safe, cozy, and protected.
3. Develop a Coping Skills Toolbox – we all need a variety of techniques and skills to cope with stress
Not every tool works for every person. Some people meditate, some run, some take baths, some paint. Find the tools that work for you. You need an array of options because if you use the same one too much it eventually stops working. Diversify and keep developing new tools to keep your superhero powers feeling safe.
4. Connection – look into the eyes of another human and say hello!
People need people. Human connection in any form helps regulate your stress, emotions, and soothes the soul. Smile at a stranger, cuddle a loved one, giggle with a friend to release chemicals in the body that soothe the brain if it becomes defensive.
5. Practice gratitude – noticing moments of joy, observing beauty, and being thankful for our lives develops a greater capacity for happiness
Training our brains to notice the tiniest of pleasures creates pathways in the brain to notice even more. Keep a daily gratitude journal to see your happiness expand and grow! Gratitude allows your brain to get warmed and nourished by the sun.
While your superhero powers can sometimes cause you unnecessary stress, it certainly doesn’t have to. Follow some of these tips to put your superhero to sleep…and, not just with one eye open.
How does that sound? Which daily skill do you already practice? Which one do you want to try to incorporate in your day-to-day life?