Worrying well: How your brain can turn anxiety and stress into calmness & confidence [UCTV]

Publication1BFWorrying well: How your brain can turn anxiety and stress into calmness & confidence [UCTV]
Broadcast date: 27/04/2012
Presentation by: Dr M.L. Rossman

Worry is an adaptive function[To there is a positive to it as well] – Helps us to solve a problem
– The fight and fight response (Big shot of adrenaline; Your heart rate goes up; Your BP does as well – So that you can react) is both an adaptive and maladaptive function at times
– Worry is a function of imagination [if you didn’t have an imagination, you wouldn’t worry]
– The trick is: How to use your imagination better – So you can be creative and worry well
– Worry and stress have a lot of overlap [They are often used interchangeably]
– Anxiety also overlaps with worry and stress [Worry, stress and anxiety are all a little bit different to each other]
– Joke about consciousness: Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul [Meaning: I am it – It is up to me] – Billions of way of coping with anxiety: AOD, eating too much etc., to go unconscious/put our head in the sand – good strategy in the short-term, but as a total life-plan, it won’t take you where you want to go.

– worry = thoughts (a type of thinking – the figments of my imagination are out to get me)
– belongs to the thinking part of the brain (The cortex)
[worst-case scenario, replaying worries over & over/repetitive/Ruminative thinking about the past or the future (The opposite of being here now); to worry ourselves sick; They can be habitual & “Mood destructive”]
– [Adaptive function: a bit like looking at a tangled ball of wool in a variety of different ways – loosening a piece here & a piece there etc.,; It serves to make our concerns transportable – So that we can think about those concerns at any time][BUT ARE YOU CONTROLLING YOUR WORRIES OR ARE YOU BEING RUN BY THEM?]
– [MOST THINGS YOU WORRY ABOUT NEVER HAPPEN][ But does the brain think, at a subconscious level, that the thing you worried about never happened because you worried about it? – is this the reward for the worrier?]
– The really good worriers not only worry all day but also all night [i.e. They have difficulty sleeping/insomnia]

– Anxiety = Uncomfortable feeling often in the gut or chest Of fear, apprehension, or dread (I know something bad is going to happen)
– Often accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, shortness of breath (If a panic attack, people often feel they’re about to die)
– Anxiety is a function of the limbic system or the emotional part of the brain

Stress = response
– Physical response to a threat, real or Imagined (To trigger the fight/flight response system)[Need to know where your off button is]
– Bloodflow to muscles, Not the periphery
– Increased heart rate and BP
– Adrenaline surge

In Review:
– Worry
– Repetitive/ ruminative thinking (often going around in circles)
– Anxiety
– An uncomfortable feeling of dread or fear
– Stress
– Physical survival response (Fight or flight) To meet challenges

Triune brain (Our brain developed from the bottom up; Each layer adds complexity and builds our capacity to understand the world)
– Neocortex (Think, plan, executive function)
– most recent addition (acts as a kind of know-it-all & is very entranced with itself – “the thinking brain” because it is capable of analysis & logic)
– verbal and mathematical skills – typically reside in the left hemisphere of the brain (Known as the dominant hemisphere Of the brain – It’s the part of the brain that names – labels things)
– limbic system (Emotional brain)
– Developed in mammals Engaged in social relationships (We gain strength from social relationship – coping emotionally, problem-Solving, pooling effort)
– Reptilian brain (Brainstem automatic functions)
– thinks: Can I eat it? Can it eat me? Can I mate with it?

Anger comes from things not meeting out expectations

Anxiety, stress, Worry:
– They are inter-related
– They are bidirectional
– The related parts of the brain are all chemically sensitive (Pharmacological; Neutri-ceuticals or nutrition)
– They are thought sensitive (I.e. Can be changed by thoughts)
[Mind and body are connected]
[Bio feedback]

Neuroplasticity (The brain is changeable – Even as an adult)
– Doidge: The brain that changes itself
– Schwartz: [OCD Re-search] Brain and mind
– Brizendine: The female brain (About the brain and how it is organised)[Foetus at age of eight weeks Is awash with testosterone – This kills off 80% of the neurons in the emotional part of the brain; This occurs again when the boy is aged 15]
– The brain changes throughout life
– “If the blind can learn to see, the anxious can learn to relax”

Self-directed neuroplasticity
– Using your mind to change your brain [Requires practice]

– Good worry
– How to anticipate and solve problems (I.e. the worry Serves a functional purpose)
– Ask yourself: Is this something I can do something about?
– Bad worry
– Habitual, Circular, “Magical” – Does not go anywhere; Does not lead to solutions; Serves merely to scare you;
– Makes it difficult to use your brain when you think like this

The Serenity prayer

Have you access more wisdom?
– Talk to friends
– Talk to family
– Talk to wise teachers
– Ask yourself: What would someone you consider to be wise do in a similar situation?
[You could do a visualisation where you see yourself walking with this person asking them what they would do][Approach from a wise place So that you move from fear and anxiety to an inner wisdom place]
[Do this visualisation because of the phenomena known as regression – when feeling this way, You can find yourself thinking you are too small, too weak, too unsure to know what to do – You could ask yourself how would you help a friend in a similar situation?]
[Proceed with relaxation; Going to a safe place, With a safe person/friend]

– Sometimes just writing things down Is helpful – 3 columns:
1) things you can change
– take action (But may not think they have the courage, confidence Or creativity necessary To take action)
2) Things you cannot change
– use relaxation
– Move to acceptance
– Turn it around to an intention (A positive visualisation of what you would like to have happen) or prayer
3) Things you are not sure you can change
– worry

The importance of Imagery (A coding language of the emotions; It’s often how we think)
– Runaway imagination is a major source of stress
– Skilful imagination is a powerful way to manage & relieve stress
– Visualisation brings the limbic or emotional part of the brain also into the equation (Not just the neocortex) For dealing with our problems – it acts to Add intelligence
– Imagery can calm the brain, Expand awareness, Add choices & emPower the mind
– Few people have been taught to use their brain/their imagination in this way – To use their imaginations powerfully

– stress-relief CDs

Guided Imagery exercise:
– Think of a quality you would like to experience More of/ feel more of in yourself [joy, confidence, courage, assertiveness, love etc.,]
– give it a name
– Be as comfortable as you can in your seat
– Close your eyes (you do not have to, but it is usually easier if you do)
– What your breathing get a little deeper into your abdomen
– Let your out breath be a letting go kind of breath/Exhalation
– Draw a deep breath into your belly (not forcing or straining)
– Invite the breath into your body
– Tell yourself to relax
– Notice the fresh energy and oxygen in your body
– Invite this to circulate into every cell of your body / enter your bloodstream
– Let go of any tension
– Let go of worry
– Let your mind go quiet
– Feel free to shift & move to be more comfortable
– now Daydream & And let yourself inside go to a place that is safe and beautiful and peaceful
– That might be a place that you have already been to in your life or It might be an imaginary place Or a place that you would like to go to And imagine that it is safe, beautiful and peaceful
– If more than one comes to mind, just pick one that you would like to go to now
– Take a few moments to look around and notice what you can in this safe, beautiful & peaceful place
– Notice the colours and shapes, the smell, the fragrance, the aroma of things that are there, the temperature
– And don’t worry if it vivid, clear or vague
– Just notice what you can in this safe, beautiful, peaceful place
– Notice what you can hear or cannot hear if it is quiet
– Notice the quality of the air, the sunshine
– Notice what time of day or night it seems to be
– Can you tell what season of the year it is?
– Just noticed whatever you can
– Find the most comfortable place you can be in that safe, beautiful & peaceful place
– Get comfortable
– Then think about a Quality you would like to have More of
– Or a feeling state that you would like to feel more of in your life
– Then let yourself go back in time – To a time when you did actually have more of that quality you would now like
– That your memory go back in time – To a time when you actually did feel that quality in yourself
– And if you do not have a memory of actually having that quality
– Then go back in time to a person that you witnessed who actually did have that quality That you would now like to have more of
– That can be a real person, a fictional person, an historical person
– Now imagine what you see, hear, feel In yourself
– And if you’re imagining that quality in somebody else, Now embody that quality & And imagine how it would feel inside yourself
– Feel what it feels like to have that quality inside you
– Notice where you feel that quality most strongly in your body
– just Quickly scan through your body from head to toe to locate that feeling
– Is it strongest in your feet, your legs, your pelvis, your abdomen, your chest, your head, your hands, your arms, your face,mor somewhere else altogether
– And let the feeling grow a little stronger just a little bit
– Notice how it feels to have that quality in yourself
– Notice what your posture wants to do when you feel the quality a little bit more strongly in yourself
– If you’re comfortable with it, turn up the volume like on the TV or radio So that it radiates out in all directions & And fills your body with that particular quality
– & as you feel that, notice how your face feels
– Imagine what your voice would be like if you felt that quality
– Turn up the volume on the quality even more So that it overflows out of you and around your body
– Imagine it radiating inside your body, touching every cell in your body – To your bone marrow, your bones, your connective tissues – To all the organs in your body – Especially your brain, your spinal-cord, your nervous system
– As if you are bathing in this quality
– If you like, Turn up the volume even more on this quality – Stay comfortable
– Turn the volume to the point where is comfortable for you
– Have it at the volume that you like listening to music if that is comfortable for you
– rest in it for a few minutes
– now bring your awareness back
– Review it – What was it like? – Was there more that you would like? Would you like more of this or would you like more of another quality? Notice how you feel? Has anything changed? Do you think it might change? If you can feel this quality – access it again at any time you would like by using this process.
– When you are ready let the images go back to where they came from and then slowly rejoin the room…
– If you like, raise your arms and stretch your body – wiggle your fingers and toes
– What was the experience like for you? Any comments, suggestions? Did you notice anything of interest? How do you feel?

Imagery can connect you to the bigger picture – You are in control
Brain imaging studies show that visualisation actually fires up particular areas of the brain related to sight (occipital lobe), sound (Temporal lobes), smell
– Emotional and reptilian parts of the brain go okay, I am actually there, & it allows different connections to form and relieve stress


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