Suffering from Anxiety and Stress? We need more Cheerleaders!

Modern living and separation feels incredibly stressful and one issue I have noticed is how we can all give ourselves a hard time and worry too much. We are the descendants of finely tuned anxious people and needed to be so in order to survive. In order for the modern form of humans to have survived 200,000 years we have needed to be ready for action depending on what we were faced with. Our amygdala (the alarm system that warns us of danger) is still very reactive in us today.‎ We are descendants of people who had a very finely tuned and responsive alarm.

Modern living, is less predatory, however, we still have a lot of triggers and pressures, particularly when separated. We may see our former partner as an enemy due to the split, conflict and possibly court experience. We may have categorised our ex as a threat. As a society we are known to react at the slightest flair up (only need to look at twitter, Facebook and courts). Our brain is in fact trained to be alert to negatives, as these could pose a threat and kills us. Yet we needn’t react in quite the same manner as we would under great attack.

The amygdala, the alarm system in our brain that alerts us of great danger can be fired up in a nano second of receiving an email or text from our ex.  Based on responses to prehistoric times which can be brilliant when under grave danger these can be now over stimulated at the slightest touch. We need to be more selective and buffer this alarm otherwise as it can be debilitating to be frequently on high pitch alert and causes us to respond to communication in a very rash and impulsive way.

When separated the one common feeling that is noticed is anxiety or anger. Anxiety is the most frightening ailment and can eat away at our self-esteem, making us incredibly incapacitated. When stressed or scared, we view a world full of dangerous triggers and pitfalls. In turn we are not in control. We can have a tendency to chastise ourselves as being frail and vulnerable and therefore over-compensate and fight back with all our arsenal. This can be exhausting and over-reactive.

Separated parents activate each other’s flight or fight brain and this can manifest itself in relentless conflict that can extend into court. By ‘looping’ into each other’s anxious brain, they replicate a reactive figure of eight. This figure of eight repeatedly activates the alarmed mechanism of each parent to a high pitch state and creates a vicious circle. So how can we help ourselves?

Finding equilibrium is key and we can do this by training our brains to create more cheer leaders in our own minds. We all have a tendency to put ourselves down and call ourselves, ‘stupid’ or an ‘idiot’ very easily. We can get into a negative stance with others and get into a negative spiral.

What could help separated parents? Both parents can assuage and comfort their own reactive brains long enough for them to activate their pre-frontal cortex (the rational brain and forward thinking brain). Once calm is established then collaboration can proceed.

So why not re-train our brains to have cheer leaders or a good backing band?

  • Soften our self-recriminations and criticism of others.
  • Talk to ourselves in a kindly manner. This will help to avoid negative profiling of ourselves and the other parent.
  • Use different turns of phrases, instead of a ‘problem’ being in the way, think of a worthy ‘challenge’ that can be faced.
  • Notice when we put ourselves down and don’t give ourselves a hard time about it. But stay observant to it and keep an open mind as to why it happened then.
  • If suffering from anxiety and insomnia, seeking professional support will alleviate the stress and enable ourselves to feel stronger and believe in ourselves again.

Suffering in silence will only exacerbate the alarm system to tripwire and default perpetually on siren mode. This will increase cortisol levels (a steroid hormone which is released in response to stress). This can cause harm to our health and can increase insomnia, makes us feel more depressed, frazzled and depletes our immune system.

Please take action and have an emotional MOT, give yourself a soothing brain massage by seeking professional help.

Or try yoga, meditation, exercise and mindfulness. This will keep you on track and create happy chemicals called endorphins and also makes you sleep better. Please don’t suffer in silence.