In yesterday’s blog, I talked about our body’s miraculously adaptive response to stress. How we have an inborn capacity to protect ourselves from danger and at the same time, to mount resources so we can rise to important occasions.
The shadow side of this automatic response is that sometimes it’s misused and overactive. By misused, I mean, it’s turned on for run-of-the-mill situations that aren’t necessarily a matter of life and death. Most commonly, we experience psychological stressors, such as thinking to ourselves, “I’ll never be able to get everything done.” As common, we bump into social threats, such as not hearing from a friend for a while and then thinking, “Oh, they must not care about me.”
While it’s perfectly normal to have worrisome thoughts, it can be problematic to flood our bodies with stress hormones for situations that don’t pose a direct threat to our survival. Not a huge deal except this tends to happen a lot. If we’re not careful, we can spend the whole day stuck in stress reactivity mode based on an early morning incident that sparked a panicked thought.
In order to prevent chronic unease, we need to shift from autopilot mode to awareness, so that we notice if / when the body is in a heightened state of alarm for reasons that no longer make sense. Awareness may seem futile, but it’s truly the first step to growth and change.