Updated: May 7, 2020
"It's on my mind when I wake up. It keeps me up late at night. It's on the news all day. It seems to be getting worse. No one knows when it will end."
In today's coronavirus climate, it's hard not to worry. It's easy to get caught up it in the latest bad news. In my interview with Kate Deering yesterday, Kate said that worry can be addicting. It can have a stimulant effect, adrenalizing the mind and body, increasing the heart rate. Ironically, dopamine, which we rely on for happiness, alertness, attention, arousal, and joy, is also released with stress, and we can get a "hit" from the bad news. Kate said many of her clients have described feeling a "crash" after watching the news, feeling fatigued, or exhausted, with a mild to severe headache.
Our addiction to bad news is related to the gambler addiction: it's the "thrill" that drives them. The higher the stakes, the more exciting it is. A massive loss can trigger a more intoxicating dose. While none of us consciously WANT more bad news, the subconscious brain is more illusive and harder to understand. It may play a bigger role than we like to admit.
Here's a quiz to help gauge our subconscious involvement:
Sometimes I just turn on the TV. I don't have a particular reason.
If I think about it, I'm generally thinking about bad news.
I'm not really intentional with my energy or time.
There are a lot of challenging things I have to think about!
I'm not really thinking about what I'm thinking about.
I don't know why I am feeling so fatigued.
I have a hard time getting to sleep because my thoughts are racing.
I often wake up worried in the middle of the night.
If ANY of the statements above is true for you, your subconscious mind may be controlling more than it should. If you are NOT consciously choosing exactly what you do, when you do it, and for what purpose, who is choosing? It is fair to assume that, to a degree, your subconscious mind has hi-jacked YOU.
If you want power, leverage, and control of your life, it's imperative to know some brain basics. Here is MP3's #1 Rule of Neuroplasticity:
A brain that knows how it's made,
and understands how it works,
has an advantage.
We have 2 primary brain regions with massively different goals. Each region, independently, has the potential to control our thoughts and actions; each region has the potential to "grab" control from the other. One of the reasons that mental disorders like schizophrenia develop is because the line between these areas becomes blurred and confused.
The first brain is the subconscious brain. It is associated with the midbrain, mesencephalon, and brainstem. It is more ancient, less intelligent, and more prone to basic survival instincts. It is referred as the lizard brain, or reptilian brain. The second brain is the conscious brain. It is associated with the neocortex, and primarily the frontal lobe. It is responsible for executive function. This is where non-stressed intellectual thought, action, and appreciation occur. When you relax and listen to a Mozart symphony, the neocortex activates. Watching or playing a sport that you love activates the neocortex.
If your body is crashing in rhythm with the delivery of the daily news, or you're waking up at night with your heart racing, let's pull the rule away from your subconscious, and get your neocortex back on the throne.
Here are three easy steps to get YOU back in charge of your life:
1. Cut back on how much your are "plugged in" to the negative livestream. We have more access to more negative news than ever before. Every minute of every hour, we have access to a potentially toxic dose of stress. Watch how much you watch.
2. Schedule your worry time. Instead of worrying whenever you feel like it, build some protective parameters around this. A good friend was struggling with anxiety in college, and a counselor gave her this tool for her tool box. I was impressed when I asked her how she was coping with a challenging situation, and she replied, "it's tough, but I'm dealing with it. I am going to think about it at 4:30 pm today." I was so impressed at this simple strategy to dethrone the subconscious, and put it in an appropriate place; not ignoring it, but consciously determining a level importance, and time required to deal with the challenge.
3. Turn on your Light Sources. Light Sources are symbolic sources of light, energy, and joy for your life. If scheduling time for worry is important, this is infinitely more important. Giving time and attention to your Light Sources activates the frontal lobe, and soothes the subtle, background panic of the subconscious mind. Practice cultivating Light Sources daily: relationships, gratitude for life, meditation, painting, playing guitar, the ability to take a deep breath, the beauty of a flower, or a sunlit sky.