“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it”
This quote from Hans Selye, the ‘father’ of modern-day stress, holds the key to understanding our continued failure to improve our response to everyday stress. If living in a cave on top of a remote mountain is not an option, we should accept stress as an integral part of life. The imperative question we need to then ask ourselves is: how do we change our reaction to it?
Let’s take a close look at our physiological reactions to stress – they include, for example, increased blood pressure, reduced blood supply to the digestive system and immune system suppression. So, it only makes sense that available solutions are aimed at reducing these physiological responses. Techniques like breathing, counting, physical exercise and meditation will, indeed, reduce some of these responses.
For example, you may feel better once you take a walk around the building after a heated argument with your boss. Or engage in meditation. However, as far as your physiological response and its impact on your body – you are too late! Unfortunately, your body has already suffered a stress-driven physiological blow.
If this was a one-time event, our body is perfectly designed to deal with it. However, not only ‘stress breeds stress’ but, separately, stress accumulates. Therefore, it’s not long before these repeated blows result in irreversible damage. As so accurately put by Selye, it is not stress but our response to it that kills us.
Anyone familiar with Krav-Maga – the self-defense, hand-fighting technique developed by the Israeli army – knows that recovery from a blow is very difficult. Therefore, a lot of attention is paid to training you to identify an incoming attack early so that you can prevent it. This can be achieved by, for example, physical blockage or deception. The same principle can be applied when we fight stress. We need to be trained to identify and prevent the incoming ‘attack’ early on! That means before – not after – we experience the physiological expressions of stress.
What is needed is a paradigm-shift in our approach to stress!
If we are to prevent our natural physiological response to stress, we need to identify the fact that we have been impacted by it much earlier. We need to change our habitual emotional response to stress. It is our emotional response to stress that causes the physiological expressions that, as stated by Selye, kill.
“Emotions?!” you ask. “What do my emotions have to do with it?” Well, recent neuroscience research reveals that under stressful circumstances an interesting process takes place in our brain. For as long as we are calm the CEO of our brain is the Prefrontal Cortex – the area of the brain right behind our forehead. This area is responsible for thinking and analysis, decision-making, suppressing impulses and emotions and communicating with one another.
However, as soon as we are exposed to information that causes us to stress out, a different area of our brain ‘hijacks’ control. The new CEO – the Amygdala – is primarily responsible for our emotions with fear being at the forefront. Under this new CEO, we become emotionally-driven and respond to the world as if we are under attack.
So the paradigm-shift is to be able to identify our habitual emotional response in real-time and stop it. This way we can prevent – rather than reduce – the damaging impact of the repeated physiological blows to our body.
There is a unique group of professionals for whom doing exactly that makes the difference between life and death. These are Special Forces operatives trained to operate undercover, deep behind enemy lines. Our SEALs is one such example.
During these missions, the operative is repeatedly exposed to very high levels of stressful circumstances. At the same time, the operative is required to make split-second decisions in calm, focused and goal-oriented manners. If the operative is impacted by stress, his access to the Prefrontal Cortex is impaired and, as a result, his view of reality is Amygdala-controlled. Here, the operative’s decisions are fear-driven and emotionally-biased. Under these circumstances, Selye’s statement becomes even more ‘tangible’ – the operative’s habitual emotional response to stress does kill.
In order to avoid this process, these operatives are uniquely mind-trained. This training enables them to learn to identify their habitual emotional response to stress early enough and stop it in real-time from impacting their decision-making process.
Dr. Gill Heart served over 7 years in a top-secret unit in the IDF specialized in undercover, deep behind enemy lines operations. Dr. Heart developed the Mind In Control™ mind-training program by adapting key principles from his training and operational experience and applying them to change our habitual emotional response to everyday stress triggers.
Join us on Sunday, 30th April, at Hippocrates Health Institute for a unique, hands-on Mind In Control™ workshop. Our primary goal is to train you how to respond to your everyday stress like a Special Forces operative – calm, focused and goal-oriented. Dr. Heart will also spend time sharing some of the fascinating recent discoveries neuroscience that supports the training as well as the Mind In Control™ mind-training philosophy.