Rarely have we struggled against more anxiety and stress and without adult models, our youth are especially in need. It’s the perfect time to respond with social strategies and emotional boosts that toss cheer and hope back into our day! But how?
What can we do, in a climate of suicides and homicides that have spiked and where hopelessness holds a gun over too many of us.
How can we generate together, practical tools to re-energize our brains, and shore up our emotions.
The other morning I awoke earlier than usual and sensed I’d slipped into an anxiety-filled crevice. Weighted down by a hopeless sensation that seemed to suck me into its worry, I felt trapped much like the victims I’d seen fall into quicksand in John Wayne movies.
I’d been worried about a meeting I agreed to attend. More specifically I feared facing an acquaintance, who wanted a much closer friendship than I could offer. The more I tried to imagine the meeting, the more uncomfortable I felt. Concerned that any gestures of kindness may send the false message that I desired a deeper bond, I also dreaded the possibility of hurting this person’s feelings. Has it happened to you?
In such dilemmas our brain’s dangerous cortisol chemical can disadvantage and even sink us. How so? Choices we make such as agreeing to a meeting we fear can trigger cortisol’s toxic chemical, and fuel panic or insomnia, as it did for me.
Stress also comes from simple choices we make that then become ruts we disdain. Recently, for instance, I slipped into a bad habit of eating too many foods high in sugar and carbs later in the day. Before long I began to crave these unhealthy foods every evening. Not surprisingly, I felt stressed the next morning after consuming chips or chocolates the night before. Change rarely comes easily, especially when stress and anxiety get involved as they did in this case.
Since the stressful meeting had yet to occur, my food-related-fear seemed the best place to start for a brain-friendly solution that would restore my mojo. After a great deal of thought, I decided to eat my main meal far earlier in the day. Stress would likely fade if I made the shift from routines, and prepared meals when not craving junk food. It worked. The brain comes equipped to leap to novelty, such as my new time of day to eat. That small shift to a new dinner time, replaced my growing cravings, and made it easier to revert to healthier foods with reduced stress.
Research shows that childhood trauma leaves us prone to cortisol chemicals that fuel fear, regret, stress, anxiety, or disappointment. That awareness help me navigate past my difficult youth, where a dysfunctional, unloving family left me open to failure. The results? I became aware of learning shut-down triggers and anxiety increases. I began to watch out for negative reactions that replaced the kind of fun and adventures I enjoyed most. I tripped lots yet I sought to emulate power tools that mindful people engage when challenges arise, and when they seek resolutions.
A difficult past cannot prevent our survival-skill-building, unless we focus on past problems in ways that prevent us from seeing possibilities as they relate to our potential to grow and prosper.
Mindfulness, or a keen focus on our present realities, became my most accessible tool to face stress head-on. Without family supports, money or external rewards that help us block stress, we turn inside for mental resources that can come to our aid in surprising ways.
If we alter directions, and head off on healthier, more sustainable tracks, we awaken mindfulness that can end stress-related misery. This growth mindset helped me deter panic and depression, and even laugh more at the little things.
Armed with a new view of mindfulness, I actually enjoyed the calm that came from reflecting on one present situation only. It helped me tackled one issue at a time and without anxiety. I made a conscious choice to refuse worries about my acquaintance’s expectations. Nor did I regret being unable to meet possible future demands. As a way to be more focused on the present, and on a solution I could actually do, I chose to stop fretting about my future relationship with this person. The result?
Stress chemicals lowered through action, and my panic turned into a stillness and calm. All because I looked more at possibilities and acted by going to the meeting with a plan to enact. For instance, I planned to speak kind words that would show my genuine appreciation for this person. In addition, I also planned to speak firm words about my own lack of close friendship commitment at the time, in a way that did not emit rejection signals.
In my desire to side-step one fearful dilemma, I experienced again how a mindful approach to stressful situations, can lower or eliminate toxic cortisol from the mix. Have you seen it?
Some people insist that as world leaders and factions become noisier, we’ve all become less mindful. If true, that also positions stress in an ambush disguise, waiting to strike.
If the links between early trauma and stress are true, mindfulness at any age becomes urgent. When we listen to angry rhetoric or cruel name-calling of politicians or others, we risk fueling our brains with dangerous stress chemicals. Sadly, stress toxins can tear us down personally or in groups with hopelessness, so that solutions get missed by default. My response to this steel trap?
Silly as this may sound, I learned a mindful lesson from laughter, stress, and a cartload of sheets.
Let me explain. From the time I met my college friend Martha Star, or Maatha Stah as she’d say in her Boston accent, I was impressed with her instant ability to laugh at herself. What could make others furious, often handed Martha fantasy and fun. In freshman year a few of us worked in a laundry job on Saturday mornings. ‘Takes a bag o’ rocks for brains,” to work here Martha would remind us.
With one hand, we passed out hundreds of clean sheets and collected sheets stripped from endless beds, with the other we sought any adventure that might lift the Saturday morning boredom. As usual, and before we’d covered one side of the hall on one occasion, Martha had us all laughing. Then she announced an idea to ride the laundry cart in a race we’d all remember.
“Betcha I can ride this laundry caht from one end o’ the hall to the othah fasteh ‘an eitheh of you,” she quipped.
Who could resist? The race was on! Or at least until all of us except Martha, saw the nun suddenly appeared as if Aristotle had dropped in deus ex machina to resolve our plot of tragedies. In unison and in panic we all let the laundry cart go with Martha still in it. Rather than stop, the newly-winged-wagon headed down the stairs with Martha still laughing among tumbled sheets in an unhinged flying machine. After we ensured Martha was fine, we abandoned our joy ride for safety in the nearest dorm. We reasoned that if anybody could make an angry nun smile while sitting in a laundry heap at the foot of the stairs, Martha could. So why then do people like Martha smile, when others like the rest of us, stress over the same situation?
Meet the namungo gang. They jam-pack social and emotional health into hidden and unused intelligences already present in our brains!
The namungo gang is here to help you sidestep panic and rebuild hope.
You may remember namungos – those fictional characters, with real brain parts! But did you know these magical characters offer real tools from our own mental stockpiles to help us let go of what is in order to live dreams that could be ours? How so?
Namungos offer 6 surefire ways to let go and leap forward ~
1. BAS stores good habits that healthy minded people build – such as regular sleep patterns. Each good habit stored becomes the practice easily retrieved as tools to spot and enjoy future possibilities.
With good choices, we can bypass the brain’s pack-rat basal ganglia which warehouses ruts and broken routines like squirrels stockpile nuts in winter. It’s about choice. Current comfort in BAS, or stepping into finer habits that open doors into uncharted ventures? Those aware of BAS ditch tired basal ganglia routines faster and run with new tactics that surprise with delight.
2. SERO fuels laughter at silly mistakes made along the way so that confidence is built along with expectation to do better in the next run through. SERO can be raised in several observable ways that help you at every stage to cultivate wellbeing and foster wonder with every new step.
By now – you likely know that serotonin – the brain’s wellbeing chemical – packs new zest when we laugh at our mistakes. Get others laughing too and serotonin sends its magic across an entire room.
3. PLAS literally reshapes your brain for more fun and less panic when you disrupt a tired habit with a finer upshot. How so? Watch PLAS change your brain for more fun and less panic, when you simply ask, What if…? and then act on new approaches learned. Take even one extravagant step in the direction of a risk tethered to a daring dream.
Your plasticity (the brain’s ability to change itself) reshapes after each action you risk and then do. Yes – it takes action! You grow more brainpower with each innovative move.
4. WM works in your favor when you jot down cool tips learned at each stage. Add hints and insights to show how you’ll do it later in your next step forward. Expect to forget even the best ideas, if not applied, because your working memory acts like a computer’s copy-paste file. How so?
When new facts or possibilities fly in from any novel idea encountered, your brain’s thimble sized capacity for new facts gets displaced. Outsource your working memory by creating cheat sheets of tactics you will try and then be sure to act on.
5. CORT attacks those who fail to run from vents and people who sprout them. To avoid CORT’s toxins, offer a cool proposal and help to improve anything you dislike. What do vents trigger? CORT says it best.
Cortisol – the brain’s toxic stress chemical – packs a sucker punch to all when we vent, rage, regret, gloat, or nay-say. Get yourself and others proposing mental make-overs wherever you spot snags and those flawed moves will fade as cortisol decreases. The brain’s surefire path from vents to victory is to propose a possibility to resolve a problem and then try out your idea.
6. MYG leaves you emotionally stuck in untamed mode unless you amp up emotional IQ when stress strikes. Some call it taming your amygdala which is the brain’s seat of emotions. Why should you refuse to settle for an untamed MYG?
MYG stands for your amygdala – the brain’s storehouse that stockpiles every kind shout out you make for a peer, every thanks you offer a neighbor or colleague, every smile you flash to a coach or mentor! A tamed amygdala sets the stage for life-changing takeaways – that get you more bang for every emotional buck.
Looking for a bundle of student-ready materials to rock more brainpower for your next game?
Check out this bundle to see social and emotional games, tasks and lessons namungos offer to help transform your next stress related problem into an emotional learning high that benefits all concerned.
What will you do today to awaken minds and lead fresh innovations? How might a numungo or fictitious character with real brain parts, help you out?
Secondary students especially benefit from strategies that boost morale, lower stress and set them free to learn and love the process.
Before we sink too deeply, that’s a perfect place to ask, WHAT IF…? Even better – ask people who differ to gain a new perspective.
Brain based tools bundled here will help you build your unique intelligences, on the other side of missteps from your past. For instance …
Learning tools fashioned to fit your brain, will light a new path toward your unique star.
The namungo gang bundles learning games, tasks and lessons learning into sharper focus here. Ready to reconnects neurons of wellbeing, in ways that support new neuron pathways to custom-made discoveries that delight.
Join our Brain Based Circles! Would love to meet you at any of the following!
Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset