Open in an Emergency (…Emotional)
Do you remember the last time you had an argument with your partner or a family member? Your conversation may have been running along smoothly when suddenly voices became raised, the other person was being super-sensitive, you’re yelling at each other, saying things you’ll probably regret later, doors are slammed…utter chaos! What the hell just happened??
Blame it on the Brain
(Warning: scientific content below!)
Initially we’ll try to calm down.
But man, how could they say that stuff!!! I just can’t believe they’ve been holding all that in and now just dumped it on me!!!!
And you’re off again getting all worked up. Ok first, take a BIG breath in, let it go and try to stay with me.
We need to calm ourselves down, but how when we can’t seem to stop getting all worked up every time we think about it?
When we feel threatened, all rational thought disappears because the emotional centre of the brain, the Limbic system, is instantly activated. The limbic system emotions are our deep core emotions of; fear, anger, rage, fight/flight, freeze, pleasure and pain.
This system is the part of the brain responsible for the storage of memories connected to emotional events such as; falling in love (if it’s mutual – yay! Pleasure. If not – heart break…and Pain), being told off by your parents/teacher/boss, hearing particularly shocking news (do you remember what you were doing when 911 happened?) or the time the nasty neighbourhood dog tried to take a bite out of you when you walked past.
So when a future event occurs and it looks, feels and smells like the time your Mum told you off for telling a lie when you were four, your limbic system accessed your database of memories and pulled this one out as a match. BINGO.
Next question your limbic system asks is “What did I do to survive that experience? That’s right, I started denying it and yelling and screaming because I felt threatened (‘fight’) then I ran out and slammed the door (and a bit of ‘flight’ thrown in for good measure). Sweet, that helped me stay alive last time, I’m going to do the same again now.”
So rather than actually responding to the person in front of you, you’re behaving like four year old you and responding as if your Mum’s in the room and not your partner. Crazy huh?
Even crazier is that the other person is responding as their younger self, to someone also not in the room with you.
So how do we break this cycle?
Woo sa….Woo sa…Calm Blue Ocean…
When the limbic system becomes activated, little to no activity occurs in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain behind our foreheads. The frontal cortex is the rational and logical part of our brain and responsible for decision-making and problem solving. Definitely what is NOT happening in the heat of the moment!
We need to bring blood flow away from the limbic system and toward the frontal cortex.
Emotional Stress Release Tip
One of the most powerful and simple techniques in Kinesiology is called the Emotional Stress Release technique or ESR. Here are the steps:
- Lie or sit down in a quiet place where you will be undisturbed for a little while.
- Place the palm of your hand across your forehead, as if your Mum’s checking your temperature. You’re actually covering two points here, the frontal eminences of the forehead also known as the emotional stress release points. In layman’s terms, these points are above the pupil of each eye, halfway between your eyebrows and hairline. So placing your hand across your forehead will cover them both.
- With your eyes closed, think about the situation that’s causing you stress. Imagine it’s happening to you right now; use all your senses and your imagination. How are you feeling, what can you smell, hear, sense?NB: If the situation is extremely stressful, you may want to visualize the situation as if it’s being projected onto a movie screen, or create a ‘safe’ place that you can go to immediately it becomes too stressful. A ‘safe’ place is usually an imagined beautiful place in nature where you feel safe, protected and secure. When you start to feel calmer, you can take yourself back into the situation you were working with. Or, you can have someone your trust hold your forehead for you. That’s always nice! AND you have the support of someone you trust with you.
- Continue to hold your hand across your forehead until you feel the stress dissipating or until you’re able to think about the situation more easily.
Holding your hand across your forehead stimulates and brings blood flow to the logical, reasoning aspect of your brain. Creativity, choice, new options and rational thinking occur here.
However, right in the middle of a heated discussion, you can’t just lie down and put your hand on your forehead and breathe deeply! Well, depends on where you are and who with. Instead, you can either call a ‘time out’ if at home and agree to take a moment for you both to calm down and then use this technique. Or if at work, as soon as you can find a spare moment to yourself, is also perfect.
Use During Any Emotional Emergency or…..
- Before a high-pressure meeting at work (there were often times I would be sitting in the toilet cubicles at work holding my ESR points).
- Exams (you might see students instinctively holding their forehead, with elbow on desk when trying to access information stored in their brain).
- Before delivering a presentation.
- When you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- After a trauma or an accident eg. Car accident
- Whenever you experience a mental block and need an extra boost of oxygenated blood to help.
One of my clients had her husband hold her ESR points during the birth of their child and she said it worked a treat (and gave her husband something useful to do!)
Let me know in the comments below what stress you’ve cleared in your life with this simple technique!