Have you ever wondered why life seems so different at times? Anything new, anything that activates an old, bad memory, any physical pain, or ingestion of food, drugs, or toxins of any kind can cause stress.
Once in stress, the only part of the brain that gives us any hope of taking charge of our lives, the prefrontal cortex, goes offline. It relinquishes control of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to the lower brain, the more extreme reptilian brain.
Switching the brain area that is in charge
The purpose of the Brain Based Health Movement is to say, "We have a brain that has an emotional pathway from stress to joy. Why not learn how to use it?" That one act gives us more power in keeping daily stress from . . . ruining our day. When the reptile is in charge, nothing goes very well, and we cannot shut off that reptile with positive thoughts, effective reappraisal, distraction, or social media. It's still rumbling there in the backfields of our mind!
Even knowing that the brain is always changing the brain area in charge can help. It's reassuring to know that the brain is very dynamic. When the reptile starts being snappish and the prefrontal cortex shrugs and lets go of conscious control, I'm not a little crazy. I'm just human, and that's what human brains do!
Hmmmmm. . . . that means it's perfectly normal to act like a reptile at times, and other times, when the thinking brain is in charge, to magically turn into the most sensitive, loving, and wise human being . . . that explains a lot!
Stress happens and the reptile takes charge
That brain-based approach helped me yesterday when without notice I found that I needed to go to Texas for a month. I had all these plans lined up for myself: some taping today for the new EBT app, and maybe even some swimming. Also, Walt and my two sons had treated me by sponsoring a horse, a childhood dream of mine, made possible by an old friend whose friend had passed away, leaving behind her horse Isabella, who needed some love and connection. What fun!
After writing two books, one on stress overload and another on stress eating, for two years, and having virtually no "outdoor play" time, the idea that I needed to replant myself for four weeks right when I was about to have some play, leaving Walt for a month, and the surprise nature of it all caused enough momentary stress that my reptile took charge. My PFC was nowhere to be found – at that moment and I felt confused and a bit overwhelmed.
As a card-carrying EBTer . . .
That didn't feel great. It never does when one is triggered, However, as a card-carrying EBTer, I paused for a bit, then used the brain-based health plan. I reminded myself that it was not me, it was just stress, and my reptile within causing problems. I asked Walt to listen to me doing Cycles. I could have done that alone, but it's always easier when someone close is trained in EBT and follows the rules, such as you won't bring it up to them later, won't judge them for the negative and absurd feelings they have while using the tools, and most of all, will not give unasked-for advice!
Basically, I used the tools and got on my natural pathway from stress to joy. My PFC came back online, and I started to plan how to make this a good trip for me and keep myself happy and healthy.
It's all perfect based on the mysteries of the emotional brain
The purpose of BBH is to expand our power to put the thinking brain back online, and more quickly return to that state of well-being, wiser and stronger from that stressful moment. I talked with the folks who are caring for Isabella, and it turns out that she has pretty serious arthritis and the medication will take four weeks to work, so by the time I return, I'll be able to ride her and get to know her better.
That moment of dipping down into stress overload, and then making friends with my reptile, not only made the resilience pathway in my brain stronger, the grooves in the road from stress to joy deeper, but when my thinking brain was back online, all seemed rather perfect.
Now I'm completely excited about going to Texas for four weeks. How did all of this happen, anyway? The emotional brain, the seat of the soul, is pretty crafty. Now I can't wait to get on the plane tomorrow and go on this new adventure.