Eighty percent of visits to physician’s offices are for stress related complaints. It is not that stress causes eighty percent of diseases, injuries or complaints that we might have, but that stress negatively affects everything. Nothing goes better with stress. Stress makes it easier for us to become sick, to take longer to heal and can interfere with our optimal functioning.
But stress is necessary for survival. We need the stress response to help us “fight or flee” danger. When crossing the road, suddenly a truck appears out of nowhere and bears down on us_ the stress response is a good thing. It helps us run safely to the other side of the road. But in today’s time, most of the things that stress us are not best handled by punching someone in the nose or running away.
When we are stress up to 1400 physiologic changes occur in the body. Some of these changes are related to a redistribution of blood. The large muscle masses need more blood flow to supply them with oxygen and glucose so they can be more active. With only so much blood in our body, less blood flows to our skin (why when nervous our hands are cold), our gastrointestinal tract (why we get butterflies before speaking in front of a large group) and our mind (why we have test anxiety). This lack of blood flow to our brain when stressed means we are less intelligent that usual. And since most of our stressors require an intellectual response instead of a physical one, we are at a disadvantage. We need to learn how to reverse the stress changes and increase blood flow to our brain so we can be more intelligent and problem solve better.
And we can learn skills that will allow us to utilize our brain better and have less stress.
Everybody worries. Worry is nothing more than thinking about something. The problem is that sometimes we worry needlessly. It would not be a good idea to remove the part of our brain that is in charge of worrying. It is okay and good to worry about traffic when crossing the road to get to the other side. But at other times, worry does nothing good for us and may even make us ill.
The trick is to be able to differentiate useful from useless worry. And then do more useful worry and less useless worry. Useful worry is when we are able to gather NEW information that will help us make a better DECISION. If we are going over the same thoughts/facts over and over again, we are not gathering new info. If what we are going over in our mind is not going to help us make a decision, then that is a useless activity.
By first noting useful from useless worry and then making a conscious effort to do more useful worry, over time we will note that we will do less useless worry. Our brain does learn.