This procrastination issue, it has weighed on my mind. I was willing to admit fully I had a problem with it (but didn’t know why until I read this, “Two neurotransmitters put the brain on alert: norepinephrine arouses attention, then dopamine sharpens and focuses it. An imbalance of these neurotransmitters is why some people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) come across as stress junkies. They have to get stressed to focus. It’s one of the primary factors in procrastination. People learn to wait until the Sword of Damocles is ready to fall–it’s only then, when stress unleashes norepinephrine and dopamine, that they can sit down and do the work.”
All of that means that I need to figure out ways to engage my mind before the stress of procrastination comes along. The next chapters of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain explained how stress and anxiety burn memory pathways into our brains. In another book I finished, Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin, the author explained much of the same thing, just in a different context. Both of them were essentially saying the same thing–(my summary)–that when your body is stressed (a real event or a made-up worry, it doesn’t matter which, the amygdala in your brain cannot differentiate between a real bear standing in front of you vs. you worrying a bear will show up in your yard) it releases a string of stress hormones and that triggers a whole ‘nother set of chemical reactions in your body. Then your brain starts taking notes for it’s flight or fight journal of survival.
And because all of these hormone, chemical, and physiological events are occurring during the release of stress hormones, the notes the brain is taking become engraved and a ditch is dug, if you will. And every time those stress hormones are released, the ditch gets deeper and deeper and deeper. And so if you’re like I used to be, and you worry about EVERYfreakingTHING, that stress turns into full blown anxiety and before you know it, you start to freak out over everything and everything is bad and nothing good every happens and why do I even bother because it’s just going to end shitty and I hate my life.
Without knowing it, I broke the anxiety cycle many years ago. Much of my success I attribute to my husband who says things like, “Why in the hell are you worried about something you don’t know is going to happen?” Or he’d ask, “What exactly are you worried about?” I’d start to verbalize my worry and then I sounded stupid because I have a headache and I probably have brain cancer now. (oh you know what I’m talking about.)
So when I started to verbalize things (I’m driving over a river on a bridge and I’m terrified I’m going to drive off of it and drown) I realized how ridiculous I was.
But the fact is, that in my life, bad things did happen. Quite often. Quite severe and traumatizing things. And my brain took notes. And then it started making up risks that weren’t really rational. And because the brain can dig a damn good ditch, I was stuck so deep.
I started filling in the ditch with good thoughts. Gratitude. It really works.
But another tool I’m learning about is exercise! (you need to read this book!!) So the gist of it is this, when your body releases that onslaught of stress stuff, it raises your heart rate and your mind (like I’ve said) takes notes. When you exercise, your heart rate increases (and your mind takes notes) and then all kinds of crazy-good hormone stuff is released into your body.
SO–and this is the breakthrough moment– when I am stressing out, if I exercise for a few minutes and raise my heart rate, my body will take notes and will also release the good stuff, which diminishes stress and anxiety. And because I “survive” the bear attack, I start to fill in those ditches even faster!
“Muscle building cannot occur without first tearing down muscle fibers, the main component of muscle tissue. Hypertrophy is the term used to describe an increase in muscle bulk, which occurs when the body repairs torn muscle fibers. Weight lifting, resistance training and long-distance running are among the stressors that initiate the teardown and muscle-building cycle. Building or repairing muscle tissue involves interaction among cells, proteins, the immune system, growth factors, hormones, nutrition, rest and sleep.”
The dots I’m connecting are that much like building muscles, training the brain to react in an appropriate way is going to require me to tear down and rebuild. If I’m stressing and raise my heart rate and then the stress is gone, my brain will learn that not everything in life is an attacking bear. If I’m starting to worry and I give thanks and redirect, I’m building a new path.
I’ve also been tackling past memories and hurts and treating them with the same prescription. If something triggers a bad memory (like if I see a game of hangman and immediately I think of my uncle’s suicide) I must tear down that old cycle of thinking and rebuild a new one.
So now. (there’s more)
I went back to my original entry in my fasting journal because God gave me a verse I didn’t understand. Are you ready?
“Your job is to pull up and tear down,
take apart and demolish,
And then start over,
building and planting.”
yes. my mind is completely and totally blown.