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Some people find it difficult to work with lower levels, which may seem odd since this is where all the good stuff is.  Some people feel that they have not been at a level 1 or zero in years!

If you have chronic stress it is possible that you don’t feel much or pay attention when the small stresses get resolved. Some people have very little vocabulary for the experience of low – no stress.

Being adapted to stress is a problem – feeling the lower level is the key to feeling the transition from level 3 -4 , and 4 – 5.

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Why take time to describe a wonderful experience?  When you have more of these experiences natural levels of Oxitocin increase and they stick in your memory for future reference.This is the baseline that you want to return to from the mid levels. When you have more of these experiences natural levels of Oxitocin increase and they stick in your memory for future reference.

Check in – At levels 1- 2 we don’t think so much about how we are dealing with little stresses.  We roll with them in flexible ways – it’s easy. When we are worried most of the time we become desensitized to the small experiences and oddly take them for granted when they occur.

SO with lower levels… STOP/WAIT, these are the foundation of being OK, Good enough, satisfied, alright …

Please use the check in to increase awareness and usefulness of these lower levels.

EXAMPLE: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

At age 34 years old Maria has a diagnosis of irritable bowel and migraine headaches. Sunday nights before beginning a hectic work week she has a poor appetite for dinner. Before using the program she passed off her loss of appetite as a result of eating and drinking with friends all weekend.  Now she realizes the loss of appetite is a level 3 stress cue: this is a low level biological stress indicator. It is the precursor to problems.

Sunday Bedtime check in: She figured out that she is already worried about Monday at her job, along with some fear that being sick makes her a ‘weak person’.  “I am a strong successful person – I can’t be chasing my symptoms while trying to work every day.  I need to pay attention at level 3 to get ahead of the build up.

Maria’s adaptation to stress had her ignoring all the little signs and looking for the big ones. Addressing the source of anxiety of her digestive problem was clear until she completed part 2.  She comes from a family who don’t talk about problems – “we just work harder”.  Of course I’m reacting this way – it makes sense with my biography!

Wow, what a recipe for endless stress instead of Stop/Wait and taking charge of the smaller signs.

Before the next check in answer some questions:

Am I avoiding or denying the little stress behaviors or biomarkers in my everyday experiences?

Am I using anything (alcohol, cigarettes, pot, over the counter medication, food) to cover up what I am feeling?

Am I waiting for the big reactions to occur?

Stay checked in on these.

 

 

What does the neuroscience of stress have to do with me?

I’m just being me… and my brain is along for the ride!!!

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Your brain is doing its job all the time to be on alert for signals – like an air traffic controller at a busy airport…small signals which indicate incoming experiences that might be stressful.   These might be frustration, extra responsibility or even experiences that make you feel happy or delighted.

So this alert system is a very important part of the processing of experiencing ” being me”.

The basic recipe that the brain uses is in context of where you are physically:

What is going on here in the environment? First biology registers: hot, crowded,  standing up, feeling full, sleep????

What does it mean? A Social/ Emotional response starts here: We are all in this place together as friends, workers, strangers, survivors????

What does it mean about me?  A personal physical and biographically based response starts here: I’m the one who loves a party and has fun and drinks too much, I am the one who doesn’t want to be noticed, I’m the one who everyone depends on…

What do I do with it? All the potential instincts, behaviors  and decisions about action (behavioral response) gets created: I’m the one who tells jokes, needs to leave, wants to talk to them more….

Or

A very visceral biological /behavioral response: Anger, sadness, exhaustion, get sick, jump in…

Better to check in with your brain to get in on the recipe:

CHECK IN = STOP WAIT

Use the app every 4 -5 hours- answer the questions and find some relief.

 

 

 

 

The STOP/WAIT practice is a first step to prevention in real time.

An immediate experience is a powerful way to feel the surge of the hormone, Cortisol when stress builds up past level 5 and you are still capable of handling stress or at low levels of pleasure Oxytocin is a hormone is in greater supply when you feel relaxed and confident.

The STOP/WAIT tool is an active response as you feel stress happening to you. The goal is to feel the process of stress escalating and to interrupt it.  At levels 4-5, instead of asking, “Why is this happening, how bad can it get, why now?  You can be an active participant in ‘What Happens Next’ if you can quickly know the answers to the basic questions.

MAIN IDEA: Focusing on internal and physical cues at LEVELS 3-4-5 is the key to PREVENTING most of your high level stress.

WORKSHEET: The most important levels to work with are not in the upper range. You know these too well. Instead, take a lot of time on the levels 4  – 5 get to know details of how stress feels when it is building up.  Instead of looking outside of yourself, focus on internal experience so that you have maximum awareness.  You will know more about WHAT is affecting you in Day 3 – 4 – 5. It is right there in your Biography!

EXAMPLE: Ivan is a fifty two year old construction manager who lost his parents at age 18. He went for a check- up and discovered that he was at risk for heart attack.  He is quickly learning the stress scale and using his emotional cues to track changes in his physical wellness..   Ivan was having difficulties with his younger brother in ways that made him sad and hurt but also incapable of having any resolution to the problems.

His levels 7-10 were filed with a horrible sense of sadness that the relationship was completely lost. At these higher levels he feels he has to, “just get away”.  He has a bad habit of going on long drives in the car after he has tried to feel better by drinking.  He has been in several accidents and luckily no serious harm has occurred yet.

He does not want to talk about the feelings with anyone else. He has just learned that at the higher levels all those hormones are increasing rapidly and he needs to, STOP/WAIT and stay out of the car.  Ivan now feels that he can take charge of the build up and that at level 6 when he feels sad and wants more than one or two drinks he has more self- direction.

At level 6 Ivan can stop the escalation of overwhelming anxiety from becoming fear and concentrate on the feeling of being just sad.  He has discovered by working with his stress scale that being frustrated at level 4 leads to trying to fix the impossible at level 5. Ivan is very good at “fixing things” in his job where he feels satisfied. The frustration when he can’t fix a problem will now be a warning signal.

STOP/WAIT I am beginning to be frustrated and sad.  Of course I want to “fix everything” – but I can’t.   Ivan has begun to interrupt stress as it build and he is staying out of the car. His “take charge and fix it” adaptation to stress is great at lower levels when he can use it to do his work and to help others.  At the upper levels he is pushed by the fear of more loss in his life.

You are not just tracking stress but learning to stop and interrupt the stress reaction in order to learn to change the process to one of resolution. Instead of continued escalation or the 4- 6 stress loop you are changing he stress cue into working self direction.   This first tool sounds simple, Stop/Wait… but it an be like trying to stop a runaway train.

CHECK IN EXPERIMENT: Try to catch stress as you feel frustrated at level 4 – look at your emotions and behavior on your stress scale. These are BIO MARKERS and are your EARLY WARNING SYSTEM to STOP and interrupt the pattern of escalating stress. You can change the hormone release in your brain as you use the STOP/WAIT tool.  This will become easier and automatic as you practice over the next few days.

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If you cannot get out of levels 5 – 6 – 7  PLEASE see you medical doctor. Then you can continue the program but it is just smart to get a good team in place.

 

 

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