Feeling Stressed? Step 4: Talk It Out

During Mental Health Awareness Month Kevin Chapman from the Physical Intelligence Institute, who was guest on episode 108 of the Access to Inspiration podcast shares five steps to reduce stress.

Verbalising stressors takes the charge out of them. Getting advice helps us process and learn from what is happening. Having ‘courageous conversations’ when the time is right enables us to take action. Stress builds through a lack of control, rumination and difficulty deciding what action to take – leaving us feeling isolated. In contrast, if we simply reach out to friends, mentors and advisers, call on our trusted network of supporters, we boost oxytocin (social bonding and trust), a chemical released through non-aggressive, honest, human contact that is specifically designed to reduce cortisol levels. In other words, we are better able to ‘let go’ if we talk things through.

Our resilience relies on us being socially connected with other people, on giving and receiving support. Feelings of isolation or loneliness take a particular toll on resilience. People with strong networks and societies and organisations that seek to share information widely fare much better in times of challenge than those who don’t.

cheerful senior mother and daughter using smart phone

Social Contact

We cannot live without each other. Social contact is a vital human need, like food and water. Young babies cannot survive without physical and verbal contact, children cannot learn, adults cannot thrive. The experience of losing someone close to us is experienced as physical pain and the joy of working alongside people we trust and who lend us support gives us physical pleasure.

Finding these vital social connections is crucial for our resilience so that when we experience adversity we can rely on their support. Compelling research links positive social relationships with health and longevity. Neuroscience research has shown us that it is not our ability for abstract reasoning that has put humans at the top of the food chain, rather our ability to live and work together

Power of Oxytocin

Oxytocin orchestrates our social behaviour, which enables us to find our support and makes us want to give it to others. The foundations for creating positive social connections in later life are laid down early through body and eye contact with our parents. At that point in our lives, if we are lucky, oxytocin levels are as high as they will ever be. In the absence of oxytocin, however, and where there is stress, conflict or a parent or guardian leaves, cortisol levels rise and our young selves unconsciously feel the threat of isolation, instinctively knowing that we need our ‘group’ or ‘family’ for survival. Oxytocin is like social ‘dark matter’: when it is present, it is an invisible force binding us to each other and we feel supported and connected. When it is absent, it is the cause of great disconnection and loneliness. It draws people together in the face of challenges and disasters, temporarily obliterating social and cultural divides, driving our ability to empathise and ensuring the survival of all humanity. The absence of it drives people to war, taking them so far apart that they can no longer feel for each other.

In times of stress or during extended periods of working long hours, we are less likely to reach out, and more likely to become isolated. Yet, that is when we need each other the most. It is important to have people in our social group who care about us and watch out for us to help us get through those difficult times. Such social relationships are built on giving and receiving support, being reliable and maintaining connection. Each person’s support group is unique. We have to take responsibility for figuring out the support we need and building own personal support.

Let go of disappointment or setbacks

There is often a build-up of physical and mental tension when individuals and teams are evolving and changing. Change is inevitable, and it can create an underlying threat response due to uncertainty. Each individual will feel the tension in different ways. Even when all efforts are being made to move forward, negative thoughts and feelings about the past can hold us back. The Letting Go technique enables us to let go and move forward positively whether we are working to let go of minor irritations, significant periods of unhappiness in work or personal relationships or letting go of old ways and exploring new ways of doing things.

 

Letting go technique

Letting Go Technique from the Physical Intelligence Institute

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