Description: When you experience a flair of stress or anxiety what is your first thought? I suspect it is some version of “What is going on in my world that is stressful or challenging”. Especially these days with a raging pandemic, that is not a bad first thought as it can lead to problem focused coping which improves the way you feel as you run through figuring out what you can do about the stuff in the world that is stressful or anxiety provoking (challenging) and reduce it or make it go away. Unfortunately, much of what we are experiencing in relation to life in this time of Covid-19 is not individually solvable. So, what to do? Give up? Breakdown? There have been many advice posts talking about focusing on the things you can control and trying to worry or ruminate less about the things you cannot control all of which start with the same first step… think about it. But that puts us back into the loop of unfixable stress and anxiety provoking circumstances. How about this. Perhaps the way to begin to make things better for ourselves is to stop thinking about it? That may sound trite or strange but before you discard it and move on read the article linked below which suggests that understanding what our brains evolved to do for us can help us see a whole new route for dealing with the consequences of at least some of our stress and anxiety.
Source: Your Brain is Not For Thinking, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Opinion, The New York Times.
Date: November 23, 2020
So, perhaps this alternative perspective on what your brain does, which involves stepping back just a little bit from the common “It is for thinking” perspective, will not help us fix all out stresses and anxieties but it does provide some useful suggestions. For example, it supports the suggestions in one of my other posts this week that many of the things that are messing up our sleep and reducing our general wellness and ability to adapt and cope are things that are only indirectly associated with Covid-19 and are things that we CAN address. Maybe think of it as a sort of self-psychoanalysis that does not, as Freud did, dig in looking for buries thoughts in our unconscious but, instead may lead to us seeing some simple ways in which we can make a deposit or two in our body budget and allow our brain to ease off on our discomfort a bit. Its worth a try, as we wait for vaccines to actually arrive.
Questions for Discussion:
- How does the article author suggest we think about what our brain has evolved to do?
- How might “thinking” and allostasis be related, in people today?
- What things can you think of that may be issues or events or experiences that you can try and notice in your own experience that fit with what the article is talking about and what can you do about them when they occur?
References (Read Further):
Barrett, Lisa Feldman (2020) Seven and Half Lessons About the Brain, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY. Link to Preview
McEwen, B. S., & Wingfield, J. C. (2003). The concept of allostasis in biology and biomedicine. Hormones and behavior, 43(1), 2-15. Link
McEwen, B. S., & Wingfield, J. C. (2010). What’s in a name? Integrating homeostasis, allostasis and stress. Hormones and behavior, 57(2), 105. Link
Romero, L. M., Dickens, M. J., & Cyr, N. E. (2009). The reactive scope model—a new model integrating homeostasis, allostasis, and stress. Hormones and behavior, 55(3), 375-389. Link
Ramsay, D. S., & Woods, S. C. (2014). Clarifying the roles of homeostasis and allostasis in physiological regulation. Psychological review, 121(2), 225. Link
Logan, J. G., & Barksdale, D. J. (2008). Allostasis and allostatic load: expanding the discourse on stress and cardiovascular disease. Journal of clinical nursing, 17(7b), 201-208. Link