Don't Feed The Monsters - Keeping Your Cool in Stressful Times

don't feed the monsters keeping your cool in stressful times self care blog

I think we need to talk about the monsters we're feeding.

And when I say monsters, what I'm really referring to are the thoughts in our head that we're feeding with fear. These thoughts are causing us to react in ways that are kinda scary. And honestly, I'm more frightened by our response to fear than I am of the COVID virus.

So, here we are; working on almost two months of practicing social distancing (much more if you're in other countries). We're either quarantined with family, or in isolation. Our finances are diminishing or already extinct. We fear for our health and safety. There's a toilet paper and sanitation shortage. The government is restricting our activities. Scientists are turning out new statistics daily.  And there's 100% uncertainty on how this is all gonna go down.

Damn.

If you're feeling like you're backed into a corner, I SEE YOU. I'm with you.

This is some scary sh**, and our perceived notion of security has all but vanished. 

I get it. 

We want to get the economy back in action and our kids back in school. We want to gather in eateries, parks, and churches. We want to roam freely in the grocery stores without wearing protective gear. But nonetheless, here we are.

Politicians, scientists, teachers, doctors, you, me, we're all just trying to do our best and make some sort of sense and order out of a situation we've never dealt with before. It's confusing and nerve-racking, especially when you're putting your trust into systems that are just 'winging it'. 

It's a crazy mix of uncertainty of the future and desire for the past. But that's exactly where fear lives.

Fear, as you know, is an emotion. And it's a pretty strong one at that. Fear engages something in our brain called the sympathetic response. You might know it as "fight or flight". Either way, it gets our blood pumping, and not in a healthy cardio sort of way. 

Fear is triggered by a perceived danger or threat. And while some folks might retreat passively into the safety of their shadows, others will react in agitation, defense, or upheaval. And those are the monsters I want to about. 

Fear is a REACTION. It's not something that happens with conscious thought. But with the power of our conscious mind, we can settle our fear response so that we don't escalate and engage in unsavory behaviors.

Let's talk about how that works.

First there's a trigger (hello, pandemic). Then your SUBconscious brain takes all of your past experiences and beliefs and builds a reaction suitable to your character. That's why everyone is reacting differently to our current situation, because our experiences and beliefs are uniquely our own. 

Now, we could just live in a continuous trigger-reaction loop. But that's going to burn us out and drive us mad. Instead, I'd like to introduce the conscious brain.

The conscious brain is the part that's able to think OBJECTIVELY. That means it can think in a way that isn't influenced by personal feelings or opinions. And it has a few jobs. 

1. Identifies

Through all of your sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin and gut), the brain collects information. 

2. Compares & Analyzes 

Now that the conscious brain has collected the information, it sends it to the SUBcosncious brain so it can compare it to all the other data it's collected over the years, and analyze it.

3. Decides

After the analysis, the conscious brain can then decide how to proceed with the information.

This decision making feature is the most important feature, in my opinion.

I'd also like to note that the brain kind of works like an algorithm system on the internet. The stuff you most frequently browse is going to be in the forefront and pop up often. 

Now, back to the monsters...

If you're frequently engaging in platforms that are distressing, you're feeding the monsters in charge of the 'fight or flight' response. You're strengthening the algorithm. You're banking more stress in the subconscious. And that is going to strengthen the monsters and make it harder for you to make an objective decision.

BUT,
You can change your algorithm.
You can bank better data in your subconscious.
And you can do this by using the power of your conscious mind. 

This is how...

Step 1: Witness your monster

Being aware of your monster is key. Recognizing when your monster takes action, and more importantly, why. 

What monsters look like:
Snapping at the kids
Yelling at the dog
Blowing up at service workers
Fighting with your significant other
Engaging in hateful or hurtful activity on social media
Breaking stuff
Violence
Threats
Anything that is physically, emotionally, or mentally harmful to another being.

Letting the monsters take over might make you feel powerful in the moment, but it really just prolongs your suffering. And it's BECAUSE of this suffering why the monsters come out in the first place. Feeding them just continues the cycle.

Step 2: Interfere with the monster

After you've recognized when the monster is at work, you and your conscious mind need to step in and intervene.

Unfortunately, you're never going to get rid of the monsters completely. You can, however, put them on a diet.

Toxic news and angsty social media BS, dude, they're soda and deep fried Twinkies. Totally an option for calorie consumption, but completely lacking in nutrition. You want to feed your monsters fruit, veggies, and lean protein. You know, something with substance that will nourish you.

You can start by stopping. When you've noticed your monster at work, literally stop your thought or action and just breathe for a moment. Redirect your conscious brain to your breath and ask yourself, how is this monster helping anyone?

And at the risk of sounding dorky, reading inspirational quotes, repeating positive mantras, and journaling with positive intention are solid ways to put your monsters on a diet. Interrupting the stream of negativity will help you keep your cool and make your monsters a little kinder and fuzzier. 

We're living in a time where we really need to pause and think objectively about our thoughts and actions. We need to think about the consequences our monsters have on our friends, family, and neighbors, not to mention our own mental & physical health. We need each other now more than ever, and we need our best selves now more than ever.

I know it's hard, the monsters are strong. But you, my friend, are stronger.

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For more tips on changing your algorithm and a journaling prompt visit [ HERE ]

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Crystal McLain is not a mental health therapist [read disclaimer].
If you or someone you know is in trouble, you should contact local law enforcement or get services from a crisis hotline. 



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  • Katrina Pound on

    Yaaaaaaasssss, Queen! So much of this is exactly what I’ve been talking about with friends and colleagues… I too am more concerned with the current fear based reactivity than the virus itself… much love and gratitude for you and your wisdom! Thank you for giving a voice to what so many of us are feeling💜


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