you could possibly hope to accomplish . There never will be . And this perception of not having enough — whether it be time , money , food , energy or love — sends a message to the brain that there is a threat lingering somewhere in the near future . This immediately triggers our innate stress response , designed to motivate us to get more of what we might need . If we never sense that we have enough , we will always be in a state of chronic stress whether we recognize it or not . If our environment is intentionally designed to trigger desires for more in order to make us consume as much as possible , how will we ever break the cycle ? The New Science Of Stress
When it comes to human beings , it turns out that stress is not a noun or a verb , but rather a dynamic relationship between our perceptions of capacity versus demand . When we have what we need to effectively adapt , challenges can ultimately make us stronger . There are countless stories and studies of people who experience growth post trauma rather than disorder . When resources are inadequate , tension or strain results and what initially holds us together eventually breaks us apart .
As Robert Sapolsky describes in his seminal book , Why Zebras Don ’ t Get Ulcers , most animals experience stress when they realize something truly threatening is in their environment . Because of our advanced neurological networks , only humans ( and perhaps a few of our closest relatives [ still to be determined ]) are able to plan or predict that something dangerous might occur in the near future . In a very protective design feature , our brains create neural networks ( or maps ) that recognize patterns over time . They make assumptions based on those patterns as to what might happen . One tricky element is that sometimes the patterns that we believe exist are merely worrisome thoughts , messages passed down over generations or plots picked up in movies along the way .
This leads us to the good , the bad and the ugly of our relationship with stress . The good news is our experience is determined by our perception and therefore can be highly modified by our own mind . The bad news is that our experience is determined by our perception and therefore can be highly modified by our own mind . So depending on our state of mind at the time , our response can either help us or hurt us . The ugly part of our relationship with stress is that sometimes , dare I say most of the time , our minds are not our own .
Without targeted focus on our own internal dialogue , our minds are easily swayed towards the goals of others . It is the brain ’ s beautiful sensitivity that enables us to experience empathy , compassion and intuition . It is also the same sensitivity that guides us towards creative expression and innovation . However , if not appropriately focused on our own intentions , the noise of the world around us quickly hijacks our attention . The human brain is already wired with sensitivity towards potential threats , causing us to pay about 80 percent more attention to the bad rather than the good . We have about five times more fear-based circuitry in the brain than reward-based and fMRI ( functional magnetic resonance imaging ) data clearly shows we respond much more quickly to danger than delight . Become A Brain Boss
So how do you become the boss of your own brain and transform your relationship with stress ? The answer is simple , but it ’ s not easy . You put taking care of yourself and managing your personal energy on the very top of your ‘ to-do ’ list . You schedule time first thing in the morning to place your attention firmly on the intentions you have for the day ahead . Before you think about what you need to do , you consider who you want to be . Ground yourself in the energy quality required to make the day as impactful as possible . You already know how to do that . Now you just need to retrain your brain to follow your heart , instead of the other way around .
To learn more about building resilience , visit HeidiHanna . com for more resources and learning opportunities .
ABOUT HEIDI HANNA
DR . HEIDI HANNA is a New York Times best-selling author ; CEO and founder of Synergy , a consulting company providing brain-based health and performance programs to organizations ; and the executive director for the American Institute of Stress . She also created the Beyond Funny project , which provides educational resources related to humor and mental health .