As I wrote in S.T.S. Part I, The Real Cause of Stress, your brain can only process so much information at a time. I suggested, for the sake of discussion, that the limit was 1,000 message units per second. These message units come from everything we come in contact with. From everything we see, hear, smell, taste and feel (physically and emotionally), everything we think about.
Subconscious Takeover Syndrome or S.T.S. is simply when too many message units, more than we can handle, go into our conscious mind which then triggers the sub-conscious mind to take over and prepare us for fight or flight. This process might have worked for cavemen facing sabertooth tigers and the like, but not today when modern man faces modern-day problems.
So when fight turns into anxiety or flight turns into depression, we need to do something quickly to stop this. On top of everything else, your mind and body are affected by a flood of excess chemicals, like adrenaline and cortisol, that have been released because of the overload. (see S.T.S. Part I)
Too Many Message Units:
Following are examples of situations that can cause overloads. Remember, your brain , for the sake of this article, can only handle 1,000 messages units per second without overloading.
• you walk outside and it’s cloudy and dismal looking. You expected a nice sunny day.
Add 250 message units – total 1,250
• you receive a letter from your kid’s school saying how bad he/she is doing.
Add 500 message units – total 1,750
• you’re late to work because of being stuck in traffic an extra hour.
Add 500 message units – total 2,250.
• you’re not going to get the pay raise you desperately have been counting on.
Add 1,500 message units – total 3,750
Now you’re trying to get through the day not with 1,000 but with 3,750 messages units per second. Your conscious mind is now in overload and your subconscious mind begins to prepare you for fight or flight, which as you learned in S.T.S. Part I, turns into anxiety or depression.
Have a Plan:
I think you would agree that it is better to have a good plan in case of an avalanche than to wait until you have to dig yourself out after being buried alive.
So what can you do?
The Beginning of an Overload:
Before controlling your stress by using my methods, you should definitely know what symptoms are created at the very beginning of your overloads. This is important because it can help you stop your overloads before they become too big a problem for you to handle.
Think of a snowball at the top of a hill. Once the snowball starts rolling down the hill, it begins to gather more snow which makes it bigger. If you’re paying attention, you can run down and catch it before it gets out of control. The same thing happens with an overload of the mind. So please pay attention to what you’re feeling and thinking in the beginning of an overload.
What do you feel or experience?
You start getting a little edgy, finding that your attention is a little bit foggy, you’re becoming a little irritable? Tightness, anxiety, nervousness, oversensitivity, anger, sadness, fatigue?
The “Cubbyholes” Method:
To help prevent an overload we must put some things on hold until we’re able to deal with them or because they are out of our control. This is not procrastinating this is common sense.
Imagine a large wall with dozens of small openings, little nooks. When there are things you can’t, for whatever reason, deal with at the moment, or are out of your control, in your mind, turn the situation into an object then put it in one of those little nooks – a cubbyhole. In can be any type of object: a ball, a piece of paper, whatever you’re comfortable with. Here are some examples:
• Bad Weather – can’t control it. Put it in a glass globe then into a Cubbyhole.
• Bad School Letter – deal with it at lunch or at home. The letter goes in a Cubbyhole.
• Bad Traffic – can’t control it. Imagine the traffic as a toy car and put it in a Cubbyhole.
• No Raise – figure out some options later. Turn the problem into a wallet and put it in a Cubbyhole.
Using your mind to turn situations into objects and storing them is using your creativity to help your mind move away from negative thinking that could potentially create an overload.
At an appropriate time, go back to your Cubbyhole and retrieve the object that represents the problem. Your no longer overloaded conscious mind, using your logic and reasoning, will aid you in figuring out a solution.
Breath Control Method:
If you’re in an overload or feel one coming on, you most likely feel some level of stress, anxiety or a feeling of emotional numbness which can lead to a lack of motivation to do anything. But no matter how helpless you may feel, there is something you definitely do control, and that is your breathing. The following exercise of controlling your oxygen intake will actually help increase feelings of calm and physical relaxation.
You can use this method with your eyes open or closed. If you’re in a place where you can get into a comfortable position, do it.
Step #1: slowly inhale through your nose only to a count of five.
Step #2: hold that breath to a count of five.
Step #3: slowly exhale through your mouth to a count of five.
1) Always try to finish each inhale or exhale on the last number.
2) After you’re comfortable with the count of 5-5-5, increase the count to a higher but comfortable count. Don’t make the count too high and stress yourself.
3) Stress relief, like anything worth achieving, takes effort and practice.
4) Practice even when you’re not overloaded so when you really need help coping with stress, you will be well prepared.
I know it sounds too simple. But I have taught my methods for 35 years to people all over the world and it works. From regular folk to heads of state.