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How do negative memories and emotions impact our minds and bodies? Massively, unprocessed memories can reoccur in our psyche over and over. Negative memories can trigger our minds and bodies to associate new experiences with old ones causing us to relive negative experiences repeatedly. 

For severely negative memories, this can cause us to move into a fight, flight, freeze or flop state that paralyse us and cause our brains and bodies to redirect it’s functioning to deal with an experience that it feels is more life-threatening than might be. What can happen is our brain’s filter can interpret situations based on unprocessed memories or emotions and cause a major roadblock in our evolution and ability to change.

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The release is about finding ways to let negative emotions detach from our memories and release them out of our minds and our bodies.

Negative emotions and memories create unnecessary stress. We can remain in a strong state for hours, days, months, even years.

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What is Stress?

First, a distinction must be made between positive stress (sometimes called eustress) and negative stress (sometimes called distress). Stress that leads to distress is the stress most of us refer to when we recognise we are stressed. 

According to the American Psychological Association, stress can cause muscle tension, breathing problems, heart problems (which can lead to heart attack or stroke), blood sugar spikes, heartburn, acid reflux, digestion problems, and problems to both the female and male reproductive systems. Those are some major impacts!

Other physical symptoms of stress include fatigue, sleep problems, and headaches (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

Like physical symptoms, stress can also cause a range of internal symptoms. Stress can lead to anxiety, depression, difficulty focusing, anger problems, drug, alcohol, or tobacco use (or abuse), and social withdrawal (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016). 

While stress can lead to depressive episodes, it can also lead to the development of the major depressive disorder (MDD) specifically (Cohen et al., 2007).

Stress not only has its symptoms both internally and externally, but it can also worsen the consequences of other negative life events.

Stress affects men and women differently in other ways as well. One study found that boys are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours when faced with a stressor, while girls are less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours after exposure to the same stressor (Daughters et al., 2013).

Some of the more recent studies that are now emerging illustrate that there are different degrees of stress.

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Where does stress come from?

Stress can be triggered by major life events, such as moving to a different country, starting a new job, losing a family member. 

Stress can also come from more routine or repetitive stressors, like “family issues, personal health issues, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, concern for the health of others, issues in the workplace”, and financial issues.

Stress can also come from everyday elements; the modern world coming from technology, as “communication load resulting from sending, receiving, and checking private emails and social media messages, as well as Internet multitasking, are significantly related to increased perceived stress” (Reinecke et al., 2017).

Our brains are wired to scan for and be aware of risks, hazards and dangers that could impact our lives, that could stop us ultimately living. This served us well when we lived as cavemen, as most things in our path were of life treating danger. The challenge we face today is our brains still actively search and scan our lives for this danger, and what was a genuine life risk is not so. But our brains don’t know the difference unless we teach them.

As a result, for most of us, more minor things that cause us stress (that potentially don’t need to do often), our brain and our bodies trigger the same stress response, which causes internal and external reactions in our minds and bodies.

To truly live out our potential, one of the fundamental things we must do is to minimise and reduce our negative states of pressure; stress. So that we can best use our energy, optimise our overall health and wellbeing. 

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Cortisol is generally referred to as “the stress hormone” because it’s secreted into the bloodstream in larger quantities during stressful situations or any environment that triggers the flight-or-fight response – high stress.

Optimal levels of cortisol may be linked to eustress. In certain circumstances, the right amount of cortisol fuels your passion and gives you the oomph needed to seize the day. However, too much cortisol can lead to impaired cognitive performance or lack of brain activity and overall performance.

New research shows that some children growing up with adversity have low levels of cortisol, which is also linked to compromised cognitive functioning and impair their cognitive development. That’s massive. Read more about that one here

Ultimately we want to manage our stress levels to have optimal brain performance and the ability to think about the way we think. When you’re in a high state of stress and fight, flight, freeze flow activates, your ability to think logically is often switched entirely off.

When highly stressed, our ability to think logically is severely limited. So we are in a space where we are really challenged to choose our future.

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Here is a fascinating video interview on the impacts of stress:

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Stress vs flow 

Stress relates directly to our state of flow, eustress is often the state we find ourselves in when we are in ‘flow’ distress is when the scales are tipped and our performance starts to drop.

Releasing stress

There are so many ways to reduce our stress; fundamentally, it would be great to prevent stress in the first place. There are a few foundations that we need to ensure we stay on top of to prevent stress;

  • Exercise and yoga are now found to be one of the most effective ways to exercise to reduce stress. 
  • Laughing – laughing releases feel-good hormones that help facilitate our bodies ability to relax, naturally reducing the bodies stress hormones.
  • Eating right – Our bodies convert fuel into its energy source; without food, we don’t function. It makes sense then that we would give our bodies premium food sources to have higher energy resources.
  • Staying hydrated – our bodies are made up of water; when we are lacking water intake, our brains and bodies will underperform. You wouldn’t let your car run out of fuel, so why do we let our bodies?
  • Reducing caffeine intake – too much caffeine has been found to dehydrate the body and trigger states of anxiety and stress
  • Sleep more – sleep is one of life’s essential resources; research has found sleepiness can have similar impacts on the brain and body as being drunk!
  • Breathe – one of the most powerful ways to let the brain know that you are ok, and reprogram your focus.

These methods are fundamental tools to personal performance; however, they won’t permanently remove the triggers that cause you to become stressed. This is where the release tools come into play. Some other ideas for stress release can be explored here: Read the article.

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Training your brain to release

How our brains filter and determine our stress comes from our map of the world, our maps are formed by memories. If our memories of experiences had an adverse reaction (negative emotion) we are more likely to scan a new experience and categorise it as a ‘scary’, ‘risky’ ‘threatening’ situation and turn our switch our response to identifying stress in order to protect us. 

The trouble is our brains don’t know the difference between what has happened in the past and what is happening now, so new experiences that aren’t stressful can be interpreted as stressful and trigger our stress response. Releasing cortisol, tensing our body and potentially shutting our digestive system down.

New research is now finding we don’t always need to understand our stresses to let go of them. There are so many ways you can do this, but some areas that seem to work better than others are now backed by science.

Awareness is the direst step; you ideally need to notice that you are triggered or stressed; ironically the more you see the better you get at it.

Psychology and counselling which premise is set on talk therapy, fundamentally come back to the art of being heard, sometimes having people listen to us is enough for us to process something and let it go. Often the best outcome is when someone does not give advice, but just enables us to connect with our thoughts and communicate them, the art of the listener is to implement empathy without judgement.

Expressive writing is one of the most used tools in psychology today for us to let our emotions process, as it has all of the positive impacts of being heard, but doesn’t rely on anyone outside of ourselves, we can escape to this world whenever we want. 

Some other tools that have been trending for some time and are now getting credit through scientific findings are meditation, mindfulness, visualisation and mantras. Some advanced practitioners will bring all of these together.

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Joe dispenser is one of the world’s thought leaders using epigenetics; neuroscience brings the power of these things to support optimising our brains. Watch his video here: 

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