How Stress Makes You Close-Minded

Brain health truth bomb: When I am living under chronic stress, in “fight or flight,” I am physiologically incapable of accepting other perspectives and showing empathy. My brain can’t make sense of new information, especially information that is contrary to what I believe is necessary for my survival.

This is becoming more and more apparent to me, this year especially. I typically love welcoming other perspectives and opinions, which is the reason I will interview anyone and everyone on my podcast, no matter what side they are on for any issue.

So when I’m feeling triggered by something someone says, it’s a sign to me that I am not carefully self-regulating or taking care of myself the way I need to.  I have to do a self check-in.

I don’t judge or accuse, I give myself grace. I take a deep breath, maybe I go for a walk, or I listen to calming music, or I read one of my favorite Psalms, or I put on a meditation app and watch my thoughts fly by as I allow my body to sink into relaxation.  Sometimes I play one of my favorite restorative yoga videos, and sometimes I just need to take a break from the noise.

The funny thing about managing stress and my own internal response to stress – it actually decreases inflammation and helps my immune response. It keeps me physically healthy, along with mentally and spiritually healthy.

I wish I was better at this. I’m not. I get so judgey. I’m so mean in my head. Toward myself and toward others. BUT I am trying. And I hope that we can all learn to give ourselves and each other more grace.

I think most people, at the root of their finger-pointing and hurtful comments, are so worn down by the year’s stress and uncertainty. This week, I watched good people make hateful comments from each opposing side. Here in Texas, it became alllll about the mask debate again. Of course, both sides misunderstood each other, as usual. Which is when it hit me: If we are in fear of catching or transmitting a virus, that in itself is stressful to our brains. It is really hard to be open to new information or even new scientific studies when we are stuck in fear and stress.

This is why no matter how you try to argue in the comments of a post, how many peer reviewed studies you share, it will not get through. Instead, we are quick to call the opposing side stupid, anti-scientific, socialist, or the worst – uncaring for other people. The generalizations and accusations are mind-blowing to me. Friend vs. friend. Family member vs. family member.

I can’t control what other people think, or how other people choose to support their immune systems. If I had it my way, we’d all be managing our stress first, then eating lots of healing foods and taking supplements so that we wouldn’t even have to discuss whether masks are effective or not. If we all had healthy immune systems to begin with, it wouldn’t matter – right?

But see – I’m already biased. I’m stressed by just typing this out. So the only thing I can do, when these topics and heated discussions arise, is manage my own stress levels. Look at what I can control. Take care of my health and that of my family.

I will continue to provoke thought-provoking conversation related to health and wellness and explore topics that may even be controversial. But I will not engage when in a state of stress. That is no good for me, or anyone else around me!

Quick tip – before responding to anything that triggers you, (or even this post) take a deep breath in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, and breathe out your mouth for eight seconds.

Don’t you feel better now?

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