It's back to school and back to work and that usually means lots of prep, lots to organize and lots of attention to stress and anxiety. Why is it that we rev up our worrying as we shift into the fall season? One answer lies in the nature of our brains.
As humans, we are wired to worry and to deal with what is called the 'negativity bias.' Back in cave-dwelling times, when we battled dangerous environments without sophisticated weaponry, when we needed to protect our vulnerable human bodies against animals that could attach us, we had only our brains for protection. We didn't have sharp teeth or claws, just our ability to track danger and remember where it came from. We developed a vigilant mind, forever looking at where danger might appear, and needing to remember bad things that have occurred in the past so we could work to prevent them in the future. While we have evolved from a cave environment, our brains are still structured to look out for potential danger, scan the world for it, and then stay attuned to possible potential threat.
When we transition into the fall season and manage its many challenges, our brains get activated for dealing with potential threat. Our fears are no longer about four legged animals, but about two legged ones, and no longer about fierce predators, but paper tigers. As we move into post vacation work demands, gear up to manage family members who are shifting into new settings, and prepare schedules for the winter months ahead, we generally move from summer's permission to relax our vigilance into fall's need for extreme clarity, organization and directed attention. The result is often increased and generalized stress and worry.
How can we diminish the tension caused by the 'negativity bias'?
Here are three ideas I have found to work:
1) Remember: Worry is about the future. It helps to stop and say to one's self, "The thing I am afraid of is not happening now and if I stay in the present, I will feel less stressed."
3) Challenging your fears. Are they real, or made up? Often we generate tensions that have no basis in reality. Fear can be seen as False Expectations Appearing Real. Ask yourself: "Is what I am worrying about anything I can do anything about, or am I just doing the worry thing?"
3) Accept the fact that worry is here to stay because it is simply what our mind is designed to do. Once we accept this given of human biology and evolution, we can diminish the negative impact of our mental stress and live with greater self compassion and inner peace.
Learn more about how to manage stress and worry by coming to our fall programs: Develop a Resilient Inner Coach™ More Powerful than Your Inner Critic , October 19-21 Kripalu Center, Stockbridge, MA, & Strengthen the Voice of Your Inner Coach™ Philadelphia, PA October 13 evening presentation and see BethWeisntock@TheResilienceGroup.org & www.TheResilienceGroup.org, & Beth Weinstock @linked in