Insomnia, anxiety, addiction, racing thoughts, extreme sensitivity and reactivity: these are all the signs of stress. The stress many of us experience now comes from feeling little to no control over the demands of our culture wanting more, faster, and better. When we don’t believe we are measuring up, our thoughts race with intrusive and cycling themes of lack, guilt, shame, judgment, criticism, loathing, and dread. We hope there is a magical solution that will relieve us from the insanity for good. We look for overnight miracles that need little from us because of how run down, shut down, and burnt out we feel.
Is it genetics or our childhoods? Can there be any other viable solution than a life of substance use, escaping into technology, and using whatever other distraction we can to outrun uncomfortable feelings and sensations?
The truth is, from the fields of neuroscience, neurobiology, and beyond, we know that regardless of genetics, early childhood experiences, or trauma, we know exactly how to heal the effects of stress. It isn’t rocket science. In fact, it is very, very simple. However, our racing minds full of urgency and angst are looking for complicated solutions, analyzing, deducing, and using cognition and intellect so much that we don’t recognize the solution even when it’s being offered to us on a silver platter. It turns out, according to the now famed neuroscientist, Richie Davidson, that well-being is a skill.
And like any other skill we need to learn it. We need to cultivate well-being by repeatedly practicing the set of tools that bring our brain and body to the experience of it — with awareness — over and over again. And that’s it.
We don’t need to focus on problems that need to be fixed.
That’s what’s keeping us spinning in more of the problem. Rather, we need to learn the simple physiological tools that bring about the physical sensations of well-being (stability, calm, warmth, flow) and then sit in those sensations with awareness for as long as we can. Five seconds today, ten seconds tomorrow, sixty seconds by the end of week, and before we know it, if we are practicing often, we EXPERIENCE what it’s like to feel well for longer than a beer buzz.
Right now we are trying to apply a psychological solution to a physiological problem, and it’s never going to work. We can’t talk our way into long-lasting transformation of the physiological effects of stress and trauma. Our over-activated nervous systems are what cause our anxiety and racing thoughts, not the other way around as we once believed. The physiological condition comes first and needs to be healed first. When that happens, the calm we need gets practiced into our neurobiology and we naturally become more patient, tolerant, and compassionate.
Once you have these conditions of well-being, watch how much better you sleep.