Monday, January 28, 2013

Stress and "Krispy Kreme"

"Choose Happiness" Collage by Lani and textures from FlyPaper
Continuing this elephant training adventure with The Willpower Instinct and The Neuroscience of Change it's becoming clearer and clearer that the more we learn about how our "hard wiring" works, the more easily we can teach the elephant (that part of the brain that takes us to "Krispy Kreme") new ways of doing things.   McGonigal says research shows that when stressed the thinking, deciding, reasoning part of the brain (the trainer) completely shuts down, which is why you may find yourself in a fast food line some where, not knowing how you got there, rather than dealing with stress in a more productive manner.  She suggests that by gradually becoming more aware of these stress related states you can gradually strengthen that part of the self that can remain aware even under stress.   She has four stages of growing awareness:

1.  "Mindful Mindlessness" - This is where we see ourselves in that Krispy Kreme line as it is happening but we really don't feel able to stop ourselves or leave the line.  In this stage we can bring a mindful curiosity to to the situation rather than criticism.

2.  We start to notice what our impulses feels like.  We can identify the feelings of craving, the instinct to grab a doughnut, the emotion involved.  Here's where we can begin to find the space or gap between the impulse and the action which gives us freedom.  This is where we can remember what we really care about most.  In this freedom gap, we can find wisdom emerging.

3.  The third stage is where we become aware of what triggers the impulse to get in that Krispy Kreme line.  We start to realize that we are most likely to be triggered in particular situations or environments, and at certain levels of tiredness or anxiety.   We can find the things that trigger us, the things that flip the switch that triggers the [doughnut] habit.   Once we find those things, we can start to construct our life in ways that support us.   (Oh happy day!)

4.  The fourth stage of awareness is the one where we become aware that it is our [doughnut] habits that creates our suffering. 

Try this:
For a week, test McGonigal's theories about stress (physical or psychological) being the enemy of self-control.  How does being worried or overworked affect your choices?  What is your will-power like when you are hungry or tired?  What about when you are in physical pain, illness, or emotional pain like anger, loneliness or sadness?  Notice when stress strikes throughout the day or week.  And watch what happens to your self-control!  When you catch your elephant taking you to "Tasty Creme" maybe try asking yourself about your stress, look for your triggers.  Are there some little things could you change to avoid these triggers?


Bill said...

I gave up Krispy Kremes a while ago even though I love them. Obviously, something else keeps triggering my anxiety. I need to start concentrating on these four steps!

susannais said...

Lucky for me I could never manage to swallow a Krispy Kreme . . . now potato chips.... A whole different story. But now I'm finding myself reaching for a 2.5 x 3.5 piece of cardstock, some old magazines, a small pair of pointy scissors and a gluestick...This too is a refuge, but while I "work" I process the stress and it's beginning to say some very pointed things to me about what next steps I need to do to dissolve the underlying cause(s) of that stress...the triggers. And my lil heffalump seems to be learning how to dance along with me instead of tromping on my toes. Those 4 steps are working...keep reminding us, Lani! Gratitudes...

Lani Gerity said...

Thank YOU, Bill and susanna!