Battling both pandemic AND political stress, merely by listening?
Yes, it’s true. We can lessen degree of stress and heal results of excessive stress simply by choosing to listen. Here’s how it works.
Consider the antics of the gut brain. You know, that inner lizard of ours that always has an eye out for threat, sounds the alarm when he finds it, then pumps us full of fight-or-flight chemistry to fuel us through the crisis. This works great when we need to fight or flee. But these inner lizard traits can work against us when neither option is an effective strategy, as is the case during today’s pandemic and political stress:
- The negativity bias–that predisposition to be on the lookout for whatever is dangerous/”bad”/”wrong” or otherwise out of place. This trait leads us to miss out on soothing positives, and stress out or pick fights over disagreeable negatives.
- Reacting at lightening speed, even without thinking–those urges to react impulsively, or latch onto the first life-raft to go by, rather than think things through to the best conclusion or solution. Consequences of impulsiveness can create even more stress.
- Social ignorance–when social niceties seem irrelevant or are shoved aside when threat to life or limb is believed to be at stake. Unfortunately, this brand of unsocialized behavior alienates others during pandemic or political stress. It also annihilates an important source of solace and community, which is stressful in itself.
Choosing to listen instead of react to stressful situations can derail all of these gut brain disadvantages, by forcing us to:
- Hear or perceive the entire message, both the agreeable and disagreeable, rather than dive into knee-jerk catastrophizing over difficulties, or counter-arguing points of disagreement.
- Slow down. Choosing to listen brings the thinking brain to the forefront, and we automatically slow down, creating opportunity to override gut brain urges.
- Be more open to compassion. If we hear the whole story, and consider effects on or feelings of all involved, compassion may well be triggered. Compassion chemistry overrides gut chemistry: compassion and fight-or-flight cannot take place simultaneously. Once enlisted, compassion contributes to developing or strengthening healing connections as well.
We are resilient. There are solutions out there for coping with today’s double dose of stress. We need only be willing to try something different.