When we are exposed to some outside threat, we experience stress. Our fight or flight impulse takes over. Our new brain (neocortex, also known as conscious mind) shuts down and our old brain (limbic system and brain stem, also known as subconscious mind) takes over. Our focus narrows to the point where most sensory input is ignored, other than that sensory input related to the threat. We focus on nothing but the threat.
Stress, a negative emotion, narrows our focus. Narrowing our focus blinds us to most everything in our environment, other than the thing causing the stress. This narrowed focus limits our ability to see solutions to our stress-induced problems. When we are in a state of stress, part of our brain literally shuts down – the executive command and control center goes to sleep.
Individuals who are better able to manage stress, are able to maintain a positive mental outlook, in the presence of stress. These individuals have their entire brain working for them. They are more creative and the beneficiaries of something called insight. Insight is that spark of genius that solves seemingly intractable problems with one thought.
The most successful individuals have this ability to stay positive during stressful situations. They understand that positivity is the springboard of all creativity and insight. The key to staying positive during stressful situations is awareness. We need to be aware of the stress we are under so that we can calm ourselves, our thinking and avoid falling victim to stress-induced negativity, which shuts down part of our brain, exacerbating the stressful situation.
Solutions to our problems in life requires creativity and insight, which requires a positive mental outlook, which requires awareness that we are experiencing stress. Only when you are aware that you are experiencing stress, do you have any chance of mitigating the effects of stress. There are many tools to reduce stress: 5 minutes of meditation, deep breathing, humor or anything positive that distracts our minds, even momentarily, from the stressful situation. Once the effects of stress are reduced, then we can rally our entire brain to inspire us with creativity and insight and come up with solutions that will eliminate the problem creating the stress in the first place. Positivity expands our thinking, opens up our entire brain and is the key to problem solving.