The "Check Engine" Light of Emotional Wellness

Consider the following: with some practice, you can influence the way your brain interprets feelings of disturbance, distress, or discomfort in your body. Instead of feeling resistant or avoidant about these feelings, imagine simply noticing them. Consider them a kind of alert, just an indicator something needs to be addressed – a mere physiological “head’s-up,” if you will.

Try to recall a time when you experienced an emotion very, very intensely. As you remember what happened, shift your attention to your body state at the time. Do you remember sweating, the feeling of “butterflies” in your stomach, your heart racing, your breath shallower and faster? Maybe you were trembling? Your body was just trying to say “Hey, you! Something’s not right here!” In cases of overwhelming emotions, it has overestimated the threat. The good news: we don’t have to feel powerless to strong emotions, or the uncomfortable body states associated with them. Why not simply consider them the “check engine” light of emotional wellness? 

The ability to cope with intense emotions depends on revising our brain’s interpretation of them. Making sure our brain knows we’ve experienced a fight/flight/freeze “false alarm” is a way to achieve just that.  Our commitment to properly interpreting powerful emotions, and their associated body states, teaches our brain to stop buying into a fight-flight-freeze “false alarm.” By respecting the power of  the body-mind connection, we can learn to influence the autonomic nervous system to de-escalate its response to similar circumstances in the future. Let’s take a closer look at healthier ways to cope with mental “red flags.”

Brandee Smith