The Story of You – It’s What You Think

Over the past few weeks, The Story of Stress clarified the science of how bodies physically respond to stressful events and how accommodating to that puts pressure on your Autonomic Nervous System and muscular system to generate and lock in chronic headaches. Stress is everywhere in every lifestyle and no one is exempt. It is estimated between 75% to 90% of all doctor visits are for stress related conditions. 

So what does that mean for you?
The the way you think and the way you feel also have a significant impact on your autonomic nervous system (ANS). All of us have a continuous internal dialogue that comments on every aspects of our lives…most often a noticeably NEGATIVE influence. This is part of being human and is probably related to to preserving our survival in times to avoid possible danger. It’s full of warnings and it is easy to discount the benefit of distancing yourself from your negative thoughts and emotions because it seems so general or even weak as an intervention. But, when applied in combination with techniques that create significant physiological changes these techniques are powerful and definitely an important part of the solution you are looking for.

So how did you get here?
First of all, know the situation you find yourself in is not your fault. Along with the science of how the ANS impacts your muscular system so headaches become chronic, understanding brain sensitivity and the impact of what you think, how you feel and how you act is the other part of the puzzle keeping your headaches in place. 

The good news following this idea in reverse…change what you think, you will feel differently and act differently. We’ve talked about the power you have to make changes in you physical body but we cannot emphasize enough the power you have to change your mental and emotional bodies to positively affect your headache pattern.

Today let’s start with what you think. 
Although stress is everywhere, remember it affects people differently. What is upsetting to Mary is just an inconvenience to Sue. 

What makes this difference?
As a child you have little control over family or environment. When problems occur it affects your physical and/or emotional well-being. Reactions can lead to faulty coping strategies like pleasing others, perfectionism, anxiety, hyper vigilance and negative self talk. Challenging events in childhood cause your brain to become more sensitive and protective, sometimes overreacting to to what’s happening around you. Once these pathways are established, the more easily your brain reacts.

As an adult, when everyday stress impacts an already sensitive nervous system, physical symptoms begin to arise like headaches and without an intervention these have become the chronic headaches you now suffer from. Thinking negatively about yourself also puts pressure on your nervous system in the here and now.

It might be hard to imagine changing negative thoughts could make any difference. Notice that those thoughts are mostly negative…I can’t do this, who do I think I am, I’m not worthy…etc. Most people have no awareness the thoughts running through their minds are not who they really are. If you can point to those thoughts as something separate from you…then they aren’t you. It is important to take this one step further. If your negative thoughts perpetuate stress and upset, switching them to positive ones can do the opposite. 

The trick is to understand you have the power to think differently!

What does the voice in your headache sound like? If you hear “what voice?”, it’s that one!
I can’t trust myself 
I must be doing something wrong
I headaches will never go away
Headaches are genetic
There’s not solution 
No one understands me
I’m not worthy
I disappoint everyone
I feel guilty for always cancelling plans
I’m afraid to try something new

Here’s something to try and to make it a priority this week. 
Make your own list of the negative things from the voice in your head. Take that list and turn it into positive statements. Sit up, put a smile on your face, pause after each one notice how you feel. Remember this is an experiment. 

I can trust myself 
I have hope for the future
I am grateful for my life (family, sunshine, flowers, trees, anything!, etc.)
I am doing the best I can with what I know
I have headaches and I will find a solution
Even with a genetic vulnerability, I can do something about them
I can ask for support
It’s ok if taking care of myself disappoints others
Canceling plans is self-care
I am open to learning something new

Remember: It’s not what happens but how you deal with it that’s important! You can change and improve your condition.

This technique can help you cope and take some of the pressure off of yourself. It takes trust and courage to try something you have doubts about…and change doesn’t happen overnight but one step at a time. Watch for the next installment in the Story of You where we talk about how your thinking affects your feelings

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