We worry about:
- our finances
- whether or not we’ve made the right choices
- if we’re a late bloomer
- how we’re ignoring or following our dreams
- how much better everyone else is doing X than we are
- and all sorts of little things throughout the day
When we do this, we activate our fight and flight response. This process increases adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones that are especially problematic for women.
Additionally, these hormones may actually prevent you from being prosperous.
According to Ellie Drake, MD, of BraveHeartWomen.com, women can produce adrenaline, but they cannot process it*.
In fact, adrenaline in women can become toxic, leading to
- weight gain
- overwhelm / burnout
Adrenaline and cortisol also prevent us from growing somewhere great because we cannot tend our lifework when our system is on high alert.
Instead, women thrive when they increase oxytocin, the hormone released when a woman gives birth and feels joy and love.
A menacing animal is coming toward you.
You make intense eye contact.
You are terrified.
You know he wants you.
He leaps to attack.
You run for your life.
I actually had that dream the other night. A tiger was chasing me and I ran away. It’s the perfect example of what it means to “flee.”
I’ve also had dreams in which I kicked and punched a tiger in order to defend my life. That’s the perfect example of “fight.”
Now imagine this:
A real tiger is chasing you and you’re running for your life, or a real tiger is chasing you and you turn to fight it…while you simultaneously water and weed your garden.
It can’t be done.
You can fight.
You can flee.
Or you can tend something.
But you can’t do more than one of these things at the same time.
Unfortunately, most of us try to grow our lifework while we simultaneously engage our fight or flight response.
These are just a few of the emotions that activate our fight or flight system, and when we do this we trigger the same release of adrenaline and cortisol that is released when we’re being chased or attacked by an animal.
If you’re a woman, you cannot process these hormones effectively. You cannot fight or flee while cultivating your lifework garden. And consequently, you cannot bloom fully.
So stop worrying and start cultivating joy.
Argh. And if it were that easy we’d all be doing it!
So, how do you do this?
Before I share my tips, it’s important to emphasize I’m not talking about adopting a laissez faire attitude. The truth is, switching from fight and flight to joyful mindfulness is not a spiritual bypass or way of ignoring what’s troubling you. That’s actually just more flight.
Instead, it’s a mindset (and hormonal response) that will help you stay present so you can effectively engage your situation. So…
First, become aware
Before you can truly stop worrying you must first know you’re doing it. Get conscious. Pay attention. Notice. (But don’t judge yourself if you worry a lot. That will trigger more adrenaline!)
Then ask what’s real
The one exercise that helps me most is to connect with my “real” situation, not my imaginary one. I often worry about what “might” happen, instead of what is actually happening. Coming into the present moment helps tremendously.
Remember to breathe, calmly
Engaging in calming breath also helps. Forget the deep inhale and “cleansing” exhale you’ve been taught before. This actually tends to stimulate adrenaline!
Instead, allow your breath, both the inhale and exhale, to flow naturally. As you inhale and exhale feel your body. Be gently present with yourself.
And remember, switch to feelings of joy
Over the years I’ve also made it a practice to change my facial expression from worry (or whatever) to joy. If I’m frowning or scowling I ease my mouth into a gentle smile. It has to be genuine, though, so I simultaneously evoke feelings of joy (and do the breathing exercise at the same time…). This will help you release oxytocin, “the love hormone” which will help you increase your magneticism (and maybe even more clients.)
Get help if you need it.
There are many practices you can learn to help you transition from fight and flight to, as Ellie Drake says, “tend and befriend.” As the founder of Brave Heart Women, Ellie has created a program to help women learn how to connect more deeply with oxytocin as they simultaneously release emotions that trigger fight and flight. She calls oxytocin “the prosperity hormone” because it’s often the missing link for women who are trying to create abundance in their lives, but who are not as successful as they need or want to be.
What about you?
How do you transition from fight and flight into “tend and befriend”?
Share your experience below.
*unless they are serious athletes