Many years ago the emotion worry had a very specific function and it served humans well.
The Evolution of Worry:
The mismatch between our old brain and our new environment has a significant impact on the amount of chronic stress and worry we experience today.
Thousands of years ago, when humans lived in an Immediate Return Environment, stress and worry were useful emotions because they helped us take action in the face of immediate problems.
A lion appears across the plain > you feel stressed > you run away > your stress is relieved.
A storm rumbles in the distance > you worry about finding shelter > you find shelter > your worry is relieved.
This morning I woke up and I immediately started a conversation with my partner which took a negative spin. He asked why I worried so much because worrying has absolutely no purpose. Than I started thinking MORE, Am I flawed, do I worry more than the average person, is it a female thing, am I being over dramatic, or what is wrong with me or AM I JUST FEMALE?!?
There is this part of the brain called the AMYGDALA:
The job of the amygdala is to manage the storage of memories, according to the strength of the emotional reaction associated with the memory.
The right amygdala, primarily responsible for action, is generally more active in men than in women. The left amygdala, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for storage of the details of traumatic memories and prompts more thought than action. This amygdala is more active than the right in women, and in people of both genders who have anxiety disorders.
The amygdala, once triggered, sends distress signals to the other key parts of your brain. Hmmm I might be on to something!
Hormonal differences also play a part in the way the XX and XY deal with WORRY!
Three stress hormones are involved in the flight or fight syndrome: Cortisol, Epinephrine, and Oxytocin. Cortisol and Epinephrine lower immunities and raise blood pressure. Oxytocin softens the reaction of Cortisol and Epinephrine by relaxing the emotions. Men release less Oxytocin than women, and therefore, have a stronger reaction from both Cortisol and Epinephrine.
Because of the increase of Oxytocin and the reproductive hormones, such as Estrogen, women are tenderized to nurture and reach out to others in an effort to both protect themselves and their young. Women are about relationships. In fact, their self-esteem and identity are often dependent upon their feelings of adequacy in relationships.
Men, on the other hand, are wired to be problem solvers. They compartmentalize and repress their emotions to either fight or run away. Males are invested in performance and competition. They instinctively don’t pick up many social cues and innately view eye contact as a challenge.
Women pick up six facial cues compared to a male’s ability to pick up one, and women experience eye contact as a sign of intimacy.
I am not saying that these factors give us a free pass to worry. Honestly, Worry just keeps us from moving forward. It often times stops us in our tracks in making progress and functioning effectively.
Here are some strategies for tackling WORRY:
- I can't control every scary thing but I can control whether or not these things strike fear in my heart.
- Brene Brown has some best advise around worry. “The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It's our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
- Brown, a Texan academic turned bestselling author, wife, daughter, sister and mother of two, came to prominence after recording a Ted talk in which she argued that to live a full life requires courage – and showing courage means doing things that make you feel vulnerable. It quickly became one of the most successful Ted talks of all time: more than 10 million people have seen it online and shared her message that we should stop worrying about being perfect, accept ourselves as we are, and engage meaningfully with one another.But her academic research showed that the shaming culture we live in makes it harder than ever to show courage and be vulnerable – and somebody had to speak out. "People are sick and tired of being afraid all the time. People want to be brave again. So the message is, do it! Get your courage on, but be clear that it won't be easy. It's going to feel like shit."
- If you do worry a lot I do recommend any of Brene Brown's books. Also exercise and meditation!
Today I spent the day with my two older children. We rarely see more than an inch of snow a year. Since we are talking about worry I can say, our community FREAKS out every time its snows. The kids have been out of school for 4 DAYS!!!
Going back to my morning coffee and talk with my husband this morning I do feel I have some work to do in the worrying department! I actually let go of some worry today and just had fun! The pictures in this article are of my kids and I walking around our little town.
My two feral kids sitting on the edge of the dock. My 14 year old had the nerve to stand on the ice. Yes, I wanted to say something to him BUT I didn't and he walked away with two wet sneakers. I did know the water was only ankle deep.
Maybe this will be a memory of walking on ice for his AMYGDALA to store for a later date! I don't wish worry on anyone especially my kids. Sometimes we need to let them walk on thin ice to become a strong, problem solving, thriving adults!