A few years ago journalist Johann Hari began speaking about the root cause of addiction being a lack of connection. Trauma expert Dr Gabor Maté speaks about unresolved intergenerational and personal trauma at the root of disconnection from ourselves and each other. A general sense of unworthiness arises when a child’s experience is one of not feeling included in and protected within and by our family unit.
Extended families and friends are often separated geographically, removing that safety net and heightening the impact on children of parents who are stressed, working two jobs, struggling with mental health, addicted or tuned out.
We live in a complex world where it is increasingly difficult to be safe and feel safe. Our brains are evidenced based. We are rightly alarmed by graphic images of children murdered in their schools, and adults who were enjoying an outdoor concert in Las Vegas.
Economic, social and physical threats are exploited by everyone from media to employers and politicians. Statistics like these play out in the real lives of all of us. They are a survival level threat and our nervous systems reflect this.
Income disparities have become so pronounced that America’s top 10 percent now average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. Americans in the top 1 percent tower stunningly higher. They average over 40 times more income than the bottom 90 percent. But that gap pales in comparison to the divide between the nation’s top 0.1 percent and everyone else. Americans at this lofty level are taking in over 198 times the income of the bottom 90 percent. https://inequality.org/facts/income-inequality/
Anxiety and depression are at epidemic levels. The World Health Organization estimates 800,000 people die by suicide each year, 20 times that number (16 million people) attempt suicide and it is the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide for people aged 15 to 29.
In addition to other stressors, I would add that a lack of meaning in our lives contributes to despair. I love that millennials are challenging our broken system and looking for meaning and connection in their lives and work.
The first step in change is awareness
- We are not personally at fault because we are reacting to life as it is today.
- Our primitive brain is designed to react fast to protect us from danger.
- Our brains register the flood of violent images on screens as a real threat to ourselves personally.
- We are emotionally flooded and go into fight/ flight/ freeze.
- With long term exposure, we live with toxic levels of adrenaline and cortisol.
- Many people are stressed, anxious and depressed.
- Our brain and nervous system are stressed.
- Ten years ago I asked myself if I was living in alignment with my own higher values. Was I excited about life? What was my big Why? I realized I was playing it small and stuck in a rut. Awareness is the first step.
The second step in change is action
- Educate yourself about developmental trauma and human response to stress. Watch Connection and Safety
- This playlist of 7 videos explains what happens in thoughts and our body and gives you tools to restore health and resilience.
- Reduce exposure to alarming images and sounds. This may include taking the news feed off your phone, and taking a break from watching the news (especially just before bed). Brain experts suggest that reading your news in text and not seeing pictures and video is a better way to stay informed.
- Mindfulness practice can reveal where we are most affected. Check in regularly with your body and breath.
- Learn how to strengthen your brain.
- Dr Rick Hanson is a great resource on creating resilience.
- We need regular practice of breathing and relaxation to compensate for high levels of stress and fear.
- Many guided practices are on my YouTube channel and Insight Timer.
- Join me for free daily practice at 8AM Eastern http://zoom.us/j/645904638
- Develop a toolkit of emergency calming practices like box breathing or this 3 minute antidote to worry
- In addition to work and obligations do you have fun? Enjoy time with people you love? Have meaningful work?