False Alarms

February 12, 2020 Level Up Coaching 0 Comments

Years ago I stood over a sink processing surgical items. Out of nowhere I reeled from a sudden, searing pain in the back of my skull, and my right arm went numb. I was experiencing an injury due to the repetitive motions I was making at work every day. At the same time my relationship of 15 years came crashing down around me. My body and my heart were broken. I ended up loading everything I owned into my car, and I drove home with my two cats. I had no job and no partner. I had never felt so alone.

Recently my injury came roaring back to life. I stopped hiking, rock climbing, and most other activities. Sitting in a chair to watch a movie was torture. I was so afraid I would have pain forever. I went to my doctor and was prescribed physical therapy.

I just had my first appointment and my mind has been blown.

My physical therapist explained that often, when our bodies experience physical trauma AND we are experiencing stress in other areas of life, our brains combine everything into a single experience. The emotional stress and physical stress I felt during my injury were interpreted by my brain as one single event. My brain wants to do anything it can to prevent this from happening again. Thanks, brain.

My nervous system is on high-alert, watching for anything that might be a sign that it’s close. 

Let’s say your body is like a house with an alarm system. If a basketball rolls through your driveway the alarm doesn’t trigger. Someone would have to do something more aggressive to get the alarm’s attention, like driving a car through the wall of your house and setting it on fire. The alarm is triggers. Eventually over time you repair the house and reactivate the same alarm system. Everything seems fine. You start to relax a little. Then, a basketball rolls through your driveway. Your alarm system triggers. It’s become hyper sensitive. It can’t tell the difference between normal and danger. 

My pain came back because my alarm system is hyper sensitive. It thinks I am in danger of experiencing the same things I did before. It needs to be rewired, or I will continue to get false alarms. 

I realized this is a perfect example of the value of mind management. Without it, our brains start triggering alarms at the wrong times, even if we’re perfectly fine.

My brain remembers how scary and painful my life was. It thinks it’s protecting me by throwing up red flags. It’s certain another car is going to crash into my house. It doesn’t understand that nothing is wrong, and occasional anxiety and stress is normal.

All of us have experienced things in our lives that were uncomfortable, scary, even traumatic. We will probably experience them again because that’s part of normal life. We live in a world that isn’t perfect. Unfortunately many of us are responding to false alarms that prevent us from doing the things we want. We believe we need to avoid the trigger of the alarm, but that trigger may not be bad at all.

It’s easy for our brains to get carried away if we aren’t paying attention, especially if we’re confused about which alarms are important and which are not.

We stop dating because we’ve been hurt in past relationships.

We stop showing up 100% at our jobs because we’ve experienced conflict with a boss or coworkers.

We stop trying to lose weight because we’ve failed before, and it hurts so damn bad every time we let ourselves down.

We stop.

Just like I had stopped hiking and climbing. I was afraid to hurt again.

The truth is negative emotions aren’t always bad, and they shouldn’t automatically trigger panic and alarm. We need them. I’m not saying to seek them out, but if a negative emotion happens to roll into our driveway, and it will, it doesn’t always warrant a meltdown. Coaching helps us see why our minds are choosing to trigger alarms, and if they are alarms we want to keep or throw away. It shows us thoughts and emotions we might not be consciously aware of. We can see where the alarm system has gone haywire and reset it. We teach our brains that emotions are nothing to be afraid of. Can you imagine trying to live your life with false alarms constantly banging in your skull?

Physical therapy re-calibrates the body. Life Coaching re-calibrates the mind. Beautiful.

False Alarms was last modified: October 4th, 2020 by Level Up Coaching

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