The Cumulative Stress Of The DownSpiral

StressedWhat gets you “down?”

Great at handling the big things, defeated by the trifles?

You are awakened by the dog whimpering to go outside. You get out of bed to find that he has already had an accident on the kitchen floor.

Once outside, in your robe, the early-bird neighbor already on her brisk, healthy morning walk waves a big wave and a broad smile –she’s fine and you’re cold. The dog runs in the street. Once inside you go to the bathroom and you notice that the faucet is leaking.

That almost does it, but not quite. You reach for the electric toothbrush, drop it, break the new plastic head, and then you lean with both hands on the vanity, look into the mirror, and decide in a single moment that you look like hell and that all of life is on top of you.

You are oppressed by the trifles before you have ever had the chance to show the world how well you deal with the big things –like your job or your very glowing vision for life.

For some people, it’s just the faucet leaking that can ruin their morning.

If traffic is stalled on the way to work, how will you be by 7:30 in the morning?

Stress StopperThis is called cumulative stress and it is a build-up of little conditions on the outside of you that add up and OWN you, If you allow it.

Here’s the decision we have to make. I OWN my world and my emotional reaction to it.

I will build a muscle of peace so strong that I can flex that muscle as soon as I see the pee on the floor and the neighbor’s cheery smile way too early in my morning. I have decided to use any small negative event as a cue to go to peace. And I pulse it: peace, peace, peace, peace, peace. Rooted in a decision not be controlled by conditions outside of me, I practice this until my positive neuropathways are stronger than my negative ones.

Denial NoIt is not that I repress my negativity. That is not the problem here. It is not that I deny it. It is that I choose to do a different thing with negativity when it happens. I choose to go to peace, peace, peace, peace, and the emotional muscle of going to it with immediacy. I can get to peace as quickly as I can get to anger and anxiety if I practice it.

For me, it is exactly the same as meditation. I learn that I can LET GO of the negative and have a different response. I’m not denying. I’m choosing differently.

It is the cumulative little things that kill us. It is the cumulative little things adding up, one after another, that become the straw that breaks this camel’s back.

And it is all because our negative emotions are undisciplined and our positive emotions are flabby and weak. Worried more about our pecs and butts than our emotional responses to life, we are crushed when the toothbrush breaks, and brought down by a leaky faucet.

There has to be an early decision to live a style of life where the conditions “out there” are not going to have as much control as the muscles of good emotions on the inside of us. But they have to be grown, developed, and exercised.Emotions Managed

Try this. Don’t deny negative experiences, but instead make a decision for emotional facility and true emotional agility.

Use a negative event as a cue to practice FEELING a positive feeling, growing it, flexing it, strengthening it. What possible good do you think it does you to get irritated and frustrated and even hopeless over breaking your toothbrush and the fact that your dog pees in the wrong places?

You may think this is normal, and it’s just a matter of accepting yourself and life on life’s terms, but it’s not. That’s just not the truth.

100 Days HappyThe truth is that it is sloppy management of your emotional life. It is undisciplined negativity and underdeveloped positivity. And what you do before 8:00 in the morning is what you will do all day long.

It takes a decision and it takes practice not to let the little conditions of life OWN you. Changing your thinking is not enough. You have to grow the feelings you want to feel at your quick and easy fingertips.


About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Joanne E Harrington

    This week’s blog reflects me and my behaviour before my curiosity took me to ANI. My capacity to self-regulate my negative emotions was poor. Little things set me off. I got hooked on feeling oppressed. “Poor me, I’m out of coffee cream. Poor me, the blouse I wanted to wear hasn’t been washed.” It is laughable when I look back and realize how much easier life is now that I live with the intention of being firmly in the UpSpiral. Being NeuroPositive doesn’t put us in a bubble. As a new NP coach, it is thrilling to hear clients describe situations where use of the Emotional Gym tools have helped them deal differently with situations that are challenging in their day. Busy people such as we are, can quietly and unobtrusively use the tools to achieve enough calm to get to more objectivity, to more neutral mental ground. How we choose to respond is what we know we need to do but until we have tools to build this capacity, willing ourselves to behave differently is impossible. I realize now that my early warning system is my body. I have learned to tune into my body as it signals big or little life challenges to me before my emotions notice. And now – way more often than I ever used to -( I’m still a student), I take a deep breath and pulse peace as my way of disconnecting from the jolts of cortisol that on occasion still want to shoot throughout my body. My brain prefers the harmony and grounding of pulsing which is how I get myself into neutral so I can calmly and with ease assess what is going on.

  • joseph967

    This Blog is so helpful ,reminding us to use the tools that is being provided . As the holidays approach what a great time to apply these tools to overcome stressful events.

  • This particular blog is timely for me and such a good reminder! I definitely used my “tools” this week to remain in an UpSpiral. I arrived at an event fifteen minutes early, yet the person scheduled to let the group into the building was running late. Pretty soon, there were six cars lined up to go into the parking lot and it was about 19 degrees outside. Most of the frustration in the group was directed at me as the one who schedules the event. I knew that I had spoken to our contact person a week prior and we were on the schedule for that night. After quickly checking my emails, I went to each car and let them know that she was on her way. However, I was not received with much patience or understanding. So, I decided to employ my skills at State of Mind Management and began pulsing. As stated in this blog article, I decided to use this situation as cue “to practice a positive feeling, growing it, flexing it, strengthening it.” Also, I was aware that I had a reservoir of positive emotions to draw from and did not over-react to the others’ frustration. The next morning, I knew that I would invite in even deeper levels of peace in my early morning meditation. To my repertoire, I have added a yoga practice that assists in my embodiment of peace, love, gratitude, joy, and hope. Gratefully, I OWN my world and my emotional reaction to it.

  • MissTowner

    The best thing I’ve learned so far is that it’s the build up of little things that creates the mountain inside of me, and it’s up to me whether that mountain is one of strength or destruction. I was, and sometimes still am, that person that gets leveled by such small issues. Going to a positive emotion and pulsing it in the happening of an unfavorable circumstance takes from the bad and adds to the good, so over time, the positive reaction will become a second nature reflex!

  • Positive
    affirmations have been a new age concept forever. But positive
    affirmations never seemed to break those long standing connections of
    negative responses that were part of my pattern. By exercising in the
    emotional gym and practicing feeling positive
    emotion first, it began to change my thoughts and perceptions to what
    was happening around me. It became so clear that I had to change how I
    felt. For it is the heart that changes the mind.

  • What about accepting what it is happening at tha moment? stress comes up from trying to change what it is happening. You put 100 gr of aceptance, with 100 gr of sence of humour and you will have your perfect balance breakfast !

  • This blog post hit home. Thank you for the real life examples, language and connection. And the fact that choice – powerful, conscious choice – is not denial nor weak. We/I have given way to much credit to suffering and misery. “Stop Stressing. Start Living.” is spot on. The tide reverses when we want it to. The more I apply your positivity practices, the more results I experience. And the more I see and hear a bias toward negativity — as if pain validates worth.

  • Joe_Mojo

    This article is timely as stress builds up for the busy holiday season. For me, it highlights the value of being proactive and staying on top of stress and negative emotions. Each small event, if dealt with in a timely way, presents the opportunity to exercise our emotional muscles in real time and to keep the events from piling up. We never know what’s coming next. By staying in the upspiral we can be better positioned when those little nuisance events happen, or even when larger major stress producers show up in out lives.

  • Swanstar98

    For me the summary
    statement is meaningful. “It takes a
    decision and it takes practice not to let the little conditions of life OWN
    you. Changing your thinking is not enough. You have to grow the feelings you
    want to feel at your quick and easy fingertips.”

    Looking at this little statement there are at least three parts that are all
    important. First, as others have commented,
    yes, choice, choice, choice. I decide,
    and I choose again and again to experience positive feelings.

    Second, it does take practice, I’ve had lots of practice with negative feelings
    so it can feel awkward, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar to go to positive
    emotions and it’s still worth it to begin to build new responses that support
    my life and relationships.

    And third, changing your thinking sometimes is not enough, because for me
    having positive thoughts and negative emotions can be a huge energy drain. My experience is that living with that kind
    of in-congruence on a regular basis creates an internal, energetic stress, and left
    unchecked at some point the system will come back into congruence of its own
    accord. Unfortunately, without conscious
    choice or strengthening and growing positive emotions, that congruence has
    tended to show up as the downspiral.
    Today I’m grateful to be living a day of choosing and growing positive

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