How do you Reassure a Brain that Wants to Protect You from Everything?
Anxiety, panic attacks, and chronic pain are often the result of an overprotective brain. Our brains are doing what they are supposed to do ~ warn us of any danger ~ but our brains have gotten too good at their job. They have become perfectionists and want to warn us of every possible danger ~ even minor threats like bright lights, loud sounds, weather changes, homework deadlines etc.
It can be helpful to think of our brains as an overprotective parent so that we can visualize how to start to shift the dynamic and put them at ease.
Just imagine if you had an overprotective parent and you decided the solution was to just break all the rules and they should get used to it. Do you think your parent would freak out and tell you to get to your room or tell you to go have fun?
In the same way if our brains are telling us that there is danger and sending us pain or anxiety to protect us and we totally disregard that and do whatever we want, then our brains will tighten up the rules, send us to our room, and ground us (by sending more pain and anxiety).
The best way to work with an overprotective brain (or parent) is to take small steps to reassure it that you are ok, that it can trust you, and that you won’t push the boundaries too far. When we do way too much on some days, then our brains send pain to keep us from making that mistake again. That is why we need to pace ourselves on good days so the brain trusts us. We need to take breaks, do some deep breathing, and not go to bed too late. When our brain starts to trust that we are doing okay and can manage ourselves when faced with minor threats, then it learns that it doesn’t have to increase the pain each time you encounter these things.
Just like when you can show your overprotective parent that you will observe curfew, make good choices, and check in regularly, then they will loosen the reins a bit.
So if you think of your brain as an overprotective parent, what can you do to grow its capacity to trust you?
Slowly increase your participation in life Pace yourself Take frequent breaks Do some deep breathing Nourish your body with healthy foods Move your body gently and regularly Go to sleep and wake up at regular times
All these things reassure your brain that you are capable of managing yourself in the world without it needing to send extra pain to protect you. These things put your nervous system at ease.
Small steps and consistency seem to be the behaviors that our brains (and overprotective parents) respond best to.
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