While autumn is my favorite season, it’s also the busiest time for me professionally. As the seasons change in the Midwest, people are faced with longer dark days that come with Daylight Savings Time, look ahead to the months “stuck” indoors, and the unfortunate stress that many feel with the holiday season.

As a therapist, I help people recover from the throes of their life.
As a coach, I preventively help you prepare your mind so you’re able to tolerate stress well and not suffer from the weight of your circumstances.

In the engineering world, “stress” is defined in (laymen’s) terms of the ratio of pressure or force in relation to the area it is stretched out across.  My engineer-brained husband may have a few qualms with my explanation of that, but it’s close enough to help you apply this analogy to the psychological definition of stress. Mental or emotional strain/tension is determined by three different areas. This is best explained with the Bottom-Up, Outside-in, Top-Down Model. (On a related side-note, if you haven’t seen the Pixar movie Inside Out, I highly recommend it! It’s a cute explanation of your brain and emotions that will put this all into perspective.)

Understanding these three different aspects of how the brain is influenced will also help you build in protection for both your brain and your mood! Let’s look at each one individually.

Bottom-up, Outside-in, Top-down Model

1.  Bottom-up

These are biological/physiological in nature. It’s your genes, DNA, gut health, the nutrition available in your body, pain and sensations.

While some elements of the this realm are predetermined, plenty of areas can be influenced and changed by our choices and behaviors. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables that span the color spectrum will increase the production of neurochemicals needed to keep us mentally healthy in addition to nourishing the rest of our body. Living an active lifestyle and getting regular cardiovascular exercise releases endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals internally. Even getting outside to absorb the sunshine impacts our health and mood. Together, this makes up a large part of our mental and emotional health and all are within our control.

Sleep is one of the top areas to focus on here, as adults need 7-9 hours of sleep in order to perform at their best. While we are at sleep, our brain is anything but “asleep!”  While we rest and dream, the brain goes through an extensive house-cleaning, removing toxins from the brain, dividing memories into long-term and short-term, deciding what information it needs to keep and toss. All of these things play a role in our ability to regulate our emotions during the day!

2.  Outside-in

Think of this as your environment.  It’s the “nurture” in “nature vs. nurture” and it includes things like stress, support system, upbringing, life experiences, education, etc.

We were created for connection! Our Creator tells us that we were made to love & connect with Him and others.  Having a support system is crucial to us and to our society. Finding places where you contribute to the wellbeing of others, and they do yours will benefit you in more ways than you may realize. Scientists agree that the larger the brain (specifically the neocortex-the area of higher brain functioning), the larger the social group of the animal.

While you likely think of things like taking a class, joining a club, or making new friends when you think of ways to boost this area of support to mental & emotional health, think outside the box as well.  Studies have shown that feel good neurochemicals are released into the blood stream when we connect with others and feel that we and they belong! One study showed that the reward center of the brain was more active when gave ten dollars away than when they received it.

3.  Top-down 

This includes your thoughts, feelings, cognitions, mindset and beliefs.

As a life coach, this is the area that I live in! While there are many circumstances in your life that are beyond your control, we always have the ability to control how we think, feel (through our thinking), and act.  We know that what we focus on grows, so if we focus on the problems of the world and watch the news 24/7, we’re going to believe the world is doomed.  If we focus on what’s going well or the ways I can impact my life and circumstances, I’ll begin to see where change is possible. Philippians 4:8 says whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. And Romans 12:2 tells us not to let the world conform us, but instead, to be transformed through the renewing of our minds.  Our Creator shared with us, in this owners manual, that what we think about matters!

As you review this list, what are three actions you can take today to begin to brace your mental and emotional health?  If you would like some extra support in this area, I’d be honored to be your coach.  Whether through individual coaching, or the Rising Soul membership, where we deep-dive into a new lesson each week in order to live your best life, with Christ is at the center of it all…you’ll not only gain tools and techniques, but learn how to apply them in life-changing ways so that you’re living the life you were created for.  We weren’t meant to do this life alone. There’s a lot going on in our world today. (How tired are you of hearing the word “unprecedented”?!).  Don’t do it alone. You were created for connection.

Need some extra support?

It’s available in many forms! Click below to schedule a free forty-five minute consultation where we’ll take a snapshot of how you’re doing and what support you’d benefit most from. We’ll get you living the life you were created for.

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