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Mind detox

From: Cleansing for life,

Mind detox

The concept of mind detox comes from the premise that psychological and emotional stress responses are as damaging to our physiological balance as chemical stress (i.e. caffeine, nicotine, etc) or physical stress (disease, injury, etc). Although we are not ingesting a toxic substance the effect of psychological stress and emotional upset are still involved in the release of toxic chemicals and hormones such as adrenaline and cortisols. Furthermore, because the effect is not linked to a threatening physical reality but a perception/projection of it, the process of natural detoxification and restoration of physiological balance are inhibited as long as our thoughts remained preoccupied. The difference between an actual stressor and a perceived one is that the physiological response is not adapted to the situation. The processes involved with fighting or flying are magnificently well matched to what we need to do to survive a potentially life threatening situation. However, if the same processes are put into action but without any outlet, our cortisol levels will rise and the stress chemical cascade will start its destructive pattern without any specific purpose.

The four steps towards detoxifying and managing the thoughts, which cause us stress, are:

1.To understand that how we perceive a stress is what turns it into a more or less stressful trigger. Ask yourself those simple questions about the anxiety you are feeling:

  • Is it the consequence of a projection of the worse case scenario based on little evidence/past experiences or is it a genuine threat?
  • If it is a threat what is threatened: your life and security or your pride?
  • If your life and security are threatened can you act towards changing that situation?

Even if the threat is very real, so long as we can still find a possibility of intervention we are regaining a sense of control. The most emotionally stressful of all situations is to feel we are without choice or control and this is very rarely the case. G.D. Roberts describes in his book Shantaram that even when he was at the mercy of psychopathic prison guards and dying he was still able to contact the choice he was now left with: to die hating or to die forgiving. This, no doubt, contributed to his remarkable resilience (he actually survived to tell the tale!)

2.To find a suitable outlet for the stress response will limit its long-term toxic effects. Exercise is the best-suited outlet for stress because it utilises the energy, which has been mobilised for the intended fight or flight. Regular enjoyable exercise has been shown over and over again to limit the damages of long term stress.

3.To limit exposure to stimulants which trigger or aggravate a stress response. Sugar, caffeine, nicotine, recreational drugs, etc. are some of the most stress inducing controllable triggers. Their addictive nature actually lies in the fact that they really do stimulate a stress response! This is often sought after because with the stress response comes a numbing of our abilities to think beyond the act of survival, limiting our needs to face more personal issues related to self. It is also worth noting that watching violence on film/TV/video games and gambling are other examples of addictive/stress inducing triggers.

4.To allow time for recovery, researchers have shown that the most toxic and health damaging stress is not the acute episode, but it is the lack of recovery phase afterwards; in other words, the effect of chronic stress from habit rather than the effect of life’s unpredictable events and shocks.

Although the above applies to both men and women there are some differences between individual sexes when responding to stress and therefore managing that stress. According to Shelley Taylor from UCLA whilst the male will become more aggressive and be prepared to fight, the female, who is more traditionally responsible for taking care of the young and therefore not able to fight at the same time, will go more towards a “Tend and Befriend” approach; meaning she will turn more inwards and look to create life supporting connection with useful others (affiliation). Affiliation and social interaction is therefore a very helpful element of stress management.

To conclude, the fundamentals of mind detox lies with developing the wisdom to know the difference between what we can change and what we cannot change, between what is a certainty and what is only a possibility and with taking the time to channel over-wrought mind energy into physical activity.

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