Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist and best-selling author of A Stroke of Insight, explains in her book that when someone reacts to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that takes place in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.
Something happens in the external world that triggers chemicals to flush through the body, which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds. So, during that time you can watch and feel the process happening, you can feel it, and then you can watch it go away.
After that, if you continue to feel fear, anxiety, anger, etc., you can actively choose different thoughts from the ones that are re-creating the circuitry resulting in you experiencing this physiological response over and over again.
How to Effectively Use the 90-second Loop
Surrender to the immediate feeling by allowing yourself to experience it. Acknowledge it without owning it; it’s going to happen, anyway. However, now you know you have 90 seconds to divert your attention to a more positive and relaxing focus while your immediate physical response runs its course. You have 90 seconds to switch your thinking.
A powerful way that works for me is to take deep, slow breaths as I allow myself to connect to the present moment. But you can find your own diversion technique — do whatever you can to get through the emotion, count, step up and down or do pushups for 90 seconds. You can also use a mantra such as, “I have more than enough time to focus and relax.” Or simply sing one of your favorite songs, out loud or in your head.
Your thoughts are not you; don’t let them control your life.
A little fear like looking stupid if you don’t get your presentation prepared on time can actually be a good motivation tool to push you forward.
Opening Up Your Mental Prison
If you feel anxious and don’t know why, take the time to focus on something good, something or someone that makes you feel hopeful. Being optimistic or passionate about something good in your life can help ease anxiety. Sharing your perceived fears and opening up to someone you trust can help you unravel your false fears.
When people show their deepest thoughts and feelings about stressful or traumatic experiences, negative emotions such as depression and anxiety lessen and eventually disappear. Those who open up are less likely to become depressed and are less susceptible to the harmful effects of stress. That’s because they can face their fears at their own pace, in small doses and with someone they trust.
Numerous studies show that people who report a greater reliance on spiritual beliefs and who are also involved in healthy social interaction during times of stress have an emotional, mental and physical health advantage over those who do not.