Is COVID Stress Making You Numb? Stop Blaming Yourself!

After months of combating Covid stress, you might wonder why one more thing – the election, wildfires, civil unrest or boredom setting in – causes you to go numb. You have no feelings and all the common excesses like streaming videos, eating sweets, or pouring an extra glass of wine seem so appealing.

A new approach to dealing with the toxic emotions caused by the pandemic and unrest of 2020 is to see the problem as a stress wire. A wire triggered that numbness! What’s so appealing about this approach, which is emotional brain training, is that we can visualize, target, and switch off the root cause of that numbness in our brain: the stress-reactive neural circuit. 

Laurel Mellin, PhD

Switch off the reactive wire and feel better faster.

Source: Laurel Mellin, PhD

That wire is a “real entity,” a neural circuit. How refreshing. We can use scientific strategies to deal with that wire as when we switch off that wire, our symptom switches off, too. We get relief, and due to the nature of neuroplasticity, every time we switch if off, the brain changes. The wire becomes weaker, so we are less likely to trigger that “numbness circuit.” We have more control over our psychological responses. On the first day of this series, you imagined that you had a resiliency pathway in your brain that takes you from stress to joy. Now, on this second day of the series on The Stress Vaccine, imagine why it is so important for you to use that pathway.  

That resiliency pathway effectively switches off the root cause of your issue, the reactive wire. We all have some of these wires and a new way to take care of our emotional health is to visualize these wires, then process our emotions through our resiliency pathways and switch them off.  A new technique in EBT, which I call the “stress vaccine” is a quick and easy way to clear toxic emotions like numbness, anxiety, shame, abandonment, depression and powerlessness.

This emotional brain approach is becoming more popular as psychotherapy moves toward becoming brain-based. The ultimate controller of our responses are wires, and it makes sense to go to the source of our issues: these brain circuits.  You can start using this approach now as part of your psychotherapy or as your complete treatment. For example, a participant (“Jane”) in my EBT practice was in stress overload (“Brain State 5”) after wildfires started raging in Northern California. She told me that she went numb. She had endured shelter-in-place, homeschooling her six-year-old daughter and supporting her mother who had panic attacks and sleep disturbances triggered by her own reactive circuits. Her mother’s stress was catching. Yet Jane wasn’t triggered until the wildfires were raging and even though she was 50 miles away from them, the air was thick with particulates. She went numb.

I told her that she could not control the stressor, but she could win the war against the wire that triggered her to go numb.  She could use EBT to turn the stuck wire that made her numb into a resilient wire that made her emotions flow, and return herself to a state of well-being and joy. I led her through visualization so that she could see the problem – a wire – and mobilize her energies to clear away that circuit.

On the first day of this series, The Stress Vaccine, my introduction to emotional brain training for this blog, the activity of the day was to appreciate that your beautiful emotional brain has pathways of radical resilience. On this second day of the series, your challenge is to stop blaming yourself for your emotional responses. They are not demons! They are just reactive wires, and we all have some of them, more now because of the unique stresses of 2020. It’s time to switch off that reactive wire and spiral up to a state of connection, well-being and joy. Take that next step and imagine . . .

Activity for Day 2:

Whenever you are stressed, appreciate that you have a hidden pathway in your emotional brain that will take me from stress to joy. Why use it? The problem is not you. See yourself naming that wire, such as calling it my “Numbing Out Circuit.” Then imagine yourself using your resiliency pathways, the simple technique of the stress vaccine, to switch off that wire. Notice that you exhale and feel your feelings, come alive with sensations, and feel peace and power from within. YOU did that and it only took four minutes!

Look for my next blog on emotional brain training to learn one of the most fascinating new concepts in psychotherapy and neuroscience, which is the joy response. You can use EBT alone or as a way to sustain and deepen the benefits of your psychotherapy. 

Next: The Joy Response

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