Let’s dive into the neuroscience of stress. Your brain releases stress hormones, like cortisol, which then fire up excessive cell-signaling cytokines which alter your physiology. Suddenly your ability to regulate your behavior and emotions is compromised. Your ability to pay attention is compromised, your memory, learning, peace, happiness are all compromised.
Why? Because all that change has caused your system to be overloaded with stress. And excessive stress often causes us to withdraw in order to self-soothe, to try to cope, to try to slow things down and remove further stimulus since we’re already overloaded.
But then we get new stress: the stress of disconnection.
Disconnection possibly from yourself, from others, your purpose, your place in the grand scheme of things, and even your relationship with nature. Today we see increasing chaos, distrust, aggressiveness, and many other behavioral challenges in our world due to disconnection caused by excessive stress.
And in stressful times, more than peaceful ones, we ache to be seen, heard, acknowledged in the midst of all this isolation. We ache to belong. In my leadership and culture coaching work I am seeing tremendous amounts of isolation caused by the stress of change.
What’s Happening Inside When Stress Is Happening Outside
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is fired when we anticipate reward or receive an unexpected reward, pleasure, or praise. But dopamine in excess is a problem. It inhibits our prefrontal cortex (PFC), which affects our ability to make good decisions, focus, solve problems, regulate our emotions and behavior and much more.
We get excess amounts of dopamine from constantly checking email, text and other alerts—and in fear and change scenarios we will often constantly check to see if we’re safe. When the PFC is inhibited we see greater irrational risk taking, obesity, aggression, addiction, schizophrenia because increased sensory stimulation and decreased cognitive stimulation (in the PFC) has occurred. It’s a big deal.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it causes us often to have that addictive response to constantly check our messages, our emails, social media, etc. However, what’s beneath it is the desire to connect. It’s the desire for warmth. It’s the desire to be seen, to be safe, to belong, and to matter. We’re actually craving oxytocin, the bonding hormone, to help us know we’re not alone.
3 Ways To Cure Stress-Based Isolation
Yes, change is prevalent. And when it happens, know that stress and isolation can be prevented by increasing connection, noticing the stories you’re telling yourself and others about the change, and managing your energy via your emotions.