Our First Key to Hope is identifying and managing the stress response. When we don’t proactively manage our stress response, triggers can cause us to react with violence, addiction, self-harm, and more. This was perfectly exemplified on the stage at the Oscars (if you didn’t watch it, check out this article). It was hard to watch, yet it teaches us ALL a very powerful lesson.
The stress response is something we all experience and something we all must learn to identify and manage. That’s why we created the #90SecondChallenge. By committing to taking a 90-second pause, and sharing how you creatively manage your stress response on social media, you can help your friends and family find ways to identify and manage their own stress response using #StressSkills. Share a video, photo, or quote of your favorite #StressSkill and tag us @ifredorg and with #90SecondChallenge #Hope
So why do we call it the #90SecondChallenge? In her book, My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor explains the 90-second rule: When we are triggered by outside things or people, our body undergoes a physiological response for 90 seconds, during which time our brain releases a flood of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, into our bloodstream (You can learn more about stress hormones here). This activates our fight, flight, freeze, or fawn emotional “downstairs brain.” During this 90-second stress response, it is very difficult to get to our “upstairs brain” where our rational, creative, collaborative, and problem-solving hope lies. You can hear more about the 90-second rule here.
When someone sends you a text, calls you a name, or cuts you off in traffic (you know your triggers), your body is flooded with those chemicals. And if you don’t take a pause, you react. And you are likely to react with poor judgment. This stress response is precisely why as personal and/or global stress rises, we are all more reactive. It is why we saw a rise in violence on airplanes and in restaurants during COVID and the mask mandates, and why anxiety and depression rise when people go through challenging changes. Hopelessness, a primary symptom of anxiety and depression, is both emotional despair and a sense of motivational helplessness. Unless we are proactive in managing hopelessness by using the Five Keys to SHINE for Hope (Stress Skills, Happiness Habits, Inspired Actions, Nourishing Networks, and Eliminating Challenges), it can lead to unhealthy behaviors and actions, such as violence, addiction, self-harm, and even suicide.
When you don’t control your stress response, you give power to others. You let them control your moods and reactions. They start to dictate who you are as a person. People say and do harmful things, yet our ability to respond in emotionally intelligent ways is key to both our evolution and our own happiness. We can use the fuel of our emotions to either harm ourselves and others or as a sign of what we truly care about and fuel for creating change.
Who won at the Oscars last night? It was challenging to watch on so many levels, and I have compassion for everyone involved. It was just as hard to watch the aftermath on social media, everyone taking sides and pointing fingers, rather than reacting with compassion and recognition for the high amount of systemic stress. Yet, rather than focusing on the negatives, we can use this as a very important teaching moment about how and why it happened, and what we can do to prevent it in the future. We have all responded with our downstairs brains when triggered, and we can all learn something from the incident at the Oscars and work to teach our children how to better react in ways that don’t land us hurting ourselves or others.
What breaks my heart, is this is happening with kids around the world at unprecedented rates. Yet we are not taught about the stress response, what it is, how to identify it, or how to proactively manage it. That is why we created Hopeful Minds, a free global program for young kids teaching the “how-to” of hope. It is why I created Hopeful Mindsets on the College Campus Course. It is why we created Hopeful Cities and are now activating it around the world. It is important that we teach others to identify and manage their stress response, recognize if we are in our “downstairs brain,” and find creative solutions to support us all in managing these stressful times.
During that Oscar event, you could see the minute Will was triggered, and almost sense the chemicals pulsing through his body. You could tell his stress response was activated. What I really commend about Chris is that he controlled his own stress response really well and did not further activate Will’s. It is important that we are compassionate with both ourselves and others, and learning how to recognize where we are, and where others are, can go a long way towards creating a better, safer, more peaceful world.
And just to be clear, even once you know about your stress response, managing it when you are triggered isn’t easy. Have you ever sat still for 90-seconds when triggered? It is a LONG time. Yet it can be made easier with the use of Stress Skills. Stress Skills are short activities that you can use to navigate those 90-seconds. Taking deep breaths, watching a video, counting to 90, thinking of something funny, engaging the senses, and “you fill in the blank”; these Stress Skills can help you move from your downstairs brain to your upstairs brain and let those stress hormones flood through your system without you acting.
How do you manage your 90-second stress response? Help us come up with an infinite, creative, awesome list of ways to manage those 90-seconds with #StressSkills so that we don’t pick up that drink, give someone the finger, send that e-mail, write that text, or go up on live television and hit someone. Find ways to let those stress hormones pulsate through your body, let yourself calm down, and only THEN act.
Take the #90SecondChallenge and tag your friends to challenge them. When you are triggered, commit to taking a 90 second break. Show us what is triggering you these days and how YOU creatively manage your stress response through a video, photo, or quote. Give us more ideas for our programming and help us inspire kids around the world so that no matter what life brings, they are always able to move back to hope.
Tag us @ifredorg and use hashtags #90SecondChallenge #Hope #StressSkills