If Generation X is, as many memes suggest, a generation with a knack for sitting back and rolling with the punches, maybe that’s because shows like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood taught us to maintain equilibrium at an early age. Often this tendency is described in negative terms as ambivalence or an inability to take action (and sometimes it is). But there are times when that X-ish tendency also reflects an inclination to keep calm and carry on, which isn’t wrong either.
While it’s fine to remember that we had role models growing up who nurtured our resilience, the truth is as a whole, Xers are under a ton of stress. Research shows we’re crushed by debt, general work dissatisfaction, and sandwich-generation pressures.
Maybe it’s time to take a trolley tour of the inner workings of your brain to get out of stressville and on with living a happier life.
Don’t be a puppet
Your neurological impulses would love you to believe that there’s no safe neighborhood for you. Whenever you experience a perceived threat, you’re prone to an amygdala hijack, where that seat of emotional memories uses stress hormones to pull the fight-flight-freeze strings to control your behavior.
The first step is to pay attention and notice when your response is misaligned with the actual situation. Once you’re aware that your feelings are illogical, you can take action to calm down.
A round of deep, slow breaths is the perfect go-to in a heated situation. Or, a simple mindfulness grounding technique where you focus on what’s around you and not inside your head can also do the trick.
Play some emotional make-believe
The equilibrium linchpin is simple to set in place. All you have to do is re-label negative feelings as more positive and productive.
For example, fear can be seen as anticipation, dread as caution, pressured as in demand, and rejection as protection. And forget worry altogether — speculation only leads to suffering.
Which brings us back to the Zen of our childhood stalwart, Mr. Rogers, who said:
Whatever is mentionable can be more manageable.
And to this, we can all say Roger that.