Tag Archives: Amy Arnsten

It’s not my fault- it’s my biology etc

I haven’t blogged or commented on blogs for what seems like ages. I then avoid looking at mine and other blogs through a combination of shame and reduced motivation. The Jim machine is grinding to a halt.

Hold on a minute, this isn’t the Jim way! Where’s your energy, your positivity man? Goddamit you’re British, show some resolve. OK OK, so how to get out of this black hole of lethargy and procrastination?

I know, I’ll take my lead from Trump. I need to find someone or something to blame. That’s the real man’s way of dealing with a crisis. So let’s play…… THE BLAME GAME!

The first person to blame is my partner. God, that feels insensitive but hey I’m desperate here. Nearly 4 weeks ago she came off her bike and slid along the road on her face. She fractured her upper jaw and damaged her teeth. No dentists operating but there are emergency hubs so we’ve been travelling back and forth getting that sorted. I hate to use that as an excuse but in reality it has been tough physically and emotionally for her and it’s meant, quite rightly that I’ve spent more time looking after her. Her not being able to chew properly has meant I’ve become really good at soups and smoothies. Thankfully she is slowly on the mend and we console ourselves that it could have been much worse.

That brings me onto my main excuse for not blogging- My Biology and Evolution. Stick with me here. The scientist, Amy Arnsten was writing in an article I read a few weeks ago that in times of stress basically our primitive brains come to the fore and the stress hormones kick start the old flight or fight response. The impact of stress also tends to reduce the impact of our “pre frontal cortex” or more sophisticated part of our brain. I’m doing a poor job of this I know but the bottom line is that the chronic stress of living in these current days is affecting our ability to focus and concentrate. Apparently it’s not just me and it’s not laziness, it’s good old neuro science.

This reduced working of our “thinking, reasoning” brain and the increase in stress hormones doesn’t just lead to an inability to focus, but also leads to an overall lack of motivation. Arnsten explains that an often forgotten part of our flight or fight response to danger is to “freeze”, which can feel a lot like mental paralysis. “Losing the ability to have really motivated, guided behaviour can be linked to all these primitive reflexes,” she says.

For many people, this has led to what Arnsten calls a vicious cycle of losing focus, beating yourself up about it, and then making your prefrontal connections even weaker . “Why understanding neurobiology is so helpful is that you can watch yourself in that downwards spiral and you can say, ‘This is just my biology, evolution is making me do this, this is normal neurobiology, and I don’t have to blame myself, it’s okay,’ she argues. Arnsten is my new hero!

So there we have it. A convoluted way of saying it’s not my fault that I’ve been remiss in my blogging. But having said that, non- primitive brained Jim intends asserting himself and getting back into blogging and I’m looking forward to catching up on other’s blogs.

Time to make another smoothie. I’m coming!

Jim X