Our brains interpret everything around us.
From noticing how strong a breeze is on your skin to understanding what the facial expression of your spouse might mean, your brain is always working hard to break down external messages and translate them into what we understand as “the world.”
How the Brain Understands ‘Errors’.
One message that we often do not think about in terms of interpretation is the message we understand as “error.”
Also described as ERN (error-related negativity), our brains understand any form of a personal failure as a specific message. When you make a mistake, and see a disappointed look on your boss' face, or hear a derogatory comment from a friend, you soak in all of those external messages and file them under “mistakes.”
This “mistake” message then translates into an emotion, and that emotion, or ERN, either hits hard and lingers or barely registers and gets brushed off.
In people who already suffer from anxiety or are prone to worry more than the average person, this ERN emotion hits hard and lingers.
Calming a Worrisome Mind.
People who tend to worry are often told to simply “calm down” or to just “relax,” or that “it’s not that big a deal,” but for those who have a brain that is more prone to worry, everything registers as a “big deal.” Putting a rest to those worrisome thoughts is not a matter of control, but a matter of chemicals in the brain.
The question then, is what should these worriers do to combat these depression-inducing chemicals? According to a recent study, the answer may be as simple as picking up a pad and pen.
“Expressive writing may serve to “offload” worries from working memory, therefore relieving the distracting effects of worry on cognition as reflected in a decreased ERN” writes Professors Schroder, Moran and Moser -- all Psychology Department heads and authors of the study. “[Our] findings provide experimental support that the ERN can be reduced among anxious individuals with tailored interventions.”
Why Use Expressive writing as a vehicle to combat the ‘Worry’?
The reason this method of stress relief has found traction is because it allows the worrier to vent out their immediate fear and frustration. When there is a haunting feeling of worry and stress, the last thing that may occur to the worrier is that the issue at hand is not truly as daunting as it may appear. Writing it all out --fears, perspectives, worst case scenarios along with best case scenarios-- helps the worrier to iron out their chaotic thoughts and see the truth of the matter in linear black and white.
In essence, writing out fears and worries help the worrier to stop, slow down, and analyze the matter for what it really is. This assists in minimizing the gravity of most circumstances and helps make it all more manageable.
In the meantime, if you know someone who suffers from a worrisome mind or is a sufferer of anxiety, be cautious not to try to minimize or belittle how they feel about any situation.
Having a hard time listening to frustration after frustration? Then perhaps a fancy journal isn't the worst gift in the world to give this holiday season.
Schroder H.., Moran T., Moser J.. "The Effect Of Expressive Writing On The Error-Related Negativity Among Individuals With Chronic Worry." Psychophysiology. 2017.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.