Today, few people can claim never to have suffered a mental or emotional block. The frenetic pace of life and exposure to stressful situations means that at times we notice that our brains are not getting any better.

Let’s see exactly what this mental blocking consists of and how it relates to stress.

What is mental block?

Let’s first develop the concept of mental block itself.

In the words of psychiatrist Manuel Escudero, mental block is defined as ” an interruption of a brain process that does not allow us to initiate or terminate any activity or situation. This phenomenon can be considered as the impossibility of following a line of thought that affects our behaviors, decreases our effectiveness and limits our potential to achieve our final goal”.

So is the mental block good or bad?

It’s neither good nor bad. In the world of psychology you don’t talk about black and white, you have to move more by the nuances.

In the case of mental blocks, if we stick to the definition, we are talking about a defence mechanism whose aim is to protect us from a situation that is beyond us. Therefore it is something that protects us, is good for us and exists for a reason…

But like so many things, good in excess can be dangerous, and these mechanisms are no exception. The problem comes when they are used excessively or at times when not only are they not necessary, but they make it difficult for us to get out of a relatively easy situation that we lengthen unintentionally .

What happens when we feel blocked?

The blockage has a multicausal origin : traumatic experiences, lack of self-esteem, anxiety, depression, lack of confidence or knowledge… All this leads to a lack of response to any situation, which in turn leads to more anxiety, frustration, and stress.

At the brain level, a University of Canada conducted a study showing how the hormones released in a stressful situation affect brain regions related to memory and spatial orientation , and influence the imbalance of neurotransmitters. This fact, at the same time, influences the moments when we feel that we are left blank and cannot remember significant ideas or objectives to pursue.

At the same time, the fact of feeling vulnerable and not knowing what to do leads to feeling more anxious, which in turn feeds the mental block, etc. A loop of indecision is created that is sometimes difficult to break.

How to get out of that jam

As for the proposals for improvements in these situations, most of them have to do with a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, rest and physical exercise . It is something so basic that it may sound like a joke, but there are several studies that give veracity to this simple recipe.

For example, one study of people with mental disorders points to the ability to physically reshape the brain structure by simply talking to themselves in a more positive way.

The words activate amygdalin cores. Scientists at Harward University have shown that when a person reduces their inner cacophony (or as my psychology professor called it, the mental centrifuge) and we find silence, migraines and coronary pain can be reduced by 80%.

On the other hand, people who carry out some kind of physical activity on a regular basis have lower levels of anxiety and stress . Several studies have shown how exercise increases the concentration of norepinephrine in the regions of the brain involved in the body’s response to stress. This has a direct effect on the frequency of episodes of mental blockage. Finally, according to scientific research on the subject, our immune system responds equally to lack of sleep and to exposure to stress.

Given that we live in a society where the rhythms of life dislocate us and mental disorders could become our daily bread, it seems unequivocal to say that part of the solution lies within ourselves, that it is a matter of attitude.

Dare to manage stress

First of all, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when we’re going through a mental block. It is very easy to fall into “I shouldn’t complain, there are people who are much worse off” and feel guilty and more frustrated for not being able to control that emotion .

There will always be people who are having a worse time, but there will also be people who are better off; we have every right to feel lost at certain moments in our lives. The important thing is not to fall into the “comfort” of becoming a passive subject, to wallow in our own discomfort and to take an attitude of laissez faire in which we do not try to get out of that bad patch.

Every option we come up with, however ridiculous it may seem, is a decision and therefore an opportunity. You have to try your luck, and bad luck, and repeat . The important thing is to participate, isn’t it? And to get out; to escape from the mental labyrinth in which we are sometimes trapped.

As Santiago Ramón y Cajal said, “every human being, if he puts his mind to it, can be a sculptor of his own brain”.