3 Shifts to Recharge Your Brain and Your Life.
by AIS Executive Director Dr. Heidi Hanna
In the movie Limitless, we see the ramifications of the brain supposedly optimized to its greatest potential. Bradley Cooper’s character, among others, explores the power of the human mind by amplifying energy production without need for restoration or rest. As a result, his body begins to age at a rapid pace, the wear and tear of constant processing and production taking a serious toll.
I can’t help but look around and see us doing the same things in our hyperconnected, overstimulated world. We have become addicted to stress, unable to unplug, and we panic more about our cell phone losing it’s charge during the day than we do about our lack of sleep over the past ten years.
Just like the characters in Limitless, we look for quick hits, simple solutions, and pills we can pop that will give us the edge we need to get through another day. If we stop for a moment to catch our breath, we fear we will never start back up again. Caffeine and sugar to get up in the morning, alcohol and sleeping pills to go back down at night.
We are in the midst of a serious Human Energy Crisis.
We clearly know the consequences of unmanaged stress, which is essentially the reaction that occurs when energy is greater than demand:
The American Institute of Stress estimates that 75–90% of all medical visits are stress related, the financial burden on US businesses is now reaching $600 billion, as our relationships with each other crumble and violence continues to escalate.
But instead of learning how to master stress with better energy management and strategies and mindfulness practices, we slap bandaids on it. In fact, my clients consistently say to me in our pre-conference meetings, “We need you to help our people get more done in less time.” The truth is we can do this if we slow down, but if we keep pushing harder and trying to hack the biology is that is designed to help us thrive, we’ll keep spreading ourselves too thin, wearing ourselves out way before our time.
3 Simple but Powerful Shifts to Master Stress
Step 1: Assess it. We need to get clear on what stress really is. We use the word as a catch-all for everything that’s wrong, as it just gets bigger and more unbearable. Stress is simply stimulus for change. It’s our internal GPS telling us something is off track. When we ignore it, refuse to take action on it, or convince ourselves it’s out of our control, the stress hormones designed to help us take action get stuck, breaking us down and burning us out. On the other hand, when we look into it, ask the important questions, and look for personal actions we can take to use it for good, stress becomes fuel for positive change.
Step 2: Appreciate it. Before rushing to release the tension caused by stress, it’s a good idea to appreciate the information and guidance it’s providing you. When you understand that our innate stress reactions are the brain’s way of trying to nudge us in a better direction, you can stop being so hard on yourself. Stop the judgment and self-blame that only keeps you stuck. Catch your breath, think about something or someone you feel grateful for, and instantly you calm the brain and body, releasing your best energy and attention to problem solve in new ways.
Step 3: Adjust it. Even when problems feel too big for us to take on, there is always something we can do to make a positive adjustment. Whether that be a shift in the challenge itself or a shift in our own perspective. When we get clear on what’s causing the stress and appreciate that it’s just information for us to use for good, we can stay curious about what it’s trying to teach us.
Ask questions like:
What’s the smallest action I could take right now that would have a positive impact?
What’s the lesson in this experience?
What good could come out of this?
What other resources do I have to help me in this situation (especially other people)?
How can I use this to strengthen my resilience?
When we use a curiosity mindset, something I’m writing about extensively right now in my new book, The Curiosity Effect, we can actually use stress as an energy source for good. Instead of trying to manage it with short-term fixes or hacking our system in ways that cause long-term damage, we become the masters of our own experiences, and the boss of our own brains.
My news books The Curiosity Effect: How Asking the Right Questions Can Make You Happy Healthy and Brilliant and Brain Boss: Master Stress and Live the Life You Choose will both be released in Fall, 2017.
For more information, visit www.heidihanna.com.