The breakfast of champions is “rise and shine.” The unspoken motto of losers is “rise and whine.” You have a choice, unless someone else in your head is controlling you. Being positive at the crack of dawn is simple but not easy.
Anyone can be positive at the crack of noon. You may wake up with pains, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one. Instead of complaining that it’s too early, too cold, too dark, not Friday, try to be less complaining about your circumstances, or at least neutral upon wakening.
Before your feet hit the floor, make a mental list of the things you are grateful for — more than one item. This list could include the fact that you woke up, that you weren’t homeless on a park bench, that you could see, hear, feel, and eventually rise.
If you do happen to get up on the wrong side of the bed, keep negativity to yourself. Negative attitudes are very contagious and people don’t like to catch them. When tempted to whine, just remember the Swiss proverb: “speech is silver; silence is golden.”
Dr. Karl Menninger, one of the most important figures in mental health, stated that “attitudes are more important than facts.” Perhaps that’s overstated, but attitude is the only thing in life you have complete control over. In fact, the only thing you can control about your past is your attitude about it.
So, if you want to help rather than hurt the people around you, choose to be positive.
Seasons change and so can you. And optimism is a more productive, intelligent way to think. So skeptics, fake it until you make it, — your positive attitude, that is. Optimism is linked to better health, relationships, and all aspects of job success. In today’s market, it’s good to remember that the “squeaky wheel” gets replaced.
By Dr. Ron Rubenzer- Fellow: American Institute of Stress.
Women and Stress at Work: Good Morning San Diego, April 3, 2018 - YouTube
AIS Executive Director Dr. Heidi Hanna appeared on Good Morning San Diego on April 3, 2018 to talk about women and stress at work.
A study found that 30% of women reported that their mental health struggles affect their ability to perform their job. Dr. Hanna says we always have to look at these studies carefully and she thinks that stress is under reported.
“30% is a lot, but those are people that are willing to say that it is impacting them. Even though we’ve gotten better about sharing mental illness and mental health concerns publicly with their colleagues, I think people still really hesitate because they’re afraid it’s going to be a sign of weakness. Especially women, because we already worry that we’re already being perceived as emotional and that is a negative thing. So we really don’t want to complain or bring everybody else down around us.”
Dr. Hanna says that women are neurologically wired to process stress differently. One of the analogies she likes to use is if a man and women are given a task, the man is more likely to take a direct beeline to getting the task done, finishing it and moving on to the next thing. The female brain processes a lot more holistically, thinking about other options and how they might affect other people. These are great skill sets to have in the workplace. Studies have also shown that companies with women in leadership, or a woman on the board, tend to be more profitable that companies that do not. Women are taking more time to make sure that it’s the right decision around the task and they’re thinking a little more about how it affects other people, as they listen to make sure everyone is contributing to the task at hand.
“Instead of trying to avoid the negative of it, lean into the strength of it. For example, we tend to be better listeners. Lean into relationships and really relying on each other for social support. There’s a brain chemical called oxytocin that is shown to decrease the negative impact of stress. So if you and I are going through something together and we feel connected and bonded, that will actually cause our brain to grow instead of atrophy because of that oxytocin. Women have more of that naturally.”
She says that this has an effect on work because we listen more thoroughly and we’re able to collaborate more effectively. She thinks it’s also important to realize when a task is just a task, but more often than not, a task is innovative and creative and collaborative, with people bringing different things to the table to make a group decision more effective.
For men that are wanting to help their spouse or partners alleviate stress, Dr. Hanna gives some ideas for support.
“The female brain wants to talk, and that’s okay. Being there and being supportive to listen and talk about the experience is actually one thing. Women can also use a little bit of help getting the nourishment that we need and taking downtime. Having other things that may even be distracting temporarily like going to a movie or that are nurturing for us like going to the spa or going for a walk or spending time with friends, those are all helpful. Of course, one of my favorites is embracing humor. Not laughing at problems, but studies have also shown there is something called an inner coping style that helps to minimize the effects of stress.”
Excerpted/modified from book HOW THE BEST HANDLE STRESS*
DR RONALD L. RUBENZER, EdD, MA, MPh, MSE.
Certified as School Psychologist 111, Principal, Gifted Education (Doctoral);
Licensed Psychological Associate, Health Services Provider.
The “Testing Triathlon”: Being Fact Smart; Test Smart; Stress Smart.
Top test performance requires developing three different types of smartness, tapping into different “brain-domains”: Students must be – Fact-Smart (leftbrain); Test-Smart (Left & Right-Brain) and Stress-Smart (Right-Brain). If one thinks of testing today as a Triathlon, success is assured. Test-Triathlon training could begin three months before the big event. Build skills with several short sessions weekly.
Of course, you use many parts of your brain when thinking, but different parts are used to varying degrees based on the task at hand. This is like the fact that you use much of your body just to drink a glass of water, but different parts of your body are more or less involved (eyes, hand, arm, shoulder, back muscles and hopefully your mouth).
TOP TEN TEST-TAKING TIPS (THREE MONTHS PRIOR TO TEST)
Left-brain training to become Fact-Smart:
1) Teach Positively: Students learn more when they like the teacher (William James-Harvard, 1899).
2) Teach memory mechanics. The basic rule is repetition, repetition, repetition.
3) Require students to develop their own flashcards and stack the deck with only the memorized facts.
4) Answer the core question, without being tripped up by “word traps” (irrelevant details) or generalizations (always, never, everywhere).
Both-brain training to become Test-Smart:
5) Be Clerically Correct: For the young, when in doubt, check their skills out (attention, handwriting, reading skills).
6) Provide “Test Rehearsals” (if approved). All great performances start with rehearsal.
Right-brain training to become Stress-Smart:
7) Test for Test-Anxiety. “Stress is sand in the machinery of thought.” All classes will have “test-anxious.” “Testanxious” or “math-anxious” underachieve on tests. As adults they avoid rewarding jobs requiring many tests or using complex math. “Computerphobics” short-circuit their own growth by just plain refusing to acquire 21st century skills. The “anxious” resist change.
8) Consume “Food for thought” just before the test session. Eat fruit, followed by a drink of water.
9) Relax: See your mental health professional on test-anxiety reduction tips. Use humor to relax. See a movie the night before the “big event.”
10) Learn from those who do Beston-tests. Test-Prep can boost test scores by 10%! (Scruggs & Mastropieri, Purdue University, 1992).
Dr. Rubenzer has tested well over 2,500 individual students from preschoolers through college age.
Columbia University (New York City) graduate Dr. Ron Rubenzer holds a doctorate and three masters degrees and has consulted in Switzerland, London and extensively in the US. He now does private testing in Greensboro NC, writes, does SAT prep and conducts workshops on “enjoying wellness while improving performance and quality of life at home, work and school.”
Call 1-704-907-0143 for book orders.
When we find ourselves slipping into survival mode, it can feel pretty chaotic. Consider what happens when you’ve gone too long without eating, haven’t had a good night sleep in a while, or haven’t seen the sun in days – you might not feel quite like yourself. This is when I like to remind myself that my “monkey brain” has taken over. The first reason it’s helpful for me personally, is I happen to be a huge monkey fan, so I instantly get big smile on my face. Monkeys always seem to be in a pretty good mood, and are usually playing around, acting silly. So the initial reaction to thinking about something called our “monkey brain” just makes me laugh (and we’ll talk about how important laughter is to staying healthy in an upcoming chapter). But there is another reason to consider how the monkey brain responds differently than other parts of our brain, and when it can be detrimental to us.
Our brain can be separated into three sections – our lizard brain, our monkey brain, and our human brain. The “lizard brain” is found at the base of the brain, and contains the cerebellum and brain stem. Lizards only have these elements of the brain, which controls our most basic instincts. The next part of the brain, the “monkey brain” includes the majority of our tissue, and controls more complex tasks as well as emotions. Most mammals lead with their “monkey brain”, which is fueled by our most basic responses to fear and desire.
The most advanced part of the brain is the “human brain”, which consists of the outer layer, surrounding the “monkey brain”. This area allows for logical, emotionless thought, as well as delayed gratification. It is by using our “human brain” that we are able to think through our responses, rather than just reacting. But, when we are faced with threats to our system, we don’t have time to stop and analyze what’s going on. During these times we are glad to have our “lizard” and “monkey” brains to get us to safety, through our fight or flight response.
Because we have so many things going on at one time, when we multitask we can easily find ourselves using our “monkey brain”, making mindless decisions that may end up causing serious problems with important tasks, or even worse, with important relationships. Next time you find yourself trying to do a million things at once and getting irritable or grumpy with someone you care about, remind yourself that you’re using your “monkey brain”, and work on acting more like a human. (Although I’d caution against calling anyone else a monkey when they’re acting up, it might be a good code word for times when you feel like the other person isn’t giving you their full attention.)
Quick tips to tame your monkey mind:
1. Eliminate the noise. Turn away from your computer, turn off your phone (airplane mode works on the ground), and create an environment that is calming.
2. Breathe. Bring awareness to your breath often throughout the day, and make sure that you’re getting what you need. A short, shallow breath rate triggers the stress response which results in “amygdala hijack” – monkey madness. Studies show a breathing pace of 6 breaths per minute (in to a count of 5, and out to a count of 5) is ideal for brainpower.
3. Get out of the cage. Aim for physical activity at least every 90 minutes in order to keep circulation flowing and cortisol levels in balance.
Do You Sometimes Suffer From “OTD?” I sure do and so do most of my clients—those bright, accomplished professionals, executives, and leaders who look like they have it all together. Even the most focused and grounded high achievers get sucked into today’s perfect storm of unremitting urgency and unhealthy expectations. Their sharp, but overworked, minds wind up circling in self-doubt or stuck on the simplest decisions… the result OTD: Over Thinking Disorder*.
You know the feeling. You’re tired, overwhelmed, or emotionally triggered or spent, and your inner critic just takes over the mic in your head to repeat old stories, rework past choices, or replay, “the problem with that” track until you’d like to pull the plug on thinking. Try as you may, you are unable to calm your mind. Unfortunately, attempting to go to sleep might not even pull that plug. (3 am OTD is the worst—too tired to think straight, too stuck in overdrive to sleep!)
These thought tracks tend to play off a common theme: somehow you are “not enough” or don’t have enough to deal with the challenge or decision in front of you. The shame trigger is pulled, and you feel powerless to come to any “aha!” or simply take back control of your own thoughts and calm your mind. F.R.U.S.T.R.A.T.I.N.G.!!! And it’s not like you are dumb—you know there’s a better way to use your precious brainpower, especially if your brain is supposed to be sleeping, relaxing, or playing!
As a coach, I hear a lot of thought circles before my clients drop down into their wisdom and find the clarity they need. It’s helpful to look at why you are stuck by asking yourself some questions.
Are my brakes working?
The number one reason I see my clients (ok… or myself!) fall into is OTD is a brain with a “brake” problem. Your frontal lobe (the executive center of your brain) is supposed to apply the brakes to non-productive, worrisome thinking. But when it is tired, hungry, thirsty, lonely, or sad, it just doesn’t do that well. You’ve seen your children melt down when they are hungry or tired. You have that same brain, and while it has learned some self-control, it is still not capable of full mental and emotional regulation unless it has fuel and rest.
HALT(T) check in: Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, or Thirsty. (I added thirsty to the AA acronym because even minimal dehydration reduces cognitive function and mood regulation.) Before you can calm your mind, explore these basic needs and do a full-body scan to see what you need to attend to first.
Have I been hijacked?
This is also frontal lobe fail, but for a different reason. Whenever your brilliant brain senses danger, it sends the frontal lobe “off-line” to deal with the “threat.” (It actually directs the blood from your frontal lobe to your legs so you can run. Less blood = less effective.)
Safety is your brain’s first job, one that trumps all other functions, like keeping your perspective or constructive thought. This hijacking can occur whenever your stress load adds up in volume (the proverbial “death by a 1000 paper cuts”), or you are dealing with a “biggie”.
Breathe!!! Take few long slow deep breaths, lingering on the exhale, and ask yourself, “What is my current stress level?” Keep breathing slowly and see if you can lower your body’s stress response. This will help ramp up your brainpower to deal. (Want some breathwork guidance?)
Everyone has his/her own emotional quicksand areas. In hindsight, you probably know some of yours. These are places where you’ve stepped, been pulled, or pushed that triggered strong emotional reactions, despite your best efforts to be “rational.”
But in the moment, or when you are worn down – physically, emotionally, or mentally – that self-awareness (another frontal lobe function) is MIA. So this frontal lobe fail often occurs subconsciously—you are on edge about something else and it affects your ability to think clearly about what’s in front of you. Your emotions have a far stronger hook on your mind than a cognitive challenge. And you can’t just “stuff” emotions. I cannot tell you how often in coaching conversations, when we drill down under the surface of “stuck”, we find an emotional trigger has been fired. So how do you climb out?
Breathe! Again?…yes…. This powers up your brain!
Notice how emotionally charged you feel. Put a hand down on your heart or gut and breathe deeply again.
Ask, “What is being tapped deep down under my swirling head?” Are you feeling vulnerable, betrayed, scared, or angry? Why? Is it an old pattern, not necessarily needed here? Honor the feeling with a little self-compassion, and then get strong.
Decide how you would like to be in this situation. Is there another conversation you need to have with someone or yourself? This is taking back control.
OTD, like many automatic patterns, is a great metric, asking you to check in and see how you are really doing. What do you need? How can you more proactively get it? So next time you really need to calm your mind, HALT(T), breathe, and get curious, and never, ever hesitate to seek some support! It is so much easier to get clear in conversation with someone else!
If you would like help conquering your OTD and lowering your stress … please call or email me today!
*Totally made that up and hope it means nothing bad to anyone! I get so tired of hearing people spew acronyms, I thought I’d take the offensive and create my own! And my apologies to Doctors of Occupational Therapy, the offices of technology development, and those of you going Out The Door!
Like other stress-related concerns and conditions, the point where technology becomes more foe than friend is different for each of us. Using energy resource theory, “stress is what occurs when demand exceeds capacity”. Our constant connection to information, stimulation, and validation can quickly shift us into overwhelm and trigger anxiety of not having or being enough. While some people feel on-edge from the noise of tech and knowing demands on our time and resources constantly increase with each incoming email, others fail to notice any signs or symptoms of tech addiction until they’re asked to put it away, or when it’s taken away from them, such as in a loss of connectivity in an emergency situation or network dysfunction.
Not long ago, I recall an elevator exchange with a conference attendee who was disgruntled by the fact she couldn’t continue to text in route to her hotel room. “We can put a man on the moon but we can’t create a cell signal that doesn’t drop in the elevator?Sheesh…” she shrugged. Sometimes it seems the more we accomplish the more pathetic we see our inability to be perfect. Perhaps this has something to do with the rising rates of anxiety, depression and other stress-related conditions despite the extraordinary advancement and luxuries in life. So, just how much tech can we tolerate before it turns pressure into pain? According to one survey by Harris Interactive, the magic number for most people is about 50 emails a day.
Once our inbox exceeds that count, most feel like they can’t keep up. Ironically, if you asked people how they’d feel if they got less than the average number of emails a day (or the amount they perceive other important people get), they’d start to experience depression due to feeling less than. It seems we need enough connection to feel stimulated and validated but not so much that we feel stressed out. Or perhaps since stressed out is the norm these days, feeling calm and in control would feel wrong. Research has clearly shown that multitasking
has serious negative effects on productivity and performance, and can even compromise long-term health and happiness. When we wake up in the morning feeling like we don’t have enough time to get it all done, the brain shifts to a state of chronic stress that hijacks our energy and attention. Add a steady stream of incoming emails, texts, phone calls, and a 24/7 news cycle and you have a recipe for attentional disaster, or deficit disorder. Understanding that tech isn’t going away or slowing down anytime soon, how can we maximize its benefit while minimizing the impact on our stress load?
1. Prioritize downtime. We need to recharge our brains and bodies with as much effort and attention as we give to our cellular devices. For every hour, plan 3 – 5 minutes to relax and focus on nourishing positivity with simple techniques like gratitude, calm breathing, and music.
2. Minimize multitasking. When we need to focus on the task at hand, turn tech off. Completely off. Remember that hands-free is not brain-free; studies show that the risk of a crash is 4x higher when on a phone call whether you’re holding a phone or not (National Safety Council, 2014). Set aside specific times during the day to check email or do other online tasks and avoid slipping into surfing in between. Fight the temptation to get more done in less time by doing multiple tasks at once, and instead focus on being fully engaged in what matters most in each moment.
3. Engage in email etiquette. Drop the need to cc more than necessary, and be considerate about sending communications after hours. When it’s important, make a call or when possible meet face to face.
4. Reduce the rush. Set realistic expectations for yourself and others regarding response time. Create more space in your calendar by committing to 50-minute or 25-minute meetings, with buffer time for breaks in between.5. Run mindful meetings. Spend time up front getting clear on the agenda and desired outcome so that participants can stay focused on the task at hand. Only invite people to the meeting who need to contribute,and hold firm to the scheduled time frame. Whenever possible,end meetings early to allow people to recharge their energy, reflect on the conversation, and take action on key takeaways.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Heidi Hanna is a health and performance consultant, NY Times bestselling author, and global speaker on topics related to stress, brain health, and personal and organizational energy management.
In beautiful irony, trying to define stress can be quite stressful. After all, even the godfather of stress himself Hans Selye pointed out that “in addition to being itself, stress is also the cause of itself and the result of itself”. In the story of his life, Selye frequently states that “everyone knows what stress is but nobody really knows.” So if we can’t define it, how will we ever measure it or manage it?
Here in lies the stress predicament. Most people feel stress all the time, and unable to determine the root cause sweep the sensation under the rug like a hot mess. Or pass it along to someone else like a hot potato. Which reminds me of a favorite stress-shift strategy I learned from my dear friend Srini Pillay, author of the new book Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Harness the Power of the Unfocused Mind. His suggestion when all else fails — drop it like it’s hot. Just don’t allow yourself to go there. Which works, for a while. But what about when the mess gets too messy or we’re unable to pass it along or just drop it off?
While we may not yet agree on a standard definition of stress, experts do agree that stress can manifest in three basic ways — tame, tolerable or toxic. Tame stress is the type we don’t even notice. Like getting out of bed in the morning. OK, somedays it feels toxic, but for most people on most days getting up in the morning is just something we do without much thought. But to the brain and body, it’s an effort that requires a series of adjustments and adaptations. Bruce McEwen calls this allostasis — the active process of putting out hormones and mediators that help us adapt to maintain homeostasis, or balance.
Then there is stress that’s noticeable, perhaps uncomfortable, but tolerable. Usually we don’t have full control over what’s happening, but we have the resources needed to adjust with minimal effort. A minor change in reporting structure at work, moving into a new home, even taking a vacation. Whether the input is negative or positive, change requires some adjustment and if we have the resources we need and an element of control over our circumstances we can even grow from what initially feels like a disappointment or downer.
But toxic stress is no joke. And oddly enough, even things that seem to be positive can cause toxic stress if we’re not feeling up to make the effort required. If we’re not eating well, exercising too little or not enough, not able to get adequate sleep or take enough breaks during the day, our system gets fatigued and even small irritations can feel like torture. When seemingly small stressors like not having enough time to get it all done turn into an everyday routine of racing against the clock, our ability to adapt is compromised and we start to break down and burn out.
So how do you know when pressure is starting to turn into pain?
Most people aren’t aware of the damage being done by chronic, toxic stress until something serious happens, but the signs are usually there long before. It’s important to get to know your unique relationship with stress to determine how it manifests in your life. Common signs include headaches, brain fog, fatigue, restlessness, irritability, appetite changes, worry or depression. When we ignore our body’s cues of overload to push through another day, it’s like borrowing money with a high interest rate. You can keep going, but at some point you will need to pay the piper.
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