Did You Know We Don’t Make Great Choices When Stressed?
Our IQ Can Drop Up To 40 Points
Do you ever have those moments when you ask yourself “what was I thinking”? Well, chances are, you weren’t thinking clearly. In fact, did you ask yourself “how could I be so stupid?” That’s what happens when we’re stressed. The chemicals associated with stress literally take us from being a rationale human being to one we oftentimes don’t recognize; and, neither do those around us.
Before we move on, please don’t have your employers and family members calling me to tell me they did it because they were stressed. While that is the case, there is personal responsibility for everything we say, do and feel. As we learn the how & why’s this is happening, we’re also going to discover how to self-regulate ourselves into the loving, productive and compassionate member of society we all know is at the core of our BE’ing.
To begin, let’s learn about some basic aspects of the body, mind and brain. Our mind is made up of two parts: 1) the conscious mind and 2) the sub-conscious mind. The conscious mind is the part of your mind that just decided between the chicken parmesan and the chicken milanese at your favorite italian restaurant. Your sub-conscious mind is the part of you that got you to the restaurant because you’ve eaten there a 1,000 times you don’t even need to pay attention to your drive or subway ride. We spend most of our waking hours in our sub-conscious mind as it’s the part of us that decides how we experience the world based on learned behavior.
When we’re stressed, we’re in a part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) called the Sympathetic System. It’s designed to be used only for emergencies only and communicates a message with our brain to say we’re in a life threatening situation (real or imaginary). Today, it’s become the dominant system instead of the Parasympathetic System (our rest and digest system). Since many of us are rarely in a “real” life threatening situation, it’s our “imagined” thoughts & emotions driving us into that Sympathetic System. I say “imagined” because it’s our sub-conscious mind’s programming to these thoughts and emotions that’s role playing the present moment.
At this point, a cascade of biochemical, biomechanical and physiological events begins to happen. To keep it simple, a signal goes to our pituitary gland which sends a signal to the adrenal glands for fight or flight. Chemicals are released in the body to fight, flee or freeze in response to the threat. Our heart rates goes up, our digestion slows, blood is directed away from internal organs towards muscles and bones. Being stressed also changes how your brain receives blood and which areas of the brain are activated vs. de-activated.
Now, here comes the point where our IQ drops in response to the “perceived” threat. Our forebrain is responsible for things involved in executive functioning which include logic, strategy, planning, problem-solving, etc. Our hind brain is our sub-conscious mind and is what’s operating in the Sympathetic state. You see, when in real danger, we need to act quickly. Our conscious mind is not able to do this so it’s de-activated so we’re not actually trying to use the skills associated with the logical part of our mind. Hence, our IQ drops in response to stress.
Breathe . . . Perceive . . . Receive
Here is the CURE……”Control Your Breathing”, is one of the few aspects of “autonomic” nervous system that we can control. Slow down the pace of your inhale, slow down your exhale and make it slightlylonger than your inhale. Try it now, 3 times please, PERFECT. Mindful conscious breathing strategies calm the monkey mind, regulate emotional responses to these thoughts and provide the opportunity to shift patterns of behavior embedded in our sub-conscious. Not only can we shift the ‘perceived’ dis-stress in our lives, we can improve our health by living more in the Parasympathetic system. When the body is not compensating for the mind’s imaginary threats, all systems are operating in a state of balance.
In today’s age of daily stress levels of life being at a all time high, we all need to calm down with slowing our breathing rates down. Practice it now. Lets all come to each moment with a calm centered focus before we respond. Withdraw our mind from all external stimulation that doesnt need to be in this moment and relax. Over time we discover the peace in our heart, we use our thoughts wisely, and there is joy in mind, we can laugh and smile again.
Most of the chronic illness seen today is the result of the overuse of a system that was designed for emergencies only; the Stress Response. In addition, we’re seeing the lack of concentration, productivity and organizational performance operating from our hind brain instead of our forebrain throughout our day.
Implenting mindful breathing practices provide the platform for neuroplasticity as well as improved overall health and well-being. No matter whether you’re at work, at play, exercising, or preparing for a great nights’ sleep, there are breathing strategies we can implement throughout our day to raise energy levels, calm ourselves, take “brain breaks”, implement during exercise, to build resilience or to improve both internal and external communication.
Discover YOUR “life with breath.”
Go BE Great!