Love Your Brain – Part 4: Reframe
After NOURISH, MOVE, and REST, let’s continue the Love Your Brain series dedicated to Mental Awareness Month by looking at how you can thrive in your daily life and in your business thanks to a healthy and vibrant brain (and body) despite modern society’s “offenders”.
Modern life has restructured our priorities. Our work week has become longer, we juggle work, life, and even school while staying home with family. Busyness and pressure have become the norm, searching for ways to get even more done in even less time. We’re working more but getting less done, we have more stress and less satisfaction, and burnout is truly becoming a serious (and growing) epidemic, with billions of dollars spent on burnout-related health care costs by companies.
And what about time for ourselves, time to eat, to sleep, to exercise? These to-dos are usually last on our list, and they’re often done in conjunction with meetings or taking care of the kids, leaving us so exhausted at the end of the day that we can’t even sleep well in the night. And the next morning we start all over again.
Stress, anxiety, and burnout
I’m sure many of you experience or experienced stress – maybe often, maybe sometimes. It’s something that we as human beings are familiar with, especially in today’s hectic world, from difficult family issues to a challenging workplace, to financial problems. If you own your business, stress is inevitable and it can prevent you from working efficiently, even if you love what you do.
I’ve been there and I struggled with it a lot in the past. But what I have learned is: Know how stress works, identify those triggers or stressors, recognize the symptoms in your body, and reframe your response. The more you know about yourself, the better you will deal with those situations, and you will build resilience.
Stress is our body’s natural and necessary physical reaction to changes in the environment or when demand exceeds capacity. Basically, our brain decides that a response to a certain threat or danger is required for our protection, and this can be a good thing if it happens once in a while.
When you experience a “fight or flight” response activated by the sympathetic branch of our autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamus – which controls many processes in the brain – activates the pituitary gland, and this tells our adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. After the threat is over, the levels of your stress hormones are supposed to go back to normal, and we switch to the parasympathetic state in order to bring our body back to balance.
However, when we experience stress for long periods of time and this reaction becomes chronic (which is very common nowadays), the constant release of cortisol and adrenaline can lead to negative effects on our health. We end up “stuck” in our sympathetic state for too long, weakening our immune system, impacting our digestive and cardiovascular systems, and promoting or worsening mood disorders.
Not only that, but elevated cortisol levels in our brain can eventually impair and promote degeneration of our brain cells, shrinkage of the brain, and ultimately cause dementia. This sounds very scary to me!
One way to conquer stress is by addressing what’s causing it, and what type of pressure you experience. This is why I help my clients start to identify whether they’re suffering from stress, anxiety, or burnout. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re quite different.
STRESS – Stress is usually caused by an external trigger in the environment around us. We usually point the finger at occupational or psychological stress (taking too much on our plate in life and at work or dealing with difficult relationships), but our body and brain can be impacted by other environmental triggers. On top of a very demanding and busy life, you might be struggling with nutritional deficiencies, or heavy metal toxicity, for instance, contributing to your stress.
Not all stress is bad – eustress, which is great to motivate you to move into action, can actually be beneficial and help with problem-solving. But too much of it becomes distress, and it can harm our health.
It’s important to understand and identify all those different factors before they negatively affect your mental and physical health. Stress will always be there, but it’s about knowing the cause and the way you reframe your response that can make a huge difference.
ANXIETY – Anxiety or worry is an internal trigger, caused by our negative thoughts. When anxiety kicks in, we experience fear of not being able to do something or being worth it or not being good enough, worrying about the future, being frustrated for losing clients, being unhappy about our performance at work, having low self-esteem. Very often, we are afraid of something happening in the future – we basically worry about something that hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it never will.
There’s a beautiful quote by Eckhart Tolle that says, “Worry means the mind is controlling you. Worry is always pointless. A solution never comes out of worry.”
You have to stop those harmful beliefs and negative self-talk, and start focusing on positivity instead. What if you could tap into your amazing talent, skills, and creativity to attract success, money, more happiness? What if you could remove unneeded things in your life and get more downtime to rest and reset? (Hint: say “no” more often).
Shifting from negative to positive is a great way to accept your current state, retrain your mind, create new pathways, and lower your anxiety levels. Empower yourself by identifying the skills, knowledge, and strategies you need, and use your strengths and self-awareness to boost confidence and to handle your big challenges. Think about your positive resources, tap into your community (family, friends, colleagues) to get the support you need and find relief. Practice meditation and mindfulness to achieve more control of your thoughts. You will see the benefits almost immediately: stress will become more manageable.
BURNOUT – Burnout happens when stress has become chronic in your daily life and hasn’t been addressed or managed. It’s usually work-related, and it can be exacerbated by poor confidence, lack of support, mismatch with your core values. It presents similar symptoms to stress and anxiety, but it can be the most difficult to fix. I talked about burnout in this blog post.
Digital distractions (and multitasking)
One cause of stress comes from our digital world. We have become victims of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) between social media notifications, emails, and information overload. We get caught in the endless (and mindless) routine that feeds our instant gratification but leaves no space for our creativity. We think we’re more connected than ever thanks to technology, however research studies have confirmed that we feel more lonely than ever, and we get distracted more than ever.
Not only that, but we’re more stressed and depressed than ever. That same technology provides amazing tools to improve our productivity, but it seems that we’re not achieving better results. We are distracted and we don’t focus on what’s important. We multitask and we produce mediocre results because our brain can’t simply concentrate on multiple projects at the same time.
We can blame part of this on dopamine that controls the pleasure system of our brain. Every time we “surf” the internet or engage on social media, dopamine gets activated and “rewards” us for the activity of seeking and discovering, making us curious, that encourages us to keep doing it.
The solution? You have to take control and set limits. You have to stop the mindless activity and instead focus on your precious time. Use your talents and skills, use technology to your advantage – don’t let it run you!
This is where time blocking can be highly effective. When you write down EVERYTHING (yes, this includes your morning routine, your time with family, and your workout) on your calendar and you stick to it, you can be more in control of your life. That doesn’t mean you have to live in your bubble and reject the outside world. Of course, you can still engage on social media and be connected, but there’s a time for everything. Have you ever found yourself trying to work on different projects at the same time at the end of the day because you wasted hours checking social media feeds? Multitasking at its worst! I shared my thoughts about multitasking in this article.
When you can create a balance between using your awesomeness to create and following / admiring the awesomeness of others, that’s when the magic happens!
Being more present, aware, and mindful about everything you do helps you bring better results in your life and in your business. This means being present in what you do, how you think, when you eat, when you spend time with friends, and you utilize your unique talents to shine. I get it, it’s not easy to change, but you can do it – one step at a time. It’s all about replacing old habits with one positive habit at a time, and you will see great results.
Can you free yourself from stress forever? Probably not, but you can certainly increase awareness, know how to react in a more mindful way, and be more in control with techniques and strategies, some of which include:
- Socializing (we as human beings crave social connections!)
- Carving out time for hobbies
- Journaling (such a powerful anxiety-reducing activity!)
If you feel you need help controlling your stress and anxiety in your busy life, you can check out my Beat The Stress coaching program and No More Stress guide: these two powerful tools will help you overcome difficult situations and get control of your life again.
Need help with your daily life? Have a hard time changing your habits? Maybe you need to be more in control of your life! Schedule your FREE Clarity Call with me to see if I’m a good fit for your bright future!
As a Holistic Precision Life Coach and creator of the Life-Work Balance System, I empower ambitious professionals and high achievers like you to optimize themselves and unlock their full potential, fostering enhanced well-being and productivity in their lives and careers. I combine innovative methodologies (epigenetics, neuroscience, chronobiology, and positive psychology) to facilitate profound lifestyle transformations.