The Simple Cure to Fatigue and Burnout

from the Huffington Post ~ posted:

Believing we have drained our brain is what drains our brain.

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Can we sustain a high level of energy, regardless of circumstances? The answer is yes.

Most people think that the exhaustion they feel at day’s end is caused by a hard day at work. Yet, if we look at it closely, for most of us the only physically taxing thing we probably did at work that day was walk in and out of the building from the parking lot and type on our keyboards. The rest of our exertion was primarily mental.

Is it possible that the two-pound wonder called the brain is able to expend most of our physical energy simply through thinking?

The answer is no. Sitting at your desk performing cognitive functions doesn’t take much energy. Our brain only needs 12 watts of energy to operate smoothly, which is one-fifth the energy it takes to light up your desk lamp. On top of that, the brain burns only 11 calories an hour, which is the equivalent of one minute of modest exertion on an exercise bike. Clearly, this is not enough to cause exhaustion.

Is it the difficulty of a mental task or the amount of time we concentrate on the task that leaves us exhausted?

Again, the answer is no. Mental fatigue is really not about the task. For example, millions of neurons connecting through a multitude of neural circuits are active when we follow a movie with a plot as complex as The Matrix, or read a book as intricate as War and Peace, or pondering our opponents next move in a chess or card game while planning our own. Yet we can focus on these complex activities for two hours straight and at the end feel stimulated by it.

So what exactly is causing the fatigue that can lead to burnout?

2015-11-10-1447199836-4022960-AmazonLookInsideSmall.jpg It’s our mental attitude. Research has found that if you believe a task is going to be difficult, it will be. If you expect a meeting to drain your energy, it will. If the fear of failure overwhelms you, it’s likely to result in bad decisions that lead to failure. In short, we get what we expect to get. A chronically anxious, negative attitude repeatedly activates the stress response system. Stress hormones flood your system with adrenaline and cortisol, elevating heart rate, raising blood pressure, and debilitating the higher order brain function that generates the savvy, creative insight and optimism that solves problems. You’re more prone to emotional upsets, memory lapses, and mistakes. We human being generate all sorts of stress reactions purely in our heads, exciting wild emotions that send the mind and body into an uproar and leave us physically exhausted. More often than not, the driving force behind it isn’t our job or the task or even our boss. It is our attitude towards  people, tasks, and events.

Type A personalities, for example, are the highly competitive workaholics who tend to be overly-reactive and aggressive. Type-A’s face a much greater risk of cardiac death than the more peaceful Type-B’s. But it’s not hard work, a difficult challenge, or even long hours to blame for Type-A’s heart problems. It’s the stress from the hostile struggle their aggressive attitude generates.

Attitude is everything, even in those moments when you feel stressed and anxious. Shifting your perspective when you are afraid of failing to feeling excited in the challenge can make you less likely to burn out in a demanding job. A study in Germany found that professionals who were skilled at shifting their anxiety in this way were less likely to be  frustrated or drained by their work. In another study, students who viewed their stress as excitement reported less emotional exhaustion, did better on exams, and earned higher grades. A positive mindset provides an immunity to emotional exhaustion and predicts greater success with all our goals. A positive shift in attitude, when sustained over a few weeks, can literally rewire our brains for the Good Life.
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The technical term for the way a change of mindset rewires our brain for greater success is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity has huge implications for business. Results of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people (APA 2005) have found that every key business outcome improves when people are emotionally positive.

  • People are 31% more productive, three times more creative, and a positive mindset increases sales by 37% (Lyubomirsky, 2005).
  • We are ten times more engaged with work (Achor, 2012), and prosocial in ways that achieve superior customer service (George, 1991), and facilitate teamwork that is highly collaborative. (Barsade, 2002).
  • In addition, a positive mindset fosters supportive relationships, which in turn predicts a longer and healthier life (Danner,2001), and lowers health care costs for companies (APA,2002).

The brain scans on the right show the difference in brain function when we’re positive and well-adjusted compared to when we’re stressed and depressed. Multiply the difference by 1000 and you have the loss in brain power in a company doing nothing to alleviate stress.

jumper-cables-resizedA Kit to Jump Start Your Mindset

It takes a specific practice to change our mindset. But if you build a practice and every day apply the simple steps are proven to change our attitude, with 4 to 6 weeks your brain’s emotional set point will reset to positive. My book The End of Stress helps you build the practice.  In the mean, click here for a starter kit that helps move in this direction.

 

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Generation Stress

from Don Joseph Goewey’s article in the Huffington Post

Millennials, who came of age after 1999, and Generation X, born between the early 1960’s and early 1980’s, are now being dubbed Generation Stress. That’s because the American Psychological Association’s research on stress has found Millennials to be the most stressed demographic in America, with Generation X coming in a close second.

Wired-For-STRESS-2 copyBoth generations report nearly twice the level of stress that’s considered safe from serious health risk. They’re having problems with anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression, and it’s affecting their children. Research has found that today’s kids are stressed, now more than ever, and it’s because of how stressed their parents have become. Yet 83 percent of us are doing little or nothing about it.

BUT DON’T STRESS. If stress is a problem in your life, it because genetics and past traumas wired you for it. You can rewire those faulty circuits with simple, proven approaches. Your experience of life can change dramatically without circumstances necessarily changing. Experiencing a higher quality of life is simpler than you might imagine and change can happen fast, as happier, healthier, and more successful outcomes build one on the other to achieve the Good Life.

Below is a starter kit to get you moving in the right direction. These 3 stress busting tools are part of the more extensive program in my new book, The End of Stress, Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain.

Look Inside

The tools are all quite simple. This is because simple approaches are what work best in resolving stress. The tools in my book are also neuroplastic, meaning they rewire the brain to change a stress-provoking auto-pilot  that causes you to fixate on a problem … to a calmer auto-pilot accessing the clarity of higher order brain networks to create solutions.

The first step is a simple practice that goes a long way to frame a great day, instead allowing a stressful beginning to take over. It’s called Starting the Day in Quiet. This tool is an antidote to the frenetic, over-caffeinated early morning rush out the door that heads straight into a traffic jam. This tool encourages you to set aside a few minutes first thing in the morning to consciously frame a dynamically positive, peaceful, and creative mindset to meet the day’s challenges. Doing this can make a big difference in how the day goes.  Here’s how it works.

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  • Start your day by rising 10 minutes earlier, ahead of the morning rush.
  • Sit quietly in a place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Close your eyes, tilt your head toward your heart, and follow your breathing. The idea is to feel each breath opening your heart and mind wider, empowering heart and mind to work in concert.
  • Feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life. It’s not guaranteed. Feel gratitude for another day with the people you love. Gratitude is a powerful psychological state. It is the gateway to positive emotions.
  • Set your intention to have a great day, filled with achievements. Equally, commit to a great state of mind to face the day’s ups and down with a dynamically positive, peaceful, and creative attitude.

The next step is to practice using a tool during the day that busts stressful, anxious, angry, or depressing thoughts and emotions that ruin your attitude. The brain offers you 90 seconds to bust these reaction before dumping a load of toxic stress hormones in your system that can overwhelm you with anxiety. This tool is called the Clear Button. It gets you through the 90-second window in time. Here’s how it works. You imagine a button at the center of your palm.

Clear Button for DJG

You press the button and keep pressing it as you count to 3, thinking of each number as a color.

  • Breathe in, count 1, and on the exhale think red.
  • Breathe in, count 2, and on the exhale think blue.
  • Breathe in, count 3, and on the exhale think green.
  • On the next breath, let your mind go completely blank for 10 seconds.
  • Next, refocus on the problem at hand, recommitting yourself to being calm, creative, and optimistic as you face this and other stressors that arise during the day.
  • If the problem you face seems beyond your control, recite the Serenity Prayer: Give me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.

The calm this tool facilitates can shift control from the amygdala, the brain’s fear center, where all you see are problems, to higher order brain function in the prefrontal cortex where you are able to create solutions.

The third step in this “starter kit” provides a way to close out the day. It’s called Finish
Each Day and Be Done With It.

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This helps you let go of the day’s problems, so you don’t take them home.  Moreover, it allows you to let the day go so you can begin tomorrow serenely, with too high a spirit and purpose to be encumbered by the past. This piece of wisdom comes from a letter written by the great American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, to his daughter who was stressed over a mistake she’d made. This is what it says:

Finish each day and be done with it.

You have done what you could. Some blunders, losses, and the old nonsense no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day.  It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.

I invite you to cut-and-paste the statement and post it where you’ll see it at the close of your work day.

The more you learn to apply tools that bust stress reactions, the more your brain will strengthen synapses that quiet stress and anxiety the moment it raises its ugly hand. Before you know it, you’re functioning at the top of your game, and at the end of the day you’re the person coming through the door that your loved ones were hoping to see.

images: canstockphoto.com

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Far from the holiday crowd, better known as peace

The holidays, especially the crowds, can be stressful to the point of making us miserable.  Peace is Picasso's Dove Pinterestsupposed to be the reason for season, and yet it’s the polar opposite experience for many.

You can change all that simply by making peace your primary intention this holiday season. It’s easier than you might imagine.

Think back to the last time you were at peace and how it made everything easier. Stress and anxiety are what make life hard. Peace is the one true quality that makes effort feel effortless. And science tells us that a dynamically peaceful mindset makes our higher brain work better, making us calmer, smarter, more creative and optimistic as we face stressors.

What better gift to give yourself this season; and you’ll be giving it to others. Peace, by its very nature, is contagious. Your peaceful vibration extends the gift of peace to everyone around you. Just ask anyone lucky enough to have sat at the feet of the Dalia Lama or Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela.

Starting the Day in Peace

The first step in this direction involves waking up ahead of the morning rush and starting each day in peace. Set the day in motion by making peace your primary goal.  Here’s how:

  • Sit comfortably in a place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Tilt your head toward your heart and focus on your breathing.
  • Breathe slowly and evenly, allowing the next breath to wake-up your brain, the breath after that to open your mind, and the breath after that to arouse your heart.
  • Take a moment to feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life, and for another day to share it with the people you love.
  • Reflect for a moment on how you want to feel today.
  • Reflect on the state of mind you want to sustain throughout the day.
  • Reflect on how you want to be with other people.
  • Science has established that belief creates the actual fact. It’s called the “power of expectancy“. So, believe today will be as you imagined.
  • Set your intention to have a great day, accomplishing tasks with the effortless effort that an attitude of peace generates.

Studies show that people who start the day with good intention experience more positive emotions during the day, exhibit more interest in their work, are more likely to feel connected and supportive toward others, and are also more likely to sleep better that night.  Quite a reward for a five-minute investment.

Letting Go of Fear

Fear is the opposite of peace; that’s obvious. Thus, another step in preserving inner peace involves actively letting go of fear by not believing the stories fearful thoughts spin.  Start by adopting this motto:

If fear is talking, for the love of God, stop listening.

When we don’t believe a fearful thought, it doesn’t turn into stress or anger or depression.

Transcending the Holiday Crowds

Be prepared for crowded streets and stores. If you let it, the holiday crowd will stress you and wear you down, and it can even lead to a panic attack.  There are practical as well as spiritual things we can do to keep our commitment to being at peace, even in a crowded mall.

Being Practical

On the practical side, we can plan shopping treks carefully by avoiding weekends. Stores are crowded most on Saturdays and Sundays, so if you can, take a vacation day or two to shop a week-day. Especially avoid the three worst shopping days, which are:

  • The worst: Friday, November 27 (the day after Thanksgiving)
  • The second worst: Saturday, December 19
  • The third worst: Saturday, December 26

Being Spiritual

On the spiritual side, if crowds frighten you, protect yourself with the power of love by taking a friend with you when you go shopping. Friends are powerful stress busters, simply because they help us feel safe.

Mindfulness

If you are in a crowd and becoming stressed, you can quickly collapse the stress-provoking thinking that’s about to erupt into a reaction by using the Clear Button.  Here’s how:Clear Button for DJG

  • Imagine there is a button at the center of your palm that, when pressed, sends a signal to your brain to stop fearful, worried, judgmental, or pessimistic thinking.
  • Press the imaginary button with your index finger of your opposite hand and keep pressing it.
  • Imagine an electrical signal travels to the brain and begins to quiet your mind.
  • Now become aware of your breath, and begin counting to ‘3’, thinking of each number as a color.
  • Take in a breath, count “1.” On the exhale, think red.
  • Take in a second breath, count “2.” On the exhale, think blue.
  • Take in a third breath, count “3.” On the exhale, think green.

On the next breath, let your mind go blank for a moment for a few seconds. Let go and relax into the present moment. As you refocus on the world around you, make the commitment to be at peace as you relate to whatever comes next.

High Anxiety

If you start to have an anxiety attack, deep-breathing can help.

  • Find a chair in the store or if none are available return to your car.
  • Sit with your back straight and release the tension in your shoulders.
  • Close your eyes, and place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
  • Start with a few normal breaths, then breathe deeply. Deep breathing means your belly will rise and fall with every inhale and exhale.
  • Focus on moving your belly as you breathe deeply.

Family

Sometimes, it’s our families that crowd us out. Below is a simple formula for sustaining peace of mind with difficult relatives. It consists for 4 simple reminders:

  1. Listen better,
  2. Judge less,
  3. Forgive more
  4. And during those differences of opinions, ask yourself this: Would I rather be right or peaceful?

I wish you peace.

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85% of What We Worry About Never Happens

Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.  Now there’s a study that proves it.   This study looked into how many of our imagined calamities never materialize. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen.

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Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.

Montaigne’s quote has made people laugh for five centuries, but worry is no joke. A worried mind means a chronically stressed brain, and chronic stress generates serious problems.  The stress hormones stress and worry dump into your system shrinks brain masslowers your IQ, makes you prone to heart disease, cancer and premature aging, predicts martial problems, family dysfunction, and depression, and makes seniors more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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If we could get a handle on the worry and stress that habitually, incessantly, and often unconsciously seizes hold of our mind, we would greatly increase the odds of living a longer, happier, healthier, and more successful life. It’s a matter of reprogramming our brain.  We human beings are called the Crown of Creation because of our brain and Nobel Prize laureate Eric Kandle tells us that we direct our brain with “the most complex set of processes in the universe, the mind.”

Until recently, we haven’t had the owner’s manual for our brain that could identify the mental processes that switch our brain to full power … but we have it now. In the last 15 years new research has identified the mindset or mental attitude that literally changes your brain to change your life. In addition, this shift in attitude stimulates the growth of new connections that expand high order brain function to enable you to reach even greater heights.

The process of reprogramming your brain is called neuroplasticity. It takes a decision and a specific practice, but it’s simpler than you might imagine and results can happen quickly, in as little as four weeks. You can learn more about neuroplasticityin my book The End of Stress, Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain.  The book presents 20 proven tools and processes that are organized into a step by step practice that build the attitude that programs your brain for a better experience of life leading to far better results.Look Inside

“… the missing owner’s manual for your mind.
PsychCentral.com

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Rewiring the Brain for Success

Success in life depends on the state of our brain, and the state of our brain depends on our state of mind. The negative mental states that stress generates literally shrink the higher order brain function that is needed to succeed.

The good news is that by actualizing qualities that promote a positive mindset, we create the neurological conditions that not only repair but also expand higher brain networks,  enabling an individual to flourish in all our endeavors.

This has huge implications for business. Results of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people (APA 2005) have found that every key business outcome improves whenBrainScans-restated copy people are emotionally positive.

  • People are 31% more productive, three times more creative, and a positive mindset increases sales by 37% (Lyubomirsky, 2005).
  • We are ten times more engaged with work (Achor, 2012), and prosocial in ways that achieve superior customer service (George, 1991), and facilitate teamwork that is highly collaborative. (Barsade, 2002).
  • In addition, a positive mindset fosters supportive relationships, which in turn predicts a longer and healthier life (Danner,2001), and lowers health care costs for companies (APA,2002).

The brain scans on the right show the difference in brain function when we’re positive and well-adjusted compared to when we’re  stressed and depressed. Multiply the difference by 1000 and you have the loss in brain power in a company doing nothing to alleviate stress.

Genetics and past traumas conspire to wire the brain for stress, but we can rewire these faulty circuits. The rewiring process is called neuroplasticity, which refers to the way a change of mind that changes our experience changes our brain. A positive mindset not only repairs the brain, it also stimulates the growth of new neurons to form new connections that expand brainpower.

A company culture that facilitates a positive mindset gains an advantage over a company where stress and anxiety prevail.  It’s called the neuro-competitive advantagewhich is a company where neuroplasticity is at work, elevating the brain function to generate the fluid and creative intelligence that innovates and achieves goals, along with the emotional and social intelligence that instills more joy in our work, more peace in our lives, and greater harmony in our relationships.

Rewiring the brain to positive is simpler than you might imagine, and the brain rewires quickly, within 4 to 6 weeks.  Simple approaches that add little to your to-do list prove to work best.  The process of change centers on actualizing a to-be list of such qualities as gratitude, calm, inspiration, respect, and optimism.

The tools and exercises in my new book, The End of Stress, offer a step by step approach to building and sustaining the mindset that generates the brainpower to flourish.  Below are five simple steps to help get you started.

Gratitude

Gratitude is core to a positive attitude. So, once a week think of three things for which you are grateful, and enter it into a notebook.

In addition, start each day mindfully. Take five minutes of quiet time to feel grateful for another day of life to pursue your dreams and equally for another day to be with the people you love. Set your intention to have a great day, filled with achievements. Imagine relating to the day’s ups and down with a dynamically positive, peaceful, and creative attitude.

Studies show that people who consciously frame their day experience more positive emotions during the day,  exhibit more interest in their work, are more likely to feel connected with others and be more supportive, and they are also more likely to sleep better that night.

Calm and Clear 

Stress erodes the dynamic state of peace and clarity that is key to intelligent action.
Becoming more aware of our own anxiety, depression, and pessimism enables us to bust the stress-provoking thoughts that drive these negative mental states. There is a tool called the Clear Button that collapses negative thinking, preventing it from escalating into a stress reaction.

Here’s how: When your thinking becomes stressful or negative, imagine a button at the center of your palm. Press the button and keep pressing it as you count to three, thinking of each number as a color.

  • Breathe in, count 1, and on the exhale think redClear Button
  • Breathe in, count 2, and on the exhale think blue.
  • Breathe in, count 3, and on the exhale think green.
  • On the next breath, let your mind go completely blank for 10 seconds.
  • Next, refocus on the problem at hand, committing yourself to being calm, creative, and optimistic.

If the problem you face feels out of your control, recite the Serenity Prayer: Give me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the one from the other. Then make a list of whatever you still control, not the least of which is your attitude.

Inspiration

Stress locks the brain into a pattern of repeating the same unproductive effort, blocking a more inspired approach. Igniting the brain’s creative circuits involves taking a 20 minute break from work to allow your brain to generate a creative insight and to replenish ions that fuel fast brain waves.  Get into the habit of taking breaks during the day, keeping your mind open to receive a creative insight from your brain.

Respect

The success of our relationships is determined by three attitudes. The first is an attitude of unconditional positive regard, which is the respect we show for the intrinsic worth of every human being, whether realized or not. Research shows that the more our worth is respected, the more it takes hold to actualize our potential for success.  The second attitude is empathy, which is the willingness to step into another person’s shoes so completely that we lose the desire to judge them. This promotes the self-understanding in both the giver and the receiver, which correlates with self-esteem. The third attitude is congruity, meaning there is a match between what we are experiencing on the inside and how we are relating on the outside. Congruence is what makes a relationship honest and trustworthy. These three attitudes foster the level of attuned communication that sustain interpersonal resonance.

Optimism

Helen Keller said “optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” The research I’ve cited makes it abundantly clear that a shift in mindset from stressed to positive generates the brain power that predicts achievement. Your success empowers a second shift, which is the shift from the thought – I can’t do this – to the feeling I can do anything.

 

 

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