Why is stress so detrimental for our brain? Learn why adrenalin and cortisol make your brain shrink and how you can stress less
You probably experienced how stress paralyzed you. "I can't think clearly."
Fear before a speech, you blanked out in a spelling contest…
Instead of finding solutions, you react irrationally.
However, the consequences of chronic stress are more severe. Constant overwhelm leads to brain shrinkage in certain areas.
Your brain produces stress hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol as well as a series of other steroids to prepare your body to fight or run.
The brain's activity shifts to an area where you're primarily focused and alert.
However, the brain isn't able to think logically and creative in this state.
If you're overworked or overwhelmed for a more extended period, your performance will decrease. Some people are more resilient than others; however, the brain needs phases of relaxation and rewards.
In these phases, the brain produces happy hormones.
Happy hormones can protect your nerves. If the brain continually produces stress hormones, certain areas can go into a decline.
Several studies attempt to make changes in the brain of chronically stressed people visible with different methods.
We can be sure of one thing: The brain matter suffers damage if an individual suffers from stress for an extended period.
We won't let that happen to you! Here are some simple, doable by you tips that help you to stress less (click the box on the right to enter full screen / exit to leave):[h5p id="8"] Continue reading
Emotional maturity and stability have nothing to do with your biological age. Some are emotionally mature at a very young age, others never are. The term describes people that are centered, not self-centered. Someone with a grounded character, emotional intelligence, self-confidence and often (but not necessarily) a fair share of life experience. The 8 signs of emotional maturity show you how far you have come and where you still have the potential for improvement.
Emotional Intelligence is my favorite topic because it's the set of skills and traits that helps anyone to get better results in their professional and personal lives. I love to speak about and teach skills that help people to more business success and life satisfaction! You can increase your emotional intelligence Emotional intelligence (EQ) is inherently different from intellect. You IQ (intellectual quotient) is the ability to learn, and it never changes throughout your life span. EQ is a flexible set of skills that can be learned, acquired, honed and improved. While some people naturally have a high level of emotional intelligence, it can be developed in anyone. Book smarts and street smarts can only take you so far, emotional smarts are often overlooked while being a critical aspect of the overall health and wellness of every individual. Everyone can benefit from a high level of Emotional Intelligence, from CEO’s of top companies, to the homemaker down the street, it is the key to professional, social and personal success and your overall wellbeing and contentment in life.
We want to be in control and make free, independent decisions - guided by rationality and with a clear mind. It's not surprising that manipulation has a bad reputation. It calls on emotions and clouds the senses.
But sometimes manipulation can seduce us to a better life.
I recently came across a Pinterest account that specializes in old advertisements. Coca-Cola makes you strong like a horse, the right sewing machine makes your family love you more and cocaine... well, cocaine makes your migraine disappear in no time. Might involve jail time but that's a different topic. The level of sincerity in the presentation of their goods amazed me.
We all know how advertising works: It catches us beyond rational thinking. It's a success if we stand in the shop and buy the product steered by emotion; without knowing why and how.
A goal has been injected into our brain. We have been manipulated to feel a need we didn't have before and we acted on it. We were not even fully aware that we have been manipulated.
Marketers use a lot of techniques to manipulate our buying behavior. The kind of trickery you will never find on my page, offers and seminars.
Scarcity, for instance. Seth Godin (who's teachings I very much and regularly appreciate) masterfully presents an offer as rare and exclusive. ""Only a few handpicked students." We want rare and exclusive things. It's worth more in our perception if it's rare.
If we would think about it, we would know that we will end up in a group of as many students as buy the offer. But we don't have a chance to think if the manipulation is good.
It's not as obvious as the presenter on the home shopping network (even though these shopping channels move incredible amounts of product.) Shopping networks are "trying too hard" and that someone wants to persuade us to buy a product is painfully transparent.
The woman with the big white smile who tells us we are better mothers if we buy that overpriced, obscenely unhealthy desert for our children is more like a caricature than an influencer.
But it allows us to look at the mechanics of manipulation through a burning lens.
The scene portrays harmony, happiness, and recognition for the mother who serves the grossly red looking artificial desert. The product is connected to feel-well emotions. We want to feel acknowledged. We want to feel happy and, for once, have harmony at the dinner table.
That makes a buying decision much more likely and the product seems more attractive. You're not buying a nasty red desert - you're buying the feel-well emotion a marketer connected to it. You have been manipulated.
If we analyze the manipulation, the emotional level is most interesting. Someone reminds us in a subtle way and suggestive how often we fight at the dinner table and how exhausting and frustrating it feels. Or how tired we are at work and how tasty a sugary mass melts on our tongues.
We can nearly feel how we relax at a harmonious dinner while everyone acknowledges our hard work and we can nearly smell the delicious desert and feel its consistency on our tongue.
From thinking, we're pushed into feeling and all of our cool and calculating rationality fades away.
Many people were shocked when they learned how others persuade and manipulate them during my emotional training. Manipulation confronts us with a loss of control by working outside of the spectrum of rationality.
For centuries, the ability to make rational decisions was a metaphor for freedom and dignity. A large part of our society, the way we conduct business and our lives have been rationalized. They taught us to push our emotions back as if they make us unfree and animalistic.
Operating the emotional level of someone became a despicable action - everyone agreed on that.
That did not change that everyone and everything triggers our emotions in multiple ways. We constantly feel something. We react emotionally to sounds or a touch; to smell and when we see something that pleases our eye.
Storytelling is a form of influencing. Since ancient times we learn from stories. We like if someone makes it easy and interesting for us.
Manipulation also is a form of influence you find in sales, politics, and economy and interpersonal relationships.
The question if manipulation is good or bad cannot be answered with a yes or no. The answer and ethical diagnosis are: It depends.
Obviously, manipulating the young couple to buy a house they cannot afford is reprehensible. Here, the seller selfishly persuaded the young couple to an action that causes them harm. He used his expertise on the matter and persuasion skills to render the young couple a play ball, helping him to a big commission check.
If you are worried for your kid because it does not stop texting while driving and you use the power of story to paint a picture in its head that creates fears - is that a bad thing?
If you use emotion to capture someone's attention so you can teach them something important - is that bad?
When you're in love and you're trying to win the heart of your crush, you will not use rational arguments to convince your crush you're a great partner. Is that the same? Are we lost, powerless and unfree?
Manipulation can be positive if someone makes a suggestion, but they leave us with options and we have the free choice.
What if I could see you are in pain and I am able to show you how you can help yourself but I know you will not listen to scientific presentations about frontal and parietal lobes? What if I painted a picture instead of how you would feel if you went through that training?
Manipulation is not bad per se, it has a bad reputation because many misuse it.
If someone uses the emotional level to suggest something but we are still free to choose, the purpose of the manipulation is not negative and our psychic ecology stays in balance.
Rational control is not always better. When following the rules of ethics, manipulation can help us to a better life. It makes many things easier for us by showing us subconscious paths that simplify decision making.
Yes, we are vulnerable. Someone can use manipulation to seduce us to buy something we do not need or to do something that is harmful.
The key is to understand that someone tries to manipulate us and why. As long as we can read their intentions and emotions, we're good.
Emotional intelligence allows us to understand someone's motives and their agenda.
With a high EQ, you cannot be rushed or pushed into making a decision you later regret. Because your rational and emotional levels are in balance and harmony.
You understand that it's the picture someone painted in your head that you desire. You know why he painted it and you can consider with your rational brain if the product can re-paint the picture in your life.
It all comes down to trust. Can I trust the person who is trying to manipulate me? People love to be careless, relax and connect on an emotional level.
As there are also a few abusive manipulators out there, raising your EQ is your best bet - whether you check how you will feel once you're able to tell one from the other or if you think about it rationally.
The world is not a talking shop. Decisions have to be made.
Understanding emotions and everything related to emotion is often confused for "overly emotional" or even weakness. I invite you to learn why knowledge of emotions is a powerful success- and happiness skill.
People with a high EQ can understand their emotions, the sources of their emotions (and those of others) and they are in control of their actions and reactions.
Let's look at the fascinating topic "emotions" a little closer.
Many people find it hard to share their emotions with others, express or even feel them.
Most of us still have the idea that emotions are hindering an effective decision-making process and rational thinking. If rational thinking is even possible could be an interesting topic for a separate article.
It is changing but as of today women and children are still seen as more emotional creatures than men. Men stand for rationality. Both genders share this bias.
Fact is: People make emotional decisions for rational reasons. All people.
Three unique components involved in the complex psychological states (emotions) are:
Besides bias that still exists, the amount of information we exchange and have to process is thriving. Our ability to feel, experience and exchange emotions (emotional competence) cannot cope with that.
The typical social media user might "like" and "share" information about a mass shooting, funny joke, a dead dog, and animal cruelty during two minutes.
We get sick if we do not pay enough attention to the emotional aspects of our existence. That's simple to understand if you consider the tight relation between emotions and the 4 proven basic needs:
Or ... I should say psychological needs as I am not talking about air, food, shelter, and water.
The need for
Every psychosomatic problem can be interpreted as an emotional problem.
Examples are depression, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, addiction ...
If we want to satisfy our need for love and closeness - or isolate ourselves and deny the need - this is accompanied by emotions.
We experience emotional reactions when others are interested in us or aggressive towards us.
When we are self-aware and assess our strengths and weaknesses it triggers emotions.
Psychologist Paul Ekman suggested in 1972 that there are 6 universal basic emotions. In 1999, he expanded the list (after happiness):
Robert Plutchik introduced another kind of classification system, the wheel emotions. This model shows how various emotions can be combined or mixed. Example: anticipation and happiness combined = excitement.
"Emotion" (as opposed to feeling) includes a blueprint for action (i.e. "I won't put up with that). Experience, evaluation, and readiness for action are one.
If we experience emotions consciously we lessen it. That means that the duration of emotions is limited. Strong emotions decrease faster.
Self-awareness (and feeling alive) requires that you allow emotions and experience them consciously.
We must accept that we cannot conserve positive emotions and can at the same time hope we will overcome negative emotions:
Suppressing emotions "conserves" them. Even centuries later, they can break out with unabated force.
Past emotions leave marks (what I refer to as "brain scars"). They leave engrams in our brain. The younger we were when we experienced a situation that triggered a strong emotional reaction the less we remember the precise content.
We will remember the affective part of the situation.
When we suffer painful experiences and hurtful emotions, the brain will try to make sure that a similar situation cannot repeat itself. The goal of our brain is to make sure of our survival. It is not essential to our survival that we have a flourishing career or a luxurious life.
It will form a neural pathway to the so-called lizard brain, the part that controls the "fight or flight" reaction. In consequence, we cannot make an intellectual decision as soon as something reminds our brain of a past situation.
Imagine you are looking at a cage with a tiger and the tiger jumps towards you. You would back off and you would not have the chance to decide how you want to react.
If you could think about it you would stay still as you know the cage holds the tiger or you would be yogurt already.
This fabulous survival instinct and the brain's ability to form neural pathways that allow us to flee (or fight) a dangerous situation without wasting time is at the same time what makes our lives most difficult.
Because it is not limited to physical danger. A tiger who jumps you because he wants to eat you will probably make for a bad day every time.
That one of your projects failed, the person you had to fire created a horrible scene (or you've been fired or cheated on) will not necessarily repeat itself. Each situation is new and individual.
By reacting to past negative events, our behavior will subconsciously change and in consequence likely lead to the same negative outcome as before. We create self-fulfilling prophecies.
Intellectual decisions (higher thinking) take place in the rational brain (creative brain.)
You might know of people who repeat painful experiences several times. Whenever someone says "I didn't mean it", you know what happened. Or when you hear: "Why does this or that always happen to me?"
The only way to gain back control over your actions once the brain has formed a neural pathway to the lizard brain is to retrain it. It's a process that takes a few months but comes with a lifelong reward.
Just imagine: The old saying we are our biggest problem will not apply to you any longer.
By expressing our emotions we send communicative signals to our surroundings. Our emotional expression is the basis for the perception of our conversation partners and the surrounding people.
They form their beliefs about us not just based on our spoken words.
We express our emotion by the tone of our voice, facial expression, body language, and gestures.
Those signals will inform others about our intentions and desires.
Effective communication of emotions is the prerequisite for being able to understand and be understood.
To do that, we have to understand and be in control of them and have the ability to understand those of others (empathy.)
If we are not, it will lead to conflicts, misunderstandings, lack of ability to persuade and ultimately stress and self-limiting behavior.
In social contacts, business meetings and relationships we constantly navigate the right amount of closeness and distance. Activity and passivity. This happens on a subconscious level in which "mini signals" play a huge part.
We subconsciously pick up "mini signals". If we sense, for instance, anger from the ancient past about something that went wrong back then, we will react to it.
It could look like that: You propose a project. Something your prospect says or does reminds you of that time when you've been rejected. Without being aware of it, for the instance of a second, you send mini-signals that your prospect picks up.
Based on the old emotion your conversation partner picks up he turns you down. He will argue his emotional decision with rational arguments.
Perhaps you will think that once more your instinct was right.
People should never listen to what they believe to be their instinct unless they have had emotional intelligence training. It is hard to tell instinct from protective signals the brain sends.
If we allow ourselves to feel emotions, it provides a certain feeling of liveliness that enables us to enjoy positive emotions to their fullest and endure negative ones.
As you have learned before, we cannot run away from negative emotions. They will hunt us down at some point and potentially limit our success and level of happiness.
For some reason (and I could not scientifically explain that) it seems possible to avoid positive emotions - but not negative ones.
Suppressing emotions takes away from the feeling of liveliness and will lead to compensatory or extreme behavior in some form. Or depression.
We also cannot suppress our basic needs. If we deny them, it will lead to problems.
And that also applies to the inability of self-reflection. We lose ourselves a bit if we cannot understand ourselves.
The ability to express yourself emotionally is the prerequisite for positive social contacts. When you lack the ability, you will have less constructive arguments and less positive relationships.
You will also get less of what you want because you will not send a congruent message of what it is you want.
If you cannot express your emotions effectively, the other person will not share theirs - robbing you of the ability to understand them.
You are less likely to create trust and and connection and the other person might even keep their distance and decide that they don't like you.
One way emotional intelligence training can support you is helping you to
Isn't that fabulous? With a little bit of effort, we can learn how to deal more effectively with all of the tigers we meet in business and in life.
Recently, Chris Shea, founder of Lifesjourney, invited me for an interview. Chris was interested in learning more about my Emotional Intelligence Training and during our pleasant conversation, we realized that we share a common interest: Helping people to implement mindfulness into their lives. You can listen to the podcast here:
The paradox about stress and stress-management is: The more you feel under pressure the less likely that you feel like taking out an hour of your day for self-care (even though you know you should).
Not only are we endangering our mental and physical health and put ourselves at the risk of burnout – our productivity is decreasing drastically when we are stressed.
Just think about it: How much can you achieve in one hour of work at “full speed” and how often do you work long hours under pressure and don’t produce impressive results?I get it. When you have to meet deadlines or juggle a ton of responsibilities, you might not be open to learning/practicing mindfulness or meditation.
Did you know that you can reduce your stress level in just five minutes?
Meditation is one of the most effective tools for managing stress. Many of us believe that meditation comes with a lot of rules.
The right form of meditation, the right place, the right length, that candle…Buddhism refers to “dukkha” (pain, suffering, unsatisfactoriness) as stress and identifies attachment (“acquisition”) as the source of all suffering. Forget everything you have ever heard about “rules” in meditation.
For some people, their idea of meditation creates more stress and that is certainly not the intended use of this brain-changing self-care “tool”. Meditation should be without attachment.
Yes, you can achieve more for yourself if you decide to take out 20 minutes or an hour of your day. But you don’t have to. If I had to define a single rule it would be: Do as much as you can of what is good for you.
Taking a small break for a 5-minute meditation will do you good too.