‘Your brain doesn’t just ‘fog’ under stress: it shrinks

Don’t let stress get to you. Stress kills brain cells and impairs your thinking. A recent article compiles research that suggests that chronic stress has long-term consequences for the brain. Stress can cause more anxiety, health issues, and even shrink your brain. Luckily, you can strengthen your brain and resilience for fighting stress.

Stress is a common part of life. For most people, stress tends to come and go. Unfortunately, those who face constant stress also face a long list of negative consequences. An article on Verywell Mind compiled the latest research on the effects of stress on the brain.

One study found that stress leads to long-term changes in the brain. It can increase your risk of mental illness and anxiety. It also limits your ability to cope with stress, leading to a cycle of negative thoughts. Researchers found that stress limits the production of neurons. It also increases the production of myelin-producing cells. These changes interfere with certain areas of the brain, leading to negative health risks.

Studies also show that chronic stress alters the brain’s structure. The overproduction of myelin caused by stress interferes with neural networks in the brain. It alters the balance between grey and white matter. This may impact your decision-making and problem-solving skills.

 

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Yet, one of the most shocking discoveries was that stress kills brain cells. The hippocampus is the area of the brain connected to emotion, learning, and memory. It is also the area where you form new brain cells. Stress limits the ability of new cells to survive, essentially limiting your ability to learn and grow. Another study found that chronic stress also limits spatial memory. Spatial memory is your ability to recall information. So, if you’re frequently forgetful and struggle to concentrate, you may be suffering from chronic stress. You can read more about the ways that stress affects your brain here.

What can you do about the stress in your life? Try NLP. Neuro-linguistic programming is a growing area of positive psychology. It offers a variety of exercises for increasing resilience. You can gain the mental stamina needed to avoid letting stress get to your head. NLP anchoring is one of the most used NLP techniques for fighting stress. It helps you create positive responses that you can pull from when you experience stress, fear, or anxiety.

Anchors are often words, gestures, or images that create positive thoughts. When a difficult situation arises, you use the anchor to calm your mind. It helps you relax and focus on the present. After creating an anchor, you can use it as needed as a stress relief tool. You can even create different anchors for dealing with a variety of situations or environments.

Stress can negatively impact almost every area of your life, but it’s something that you can learn to overcome. NLP techniques can equip your brain with the tools needed to let go of the fear and anxiety that creates stress. You can learn more about NLP by exploring my one-to-one coaching services and online courses at https://thinklearnsucceed.com.au/

7 surprising habits of resilient people

Are you struggling to grow in your personal or professional life? If so, looking at the habits of highly resilient people may help. Failing to achieve success often comes down to your way of thinking. A recent article helped dispel several common myths about resiliency, including the idea that your past is impossible to escape.

Past failures and traumas don’t need to hold you back. As discussed in a recent article on resilience written by Silvia Rockwell, anyone can become more resilient. This is also an important point in positive psychology. You have the power to alter your way of thinking. However, along with getting in the way of your own resiliency, your thoughts and actions may impact the resiliency of others.

First, it’s important to address some of the myths surrounding resiliency. For example, you may think that some people are beyond hope or that you can’t change. Silvia Rockwell identifies four common myths that get in the way of fostering resilience in children, students, and peers.

Rockwell mentions the myth of irreparable damage. This is the idea that some people are just too broken. The truth is that no one is entirely lost. People are adaptable, no matter their past experiences.

Rockwell also dispels the myth of predetermination. Some people believe that children are predetermined to repeat the mistakes of their caregivers. No one is predetermined for a specific outcome. You have control over your life’s path and the decisions that you make.

The myth of identity is also explored in the article. This is the idea that people are defined by their past. An abused child is defined by the abuse. Your past is what happened to you. It’s not who you are today.

 

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The combination of myths discussed lead to the fourth myth, which is that nothing matters. People become discouraged and stop believing that their efforts matter. The truth is that everyone deserves hope. You can read more about the myths that prevent fostering resilience here.

So, how can you become more resilient? Resilient people build their mental stamina by accepting help. They also surround themselves with supportive people. It’s also important to stop blaming yourself for things you can’t control. Make peace with the past. Resilient people also pay attention to their physical health. You need adequate sleep and rest, but also need to keep yourself active. Resiliency also requires you to embrace change and learn to adapt, which is where NLP can help.

NLP reframing and anchoring can both help you increase your adaptability and resilience. Reframing allows you to view events from a different frame or perspective. It helps you identify thoughts and the behaviours you want to change. NLP anchors help you change your thoughts and behaviours. You learn to create anchors or memories that help you recognise and control your emotions.

Fostering resiliency in others requires you to address your own mental stamina. Stop believing the myths of irreparable damage, predetermination, and inescapable labels. NLP can help you break the patterns keeping you from flourishing. I’d love to help. View my one-to-one coaching services and online courses at https://thinklearnsucceed.com.au/

Busy leader or wise leader? Which are you?

Task overload, crisis control, interruptions and on-the-fly decisions. They come with the territory when you step into the leadership zone. But when you’re the leader, you need to shape your territory, not fit into it. This means changing your mindset of what being busy says about your grit and mental stamina. As I explain in this week’s video, savvy leaders don’t just push through big workloads. They make savvy choices about their use of time and energy.

 

So how can you become a wiser, more resilient leader? Use these tips, which come from my popular online program, Mojo Reboot.

 

Stop equating action and effectiveness

Inexperienced leaders often see their long tasks lists and crammed schedules as a sign they are tough and have great mental stamina. Seasoned leaders, though, realise being constantly busy is NOT a sign of effectiveness.

 

Focus on leading, not doing

Great leaders get things done through other people. At least 70% of their time is spent strategising, coaching and team building. That’s right: 70% of your time needs to be dedicated to leadership. If it isn’t, work with a coach and become a bold leader who says ‘no’ to hands-on tasks and ‘yes’ to making an impact.

 

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Drive your own brain

Did you know that stress shrinks your brain? Read my recent blog on this topic if you want to know more about this startling fact.

 

After all, every leader should understand how stress impacts the brain. And every leader should know what to do about it. My favourite tip for being a brain-smart leader is to learn NLP. Why? Because it gives you simple techniques for building brain, mind and true grit.

 

The 4 types of social support leaders really need

Feeling stressed? You may just need someone to talk to. Research suggests that social support is an important factor for minimising the effects of stress. As an added benefit, social support may also improve your physical health. So, what are the types of social support that you need to lead more effectively?

Positive psychology has long stressed the importance of social support for stress relief. It’s an area that’s been widely studied. However, not all types of social support are created equal. An article from Elizabeth Scott, PhD recently explored the different forms of support. The four main types of social support include emotional, informational, tangible, and belonging support.

Emotional support helps affirm your self-worth. When someone lends a shoulder for you to cry on, they’re providing emotional support. Informational support comes from the sharing of advice. When you go to someone for help with a problem, the advice they provide is a form of informational support.

Tangible support is the sharing of resources. In the workplace, you may get tangible support from workers assigned to assist with your task. Belonging social support is the fourth form of support needed to fight loneliness and stress. It is a type of social support that comes from social activities. Spending time with a group of people provides a sense of belonging that can ease stress.

 

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Elizabeth Scott goes on to explain the effects of social support. According to a study from the University of Utah, social support helps lower blood pressure. Another study found that social support is linked to your overall health and well-being. Individuals with strong social support had a 50% increase in survival compared to those who lacked support. Research also indicates that social support may decrease depression and anxiety. It creates a buffer against the effects of stress. You can read the entire article on the benefits of social support here.

Social support is just one solution for combatting stress. Along with increasing your support circle, you may want to try using NLP for better stress management. Neuro-linguistic programming includes exercises that anyone can use. You can learn to alter your negative thoughts and behaviours. Anchoring and cognitive reframing are a couple of NLP techniques that can fight stress.

NLP anchoring is the use of a mental anchor to improve your emotional control. Anchors are positive thoughts. You create anchors by thinking of a memory that brings instant joy to your mind. When emotions start to get the better of you, you can use an anchor to regain control. Reframing helps you change the way you look at certain situations. You can use this technique when dealing with a stressful problem. It involves opening your mind to other possibilities by looking at things from an outside perspective.

If your stress is getting to you, it’s time to try something different. Seeking support from others and building greater resilience and mental stamina can help. Explore effective NLP techniques for stress relief with my one-to-one coaching services and online courses available at https://thinklearnsucceed.com.au/

What to do when you have too much to do

Everyone feels overwhelmed occasionally. Unfortunately, sometimes the feeling doesn’t go away. This can bring about a wide range of negative symptoms, including forgetfulness. Some people deal with this issue by working harder and putting in more hours, which simply makes the problem worse. A better solution is to find the source of pressure and address it head-on.

If you’re constantly distracted and struggle to concentrate, you may simply be overwhelmed. Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey outline the impact of constant pressure in their book, Immunity to Change. Details of the book are covered in an article on the Harvard Business Review (HBR), which explains why most people feel overwhelmed at times. However, feeling perpetually overwhelmed is incredibly harmful to your mental fitness.

The authors describe how high achievers rarely step back when feeling overwhelmed. They push themselves harder to avoid being considered an imposter. This leads to a cycle of perpetual stress and pressure. According to Kegan and Lahey, perpetually overwhelmed individuals experience mental fatigue. You may become confused easily, have trouble concentrating, or struggle to think logically.

Kegan and Lahey recommend pinpointing the source of the problem. Find one or more responsibilities that you can offload or resolve to alleviate your stress. The authors also recommend setting boundaries. Don’t continue to push yourself too hard. Have the confidence to say “no” when you feel overworked.

 

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Kegan and Lahey also discuss the risks of perfectionism. Striving for perfection adds to your psychological distress. Instead of finishing a task, you start to procrastinate and become more overwhelmed. Recognising that doing your best is enough can ease some of the stress. Know when to stop a task rather than wasting time seeking perfection. You can learn more about the effects of constantly feeling overwhelmed in the HBR article here.

So, what can you do to deal with an increasingly overwhelming life? Slow down and learn to boost your resilience and optimism with NLP and positive psychology. As professors Kegan and Lahey explain, you need to challenge your idea of success. This may require you to change your way of thinking. Many high achievers tend to push themselves to the limits in pursuit of success.

A lot of the pressure that you face in the workplace comes from within. You’re often your own worst enemy. NLP techniques can change your outlook and increase your mental stamina. Anchoring, cognitive reframing, dissociation, and meta-modelling are a few of the NLP practices used to rewire your behaviour and thoughts. Everyone can change the way that they think. You can gain the confidence to set boundaries, ask for help, and avoid taking on more than you can handle.

Putting too much on your plate increases the risk of feeling overwhelmed. Instead of slowing down, you pick up the pace out of fear of being considered an imposter. If you want to beat this imposter syndrome and cope with pressure, try using NLP. Learn more by checking out my one-to-one coaching and online courses at https://thinklearnsucceed.com.au/

4 proven ways to stop overworking: I use them every day

Are you a workaholic? Do you find yourself working every hour of the day and night, despite knowing it’s not good for you? If so, I bet you love what you do. But maybe you’re ALSO overworking. Watch this month’s video if you think this might be true for you.

 

Why do you work so hard? Perhaps you’re passionate about your job! You just love it. It doesn’t feel like work … but to keep it that way, you might need to slow down. Here’s why. Nobody – not even you – can stay focused and productive 24/7.

 

In fact, working excessive hours – even if you are passionate about what you do – is the fastest way to erode your productivity and your mental stamina. You. Need. To. Stop. Now.

 

Yes, I understand. Quitting the overwork habit can be hard. But it can also be easy – when you know how. Here are four simple steps to get you started. Right this moment.

 

Step 1: Stop telling yourself you’ll ‘relax later’

Humans have a natural tendency to procrastinate, says Ofer Leidner, author of Stop Working and Start Thriving: ‘We work hard today so we can relax tomorrow’, he says. ‘But tomorrow always becomes today and there is never enough time’. Stop putting off downtime by scheduling your time off. Put it in your calendar and DO NOT WRITE OVER IT.

 

Step 2: Start working less

High achievers often feel guilty for taking time off. That doesn’t mean you really SHOULD feel guilty. Stop working weekends and evenings. Step away from your email. Leave your work phone switched off during evenings and days off. Even more importantly, leave your work brain switched off during breaks.

 

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Step 3: Continue building your assertiveness

Assertiveness is about knowing your limits and communicating them constructively. Assertive professionals know how to say ‘no’ without guilt. Choose to set boundaries and manage your own time. Master the art of saying ‘no’ without being rude. Most importantly, stop giving in to the demands of difficult people. No. You don’t owe them a favour. No. Being nice is NOT the key to success. In fact, it’s the key to stress.

 

Step 4: Quit multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is NOT efficient. In fact, neuroscientists have shown it isn’t even possible! Your brain just can’t process doing several things at once. It is physically impossible. So, stop trying to do it. Learn to focus. Work on one project, task or issue at a time. And take pride in doing it.

 

Sure, I know you have too much to do. But as I explain in this week’s blog post, you can ‘tame’ your inbox – as well as your guilt.

 

 

7 benefits of a ‘mental fitness’ routine

A physical fitness routine helps you maintain your physical health, but what about your mental health? This is where a mental fitness routine comes in. Adopting a new routine can break old thought processes and help you get out of a rut. Routines are often helpful but can also allow us to repeat the same old mistakes. Reprogramming your brain lets you develop better routines.

People aren’t born confident, the same way that people aren’t born with toned muscles. You need to train your brain to maintain confidence, optimism, and other positive traits. An article published on BetterUp helps break down the importance of mental stamina and fitness. The author describes seven specific benefits.

First, mental fitness helps you remain present. Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, you’re grounded in the present. This allows you to retain information better. Mental fitness gives you more control of your thoughts. More control over automatic thoughts helps you respond rationally to challenges. You avoid overthinking and relying on emotions, boosting your logical thinking abilities. Better mental fitness also leads to improved cognitive function. You can process information faster, concentrate better, and improve your time-management skills.

The combination of benefits discussed tend to create more positive emotions. You may become a more optimistic person and learn how to reframe negative thoughts in helpful ways. This brings greater confidence in your abilities. You can start focusing on your strengths and develop positive habits in any area of your life. Better mental fitness also offers physical benefits, including improved sleep.

 

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Many of the benefits discussed are widely known among positive psychology experts. Treating your mind as a muscle that you can develop can help you develop positive habits in almost all areas of your life. You can read more about the benefits of a mental fitness routine here.

As the article explains, mindfulness may help you focus more on your mental fitness. However, meditation isn’t always easy. You may lack the resilience to detach from your thoughts. This is where NLP can help. NLP gives you the tools to change your thinking patterns for improved focus and positivity. NLP language patterns offer a way to become more mindful of your self-talk, including the negative inner critic in your head. This involves challenging your assumptions and the language that you use internally.

NLP submodalities are also useful for increasing awareness of your experiences and thoughts. Your five basic senses are modalities. Each modality has multiple submodalities. Various mental exercises can help you make connections between these modalities and your positive and negative thoughts. You can learn to decrease the impact of negative thoughts and amplify the positive ones for increased resilience.

NLP provides the perfect structure for mindfulness. NLP language patterns and NLP submodalities are just a couple of examples of NLP techniques that can help increase mindful awareness and resilience. If you want to learn more about NLP, explore my one-to-one coaching services and online courses available at https://thinklearnsucceed.com.au/

Why leaders should focus on hope, not resilience

Resilience is an important part of positive psychology, but it’s not everything. Maintaining optimism and hope in the face of adversity increases your chances of success. Resilience helps you keep moving, but you also need hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, resilience and hope don’t mean much without good habits.

Resilience is essential for dealing with adversity. However, it’s not the only factor that determines your success. In a recent article, Alessandro di Marco claims that resilience is over-hyped. The author argues that you also need good habits. For example, you can’t expect to thrive at work or school if you don’t show up or contribute.

Alessandro di Marco explains how focusing solely on resilience also increases the risk of becoming complacent. It may lead people to avoid challenging negative situations. It decreases your mental stamina for dealing with change and adapting to challenges. Instead of trying to change things, you try to survive and move on. You may put up with negativity instead of addressing it.

Unfortunately, difficult situations are likely to continue if you don’t deal with them. You may also start to burn out from the added stress. Leaders often try to hide the stress by pushing forward. You don’t want to slow down out of fear of being an imposter. The author points out that signs of workplace fatigue can be mistaken for a lack of resilience. You may not feel successful if you admit that you’re overwhelmed.

 

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So, what’s the best alternative to resilience? According to Alessandro di Marco, you should look for hope. Hope is your ability to choose meaningful goals. It allows you to determine the steps needed to reach your goals. Hope is also necessary for maintaining motivation. Without hope, you don’t have the motivation to take steps toward your goals. You can read more about Alessandro di Marco’s ideas on resilience here.

Resilience isn’t the key to your success, but it’s still important. It’s a common focus of positive psychology. However, you need more than just resilience to succeed. You also need hope. Resilience is your ability to find a path forward during a difficult situation. A lack of optimism and confidence keeps you from accepting the path in front of you. These issues can lead to frustration, stress, and low self-esteem.

NLP can help you see the path more clearly. It helps eliminate the mental obstacles keeping you from staying optimistic. For example, a pessimistic attitude often comes from negative self-talk. Your inner critic dismisses any suggestions you put forward. NLP techniques, such as NLP anchors and cognitive reframing, allow you to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. You can train your brain to hold hope.

If you lack confidence in your abilities, you may struggle to develop good habits. NLP provides an answer by helping you train your brain to stop dwelling on negative thoughts. I can help. Boost your confidence with my one-to-one coaching services and online courses available at https://thinklearnsucceed.com.au/

Lead with HOPE – not goals – in tough times

In Year 8, my friend Gavin and I wrote a science fiction play about a group of ‘old people’ living through a world-wide plague. We had a huge fight over the plot. I thought it didn’t matter if everyone died because they were all 50 (ancient) anyway. Gavin wanted to show that hope would save the human race. Even in his early teens, Gavin knew that resilience and optimistic ‘future casting’ are closely connected. I explore this link further in this month’s video.

 

These days, I realise Gavin has been proved right. There are numerous studies showing hope plays a crucial role in human survival, particularly during chaotic times. When you think hopefully, you’re optimising on your mind’s ability to ‘time travel’ and imagine things turning out well. That boosts your creativity and increases your behavioural flexibility. Plus, it decreases your stress levels. All of which makes you a better leader.

 

Presently, many wise leaders are using the power of hope to revive team mojo and motivation. No! They’re not setting gruelling KPIs or cracking productivity whips. Instead, they’re helping people envision positive futures. They’re focusing on culture-building, mission-building and – my favourite leadership tool of all – storytelling.

 

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The fact is – the human brain loves stories. As Gavin argued in Year 8, audiences watch plays because they want them to end well. In the same way, teams work hard because they want their projects to go well. Great playwrights weave hope through every drama. As I explained in my recent blog post [link to blog] on fostering hope and resilience in teams, great leaders do the same.

 

It turns out my friend Gavin became a great leader, inspiring many young people to live with hope and impact. But did he and I weave hope into our play’s ending? Well, sort of (after all, I can be stubborn). We compromised and wrote an ambiguous closing scene. As the sun sank dramatically offstage, the plague survivors cooked up a ‘final cure’ for the ‘final plague’. In 2022, I only hope the positive reading of that scene is the one that plays out in real life

 

 

How to use daydreaming to your advantage

People often think of daydreaming as a waste of mental resources. It turns out, letting your mind drift off can lead to profound benefits. Research suggests that your brain continues processing complex information as you daydream. It may even give you a clearer picture of what to do to overcome a problem in your personal or professional life.

Parents and teachers have scolded children for daydreaming for generations. However, daydreaming has an unfair reputation. A new study from the University of British Columbia found that brains are more active during a daydream than previously thought. The study found that brain activity continues in areas of the brain when your mind wanders.

Your brain is comprised of different regions that are responsible for different mental activities. For example, certain areas of the brain are responsible for complex problem-solving. Experts believed that these areas of the brain went dormant when you daydream. The latest research shows the opposite. These areas of the brain remain highly active during daydreaming.

The study involved placing subjects in an fMRI scanner. The subjects performed a simple task while researchers tracked their brain activity. The authors of the study point out that we spend up to a third of our waking lives daydreaming. They believe that this is an important cognitive state. Daydreaming may help you sort through your concerns and anxieties. You continue to use the brain’s “executive network” when your mind wanders. This executive network is used when solving complicated problems.

 

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If you struggle to find a solution to a complex problem, try letting your mind wander. The researchers also suggest switching to a simpler task. Performing a simple, mundane task can provide enough of a distraction to help your mind drift off. You can read more about the research from the University of British Columbia here.

So, the next time that you’re stumped, shut your mind off. Let yourself daydream. Letting your mind wander may help you find the solution you need. Unfortunately, daydreaming doesn’t come easy for everyone. If stress and anxiety keep your mind too busy to relax, try using NLP techniques. NLP and positive psychology offer several methods that promote relaxation and increased mental stamina. You can increase your resilience to negativity, making it easier to shut off your mind and daydream.

A common practice is mindfulness. This involves being fully present and aware of your surroundings and thoughts. Learning to override negativity with positivity is another area where NLP can help. NLP techniques such as cognitive reframing using NLP anchors help you recognise and challenge negative thoughts as they enter your mind. Instead of dwelling on the sources of your stress and anxiety, you can keep a clear mind.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia have shown that your brain remains active when you daydream, but what if you can’t relax your mind? Learn more about NLP for relaxation, stress relief, and anxiety relief with help from an experienced confidence coach. Explore my one-to-one coaching services and online courses at https://thinklearnsucceed.com.au/