If you read my post on Generation Stress, you know that if stress is a problem in your life, it's because genetics and past traumas wired you for it. You also know that the chronic dose of stress hormones that a stressful life dumps into your system causes serious problems. They shrink brain mass, lower your IQ, make you prone to heart disease, cancer and premature aging, predict martial problems, family dysfunction and clinical depression, and makes you twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's later in life.
BUT DON'T STRESS. You can begin to rewire the faulty brain circuits a nasty stress gene built with the simple starter kit I've provide below. You also have the capacity to take it even further to expand the higher order brain function that generates the fluid, creative and emotional intelligence that enables you to succeed full at life.
We human beings are called the Crown of Creation because nature blessed us with an amazing brain. The human brain is arguably nature's single greatest achievement, 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 listing 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 enables higher order brain networks to function at optimum and expand.
The process of reprogramming your brain for a happier, more intelligent, more successful life is called neuroplasticity. You can learn more about it in my book The End of Stress, Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain.
YOUR STARTER KIT
The practice that begins to resolve stress is quite simple. This is because simple approaches are what work best in rewiring your brain. So let's get you started with generating this change in direction.
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.
- 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.
You 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 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.
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 collapse stress reactions at the point of inception, and amplify the higher brain function that predicts success in all your endeavors. Before you know it, you're performing at the top of your game, achieving your best day every day, and at day's end you're the person coming through the door your loved ones were hoping to see.