In the AudioSolutionz webinar “Stress Management: How to Use Your Brain to Conquer Stress & Feel Energized,” health and human behavior expert Cynthia Ackrill discusses the science behind harnessing our strength and perseverance to meet daily challenges, rather than succumbing to anxiety and stress.
If stress and joy live on a continuum, how do you keep yourself focused on and closer to the joy end rather than participating in our stress epidemic?
Not surprisingly, the answer has far less to do with circumstances than with attitude—being able to control your “perspective-making-machinery”—or, as we call it, your brain.
Of course, like most desired outcomes, easier said than done! Especially since we come wired with 80% more negative circuitry than positive. It takes a lot of practice. Really… it takes constant reminders, inspiration, support, and practice! But… it is truly worth it. The payoff is better energy, focus, health, and happiness!
However, most of us reach adulthood and advance in careers with no formal education in how to live successfully on this continuum! (Where was that course on getting your brain to cooperate?) So now we have huge burnout rates, aisles upon aisles of self-help books, and growing shame that we can’t find happy in the middle of busy. We are well trained to “just do more/accomplish more”—not so helpful!
It’s time to learn to use your super-powers. (Like Dorothy… you’ve had these powers all along, but no one showed you!) The first is CALM. Your brain can’t learn, act wisely, create joy, or do anything differently unless it thinks you are safe.
But great news: With practice, you can quickly train your physiology to shift your brain state to calm. There are a zillion ways to invoke the relaxation response that changes your chemistry and brings blood flow back to your frontal lobe, your smarter brain. The easiest is breath work—just bring your attention to your breathing and slow it down a bit…. Keep going until you start to feel the tension of your mind and body soften. Ahhhh…..
Now, on to your next super-power: CURIOSITY. When you interrupt your busy-ness and self-judgment (most high achievers are self-judging pros) to get curious about the “how” of your life, you light up your frontal lobe and gain access to your creative genius and heart-based wisdom. This power works to ramp up your next power…
CLARITY. Getting really clear—about what you want/need, what’s in the way, what you can control, and what you can’t—gives you more focus and power. Let’s start by getting clear about what you want to focus on, experience, and create in your life. Here are some steps to guide you:
- What is JOY for you? Write that down. What is it that you want more of in your life? What is it that makes it all worth it?
- Create a word or phrase that reminds you of that. Don’t fret. You don’t have to get this “right”—you can modify it whenever. Your brain just needs simple reminders to stay focused and hold healthy perspectives.
- Next step: Think back over the timeline of your life. What have you done to create more of that joy? Taken a risk? Changed your self-care? Learned something? Connected to someone or something? Make a list of what you do that works.
- Get clear about what makes you strong to find this joy. What strengths have you used over the years to get yourself out of the slumps, or to create the highs? Not sure? Take a quiz—or take the VIA Institute on Character’s free Character Strengths Survey.
Now, for the next few weeks, notice what things tend to make joy easier to find and what things tend to get in the way. Stay curious! Just bringing your attention to your joy starts to wire your brain to find more.
Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with permission of the author. In her AudioSolutionz webinar, Cynthia Ackrill teaches attendees to tap into their resilience and power for better results in life and in work.