Here is question 21 from Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions.
I am busy executive with a challenging job. How is brain fitness relevant to me?
- Reduce your stress to improve concentration and learning readiness and reduce distractions.
- Increase your mental stimulation to help maintain a healthy, flexible brain.
Executives, or anyone involved in complex and rapidly evolving environments, need to make pressured decisions based on sound logic, instead of emotional impulses. It is not easy to deal with the frustration, for example, when the market doesn’t go the way we anticipate. Stress can also limit our mental flexibility and ability to see alternative solutions, thereby preventing us from adapting to, and succeeding in, new circumstances.
Stress is an unavoidable consequence of life. But when work stress becomes too much, it can lead to burnout, a combination of:
- Emotional exhaustion,
- Physical exhaustion, and
- Cognitive weariness (slow thinking).
Excessive stress also leads to various cardiac, immune, and other health problems as well.
There is such thing as the “positive” stress you feel pre-game or pre-performance that helps you deliver the performance of your life. You may feel that same good stress at work if you are primed for an activity that you can accomplish right then and there. Short term, acute stress, known as the fight-or-flight response, can help you focus and perform, if it is in the right amount. This kind of stress is short lived. You feel the jitters or adrenaline for a period of time, then you use it up accomplishing your goal, and then you get to rest and recover while basking in the glow of your accomplishment.
There are tools we can use to better manage stress, such as the ones described in Best practice for top trading performance: biofeedback (Freeze-Framer).
The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) describes the long-term, nasty kind of stress that just doesnt go away. The kind of stress that paralyzes you into inaction — where you just stare at the problem and worry about it without being able to do anything about it. This is the kind of stress that kills your neurons, destroys your immune and cardiovascular systems, and makes you anxious, irritable, and unable to sleep. This is the kind that can be helped through a biofeedback-based Peak Performance/Stress Management program which provides real-time visual feedback on your “internal performance” and helps you identify and learn how to manage the emotional arousal that can disrupt executive functions: judgment, planning, analyzing, and reasoning.
As with most things, there are levels of stress. While an optimal amount can help you, too much or too little can hurt. Find ways to help control and lower your long-term stress, such as biofeedback based programs (FreezeFramer, emWave) or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) ones.
- Begley, Sharon. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves. (Ballantine; 2007). ISBN 978–1400063901.
- Goldberg, Elkhonon. The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older. (Gotham; 2006). ISBN 978–1592401871.
- McCraty R, Barrios-Choplin B, Rozman D, Atkinson M, Watkins A. The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science. 1998;33:1515–70.
- Sapolsky, Robert. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. (Owl Books; 2004). ISBN 978–0805073690.
- Brain Fitness: Shift Happens
- Brain Teaser for Stress
- Stress Management Workshop for International Women’s Day