It used to be saber-toothed tigers chasing us, but now it's our daily lives--more specifically, it's our jobs that trigger our fight-or-flight responses. Eighty percent of Americans say they are stressed out at work.
Dr. Joe Dispenza, author of Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, says we spend 70 percent of our waking life in a stress response. Most of this has become so habitual that we are unaware of what we put our bodies and minds through.
Entrepreneurs are notoriously overstressed. I've found in my practice that insomnia, anxiety, and depression plague this particular population. It's no news that stress causes our bodies and our brains to kick into overdrive. Our nervous systems plunge into fight-or-flight mode sending our brains into what's known as high-beta brain waves.
Competition, anxiety, anger, fatigue, frustration, fear and worry are all part of the grind for entrepreneurs and these are the precursors to a slide into high-beta. In the short term, this slide is not a problem. In fact, it is an important function if our situation is truly emergent. However, if Dispenza's research is correct, and we are spending the majority of our waking hours in crisis mode, then we are habitually knocking ourselves out of balance.
A body and mind chronically out of balance are inviting a storm of mental, emotional and physical maladies including heart conditions, high blood pressure, ulcers, gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune problems, colds, allergies, arthritis and even cancer.
So what's the solution for our high-risk population of high-beta brained entrepreneurs?
For the business professionals, I work with, it's a matter of helping them switch their brains over to alpha waves. In alpha, the brain slows down while at the same time becomes more focused and aware. This state takes us out of survival mode and stops the production of stress hormones in the body.
Alpha mind is associated with high levels of creativity, better decision making and problem-solving, positive mindset and emotional stability. When we dip into alpha state, we are more open to new ideas and less critical of ourselves and others.
Sighting it as essential to their work, some of history's most renowned thinkers like Edison and Einstein made it a daily practice to move their minds into alpha.
Fortunately, there are a number of easy ways to induce the brain into alpha state.
Meditation, guided meditations, self-hypnosis and progressive relaxation techniques are great ways to reach alpha state. These methods help relax the mind and body, activate the parasympathetic nervous system and bring us back into alignment. The issue for some entrepreneurs is finding the time to practice these methods daily.
For those who can't seem to find the time for meditation, I offer the pause and breathing technique. This option has the practitioner stop at scheduled times throughout the day for just three to five minutes to breathe. It is a time to shut down the mind and focus attention on the in and out breath. The breathing recalibrates the nervous system while the change of focus takes the mind off of the stressors of the day.
Another exercise I use with my clients is the "Put it in Piles" method. Here, we put elements of whatever is bothering you into two piles. Pile one is for whatever you cannot control. Pile two is for whatever you can change through action. This method is very helpful for my entrepreneurs because it creates a to-do list of things they actually have agency over.
For those clients who want a dose of technology to aid their slide into alpha state, I offer the Alpha-Stim machine. The Alpha-Stim comes in a variety of models and is made by a number of companies. It is about the size and shape of a cell phone and comes with clips that attach comfortably to the earlobes. The machine delivers painless microcurrents of electricity to the brain that shifts beta waves to alpha almost instantly. This machine is FDA approved and is used by healthcare professionals throughout the world as a drug-free way to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia.
We've bought into a culture that says if you are not working harder, faster and stronger than the next guy then you aren't doing enough to be successful. Our "do it till you bleed" work ethic is sending our brains into high beta and it is literally killing us.
For my part, I try to help my clients live a little more like comedian and national treasure Bill Murray who said, "The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: The better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself."
High-beta brain waves are a fact of life for most entrepreneurs. Finding your path to alpha brain will not only relax you, but has the potential to make you better at everything.