Why can we not just follow our own good advice? Well most of the time we actually can and we do. It’s only when we are under stress that it all appears to go out the window and I learnt this the hard way last week.On Monday night I…
1. Didn’t go to bed on time so I didn’t get enough sleep
2. Watched a horror movie just before going to bed so I had a mad amount of stress hormones running around in my system so I found it really difficult to fall asleep
3. Ate a yummy but very sweet cake after my dinner not because I wanted it but I craved the sugarSo on Tuesday I…
1. Got up groggy & didn’t go for my usual early morning walk so didn’t get out of the house at all
2. Found it really difficult to focus
3. My emotions felt flatNow this is particularly embarrassing as everything I did on Monday night is the exact opposite of what I coach people to do. While Tuesday is exactly what I tell clients will happen if they don’t!But why does this happen? And what should we do?
Our brain evolved to keep our bodies alive and well and not to be able to create the technology to get us to the moon and back or even to be able ponder the meaning of life. So if we perceive a threat to our existence whether it’s an obvious one such as a purely physical one or even a social one such as rejection, embarrassment or isolation your brain and nervous system will kick off a stress response to get you back to safety. We all experience this as the fight or flight mechanism.
Powerful chemicals are released in the form of your stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline getting your body and brain ready to fight or run. The brain networks involved are located in the super-fast and powerful 90% or your brain which is not under your conscious control. While the 10% that is your pre-frontal cortex is put on power safe as all the oxygen & blood etc. is re-directed to power your survival networks. This is actually a good thing – you don’t want your much slower conscious brain networks running the show when you are under threat. Put bluntly we would be more likely end up dead.
So now my ability to choose a healthy response to stress is curbed. Add to this lack of exercise & sleep, then surplus stress hormones & sugar and you have the perfect recipe for a main course of foggy brain rounded off by a desert of inability to focus, remember stuff and a really low mood. This zombie inducing menu is self-feeding if left to its own devices.
If we don’t become our own best friends here and say this is not what you want to be doing, making the choice again and again to not stay up late, to exercise and to only eat that treat when we are feeling positive, no one else can. It’s like any habit it takes repetition to take hold and positive reinforcement is the way to go as it gives us our buzz of reward chemicals when we get things right.
So insight is more important than advice because experience trumps theory. Look at it this way - to experience something is a whole brain function (100%) while to theorise about something is predominantly the pre-frontal cortex function (10%). So we really do only learn by putting into practice our knowledge and this by its very nature will mean we will make ‘mistakes’ in the early stages or when we have experienced a shock which has overwhelmed us.
Many of us are in varying levels of struggling to keep ourselves moving forward in these challenging times. So I hope by sharing my less than shiny real life it can help to remind you that it’s perfectly normal to not walk your talk all the time. In fact, I will go one step further and say it’s healthy as it’s your alarm system saying there is something new you now need to learn.
If this sparked an interest & you would like to find out a bit more about how you can build your resilience and perform at your best, then…I'd love to hear from you!
Give Frances a call on 085 862 3009