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  • When You’re Too Stressed Out to Think Straight… Do This


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    Have you ever been so stressed that you have a difficult time concentrating on what you’re (supposed to be) doing? Ever find that the closer a project deadline gets, the harder it is to finish? Ever been so stressed that you’re not even sure which way is up, anymore? I know I have! More times than I care to count, actually.

    What do you do when that happens? If you’re like most people, you buckle down and try even harder to apply yourself to your task. And if you’re like most people, that doesn’t work; at least not very well. You may even find that the harder you try, the harder your task becomes. It’s extremely frustrating and can make you feel like a real idiot. 

    But let me assure you, you’re not an idiot.

    The thing is… this is one of the effects that stress has on the body. It diverts blood away from the speech and language parts of the brain. Basically, it diverts blood from any part of the body that isn’t involved in either fighting or running from your stressor/threat. That’s why you can’t think straight.

    So all you need to do is relax and you’ll be able to think straight again! Easy peasy, right? 

    OK, maybe not so easy. But it’s not as hard as you’d think either. Here are a few shortcuts to turning off, or at least turning down, the stress response so you can think more clearly.

    • Take a break – Years ago, there was a study which showed that people who took a break actually performed better than those who didn’t. They gave a bunch of workers an identical project with a very short deadline. One group didn’t get a break, another group took a 15 minute break but had to stay at their desk while they did so, a third group took their break in the company lunch room, and a fourth group were told to go across the street to a local park for their break. Guess what? The park group finished the project sooner and with fewer mistakes than any other group! The lunch room group came in “2nd place”, the desk group 3rd, and those who didn’t take a break had the most mistakes and took the longest to complete the project. 
    • Breathe – Taking slow, deep breaths will trigger the relaxation response in your body. It’s even more effective when you spend twice as much time exhaling as you do inhaling. This will cause your body to stop diverting blood from your brain and you’ll be able to think more clearly once again.
    • Meditate – Just 10 minutes of a mindful breathing meditation can begin to quiet your body’s stress response enough to allow you to allow your brain to begin functioning properly again. Most people find that 15-20 minutes gives even better results.
    • Feet up the wall –  This simple restorative yoga pose is a powerful way to induce the body’s rest and digest response . The relaxation that follows will turn off the fight or flight response. Although experts say that you need a full 30 minutes to achieve optimal results, many people report that just 5 -10 minutes of feet up the wall pose leaves them feeling markedly better. 

    See, didn’t I tell you it was easy peasy?