Updated: Feb 16, 2019
Our IQ can drop up to 40 points when in the stress response
Do you ever have those moments when you ask yourself “what was I thinking”? Well, chances are, you weren’t thinking clearly. In fact, do you ever ask yourself “how could I be so stupid?” That’s what happens when we’re stressed. The chemicals associated with stress literally take us from being a rationale human being to one we oftentimes don’t recognize; and, neither do those around us.
Before we move on, please don’t get in the habit of using the phrase, "I was stressed" with employers and family members. While that is the case, there is personal responsibility for everything we say, do and feel. As we learn the how & why’s this is happening, we’re also going to discover how to self-regulate ourselves into the loving, productive and compassionate member of society we all know is at the core of our BE’ing.
Learn To Be Mindful
To begin, let’s learn about some basic aspects of the body, mind and brain. Our mind is made up of two parts: 1) the conscious mind and 2) the sub-conscious mind. The conscious mind is the part of your mind that just decided between the chicken parmesan and the chicken milanese at your favorite italian restaurant. Your sub-conscious mind is the part of you that got you to the restaurant because you’ve eaten there a 1,000 times you don’t even need to pay attention to your drive or subway ride. We spend most of our waking hours in our sub-conscious mind as it’s the part of us that decides how we experience the world based on learned behavior.
“Since many of us are rarely in a “real” life threatening situation, it’s our “imagined” thoughts & emotions driving us into that Sympathetic System.”
When we’re stressed, we’re in a part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) called the Sympathetic System. It’s designed to be used only for emergencies only and communicates a message with our brain to say we’re in a life threatening situation (real or imaginary). Today, it’s become the dominant system instead of the Parasympathetic System (our rest and digest system). Since many of us are rarely in a “real” life threatening situation, it’s our “imagined” thoughts & emotions driving us into that Sympathetic System. I say “imagined” because it’s our sub-conscious mind’s programming to these thoughts and emotions that’s role playing the present moment.
At this point, a cascade of biochemical, biomechanical and physiological events begins to happen. To keep it simple, a signal goes to our pituitary gland which sends a signal to the adrenal glands for fight or flight. Chemicals are released in the body to fight, flee or freeze in response to the threat. Our heart rates goes up, our digestion slows, blood is directed away from internal organs towards muscles and bones. Being stressed also changes how your brain receives blood and which areas of the brain are activated vs. de-activated.
Now, here comes the point where our IQ drops in response to the “perceived” threat. Our forebrain is responsible for things involved in executive functioning which include logic, strategy, planning, problem-solving, etc. Our hind brain is our sub-conscious mind and is what’s operating in the Sympathetic state. You see, when in real danger, we need to act quickly. Our conscious mind is not able to do this so it’s de-activated so we’re not actually trying to use the skills associated with the logical part of our mind. Hence, our IQ drops in response to stress.
Learning To Self-Regulate
Most of the chronic illness seen today is the result of the overuse of a system that was designed for emergencies only; the Stress Response. In addition, we’re seeing the lack of concentration, productivity and organizational performance operating from our hind brain instead of our forebrain throughout our day.
Implementing mindful breathing practices provide the platform for neuroplasticity as well as improved overall health and well-being. No matter whether you’re at work, at play, exercising, or preparing for a great nights’ sleep, there are breathing strategies we can implement throughout our day to raise energy levels, calm ourselves, take “brain breaks”, implement during exercise, to build resilience or to improve both internal and external communication.
Here is the CURE…… controlling our breath is one of the few aspects of “autonomic” nervous system that we can control. Here's a quick technique. Slow down the pace of your inhale and your exhale and make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale. Try it now, 3 times please, PERFECT.
"When the body is not compensating for the mind’s imaginary threats, all systems are operating in a state of balance."
Mindful conscious breathing strategies calm the monkey mind, regulate emotional responses to these thoughts and provide the opportunity to shift patterns of behavior embedded in our sub-conscious. Not only can we shift the ‘perceived’ dis-stress in our lives, we can improve our health by living more in the Parasympathetic system. When the body is not compensating for the mind’s imaginary threats, all systems are operating in a state of balance.
In today’s age of daily stress levels of life being at a all time high, we all need to calm down with slowing our breathing rates down. Practice it now. Lets all come to each moment with a calm centered focus before we respond. Withdraw our mind from all external stimulation that doesn't need to be in this moment and relax. Over time we discover the peace in our heart, we use our thoughts wisely, and there is joy in mind, we can laugh and smile again.
Discover YOUR "life with breath"!