Skip to content

Newsflash: When Stress is out of control, we age faster.

Abraham Lincoln

Stress has become such a blanket statement, that many of our clients have a hard time understanding the difference between situational stress and chronic stress. The former is usually brought about as a reaction to a stressor. It is usually short lived and may serve as a way to ‘get things done’, address and, when resolved, move on. Pretty much like the zebra who outruns the tiger. When she flees and makes it out alive, she resumes her normal sleep, rest and digest cycles. Unlike humans, the zebra is not replaying the chase in its head; it is not considering joining a gym or lamenting that weight gain has made her slower. No. The chase is over. End of story.

Humans, however, marinate in stress hormones by going over and what happened, or imagining tragic scenarios of what could be. Even though this negative bias has served humans to anchor survival skills, it has also transformed the stress response from a “response” to a “condition”. This is what chronic stress is about. Not being able to turn that flight or fight instinct, OFF.

One of the best ways to illustrate the devastating effects that chronic stress has on the body is to look at the President currently serving office. Assuming we all share the notion that being President of the U.S.A. is probably one of the most challenging jobs in the world, we can see them as an example of what happens when your body does not have time to recover and regenerate properly: How did he look when he came in, and how does he look now? Below is a magnificent article and photos that illustrate just that:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/lifestyle/the-age-of-obama/

It is worth noting, like the article mentions, that “despite the extraordinary stress levels, many recent presidents have lived well beyond normal life expectancy. Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford died at 93; Jimmy Carter and the George H.W. Bush are 88”. That is where resiliency comes in. Think about that.

Pilar Angel, Co-founder, Axeos

Mindfulness is NOT boring.

Mindfulness

“Why don’t you give mindfulness practice a try?” If I had a penny for all the times this suggestion has been followed by a client’s eye roll, I would have a lot of cash at hand. When pressed to explain the expression, the response oscillates between two reasons: it’s boring, and I can’t make my mind go blank.

One of the reasons that mindfulness is so often misunderstood is that it looks like you are doing nothing. Since you are usually sitting –or laying down- eyes closed, attention focused on your breath and on the sensations inside and around you, you look as if on pause. However, nothing could be more different than this passive impression.

The person who is engaged in the mindfulness exercise is very active: as its name suggests, their mind is full of the present moment. Their attention is centered in the repetition of a word, phrase, sound, prayer, thought or muscular activity, such as the breath. If intrusive thoughts arise, the subject acknowledges them and allows them to pass by –as a white cloud would on a beautiful blue sky-. The thoughts are not followed or judged, because all the individual needs to do is return to the repetition of his chosen word or activity.

As many researcher and thinkers have pointed out, mindfulness allows an individual to distinguish between himself and his own thinking processes: I am the thinker, not the thought. The cultivation of this awareness, and exercising the discipline to bring your attention where you want it to be, not where it chooses to randomly go, brings forth many benefits.

At the New Science of Resiliency Conference held by the Harvard Medical School and the Benson Henri Institute for Mind Body Medicine, research was presented that proved that a consistent mindfulness practice not only changes the gene expression in DNA, but also determines the growth of brain areas associated with memory and learning, as well as the decrease in size of the emotionally reactive amygdala- (more on that in blogs to come!).

Corporate America is noticing. In the words of Janice Marturano foundder the Institute for Mindful Leadership, after she left General Mills, “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected”. She should know since she set up a popular mindfulness program — and a meditation room in every building of their campus. According to the company’s research, 80% of participants said they felt it had improved their ability to make better decisions.

Pilar Angel, Axeos Co-founder

Why is resiliency important.

Resilience

Why is resiliency important? Because without it, we would not recover from setbacks.

During the almost three years in which we conducted case studies, we invited many individuals to our office to measure and gauge, not only how their mind and body reacted to stressors, but also how quickly they recovered from this exposure. Sometimes we created artificial cognitive stressors, and other times, we trained and coached in different ways to manage challenges in their day to day to day lives.

However, in the course of these years, we met individuals who were going through major life transitions, not just the standard “having a bad day” kind of stress, but major, major difficulties. The latter included divorce, job loss, job searching at a mature age, and loss of a child…events that rock your world in such a way that suddenly, you feel like you woke up in a lonely, alien planet. And that planet is now your life.

As we witnessed how our clients managed these events, we soon noticed a clear division between those who succumbed to despair and those who made in this new “planet”. It became obvious that those who managed to not give up had the ability to react to setbacks in a productive manner. They were able to tame and master their stress response, so that they could choose a constructive way to navigate their new life situation.
Some of them coped by reinterpreting negative events. Their lesson to us was to never underestimate the power of the “silver lining” thought process. By giving new meaning to what they were going through, they regained a sense of ownership and power over the experience, which helped them overcome the “why me” victim scenario. Others turned to physical activity to manage the stream of stress hormones that were flooding their bodies; some took a spiritual approach and turned to cultivating gratitude and acceptance as a way to be present and non-resistant to their new life; all however, shared a sense of belonging to a strong social network. Almost none lived an isolated existence.

Resiliency training is the key to sustaining high performance. There is no education on how to avoid challenges, as change is the essence of life. However, there is plenty of research that proves that resiliency can be cultivated and harnessed for your good. At axeos, we have proven techniques and FDA approved technology that enables us teach our clients to do just that.

Pilar Angel – Co-founder, Axeos