Take a time out

It’s happened to you many times. The day started on the wrong foot; the boss is upset, your staff member that was supposed to finish a project calls in sick and you’ve got a presentation that you did not finish since you worked late all night.

As you gather your ideas for your presentation, 3 more problems occur and at this point you want to either, 1) kill the next person that shows up at your door or, 2) you wish you could disappear to a remote island in the Caribbean with a Mojito in your hand as you swing back and forth in your hammock – both choices not possible. Worse, for some reason you can’t focus on the presentation. What’s the problem?

Brain Science tells us that your amygdala (a pair of small organs in the brain) is overheating. This is called ‘Amygdala activation’. The Amygdala is the fear center in your brain. It’s the area that prepares you eventually for ‘fight or flight’. The amygdala stores and perpetuates the anxiety response and anxiety disorders.

In fact the amygdala orders your brain to go into a state of alert with its first instructions going to your unconscious mind indicating that danger is imminent.

Hopefully your amygdala is not overheating the entire time like it’s the case in this moment.

According to a Brain Science leading authority Dr. Srini Pillay ‘An overloaded amygdala can also explain your fatigue. You may think that you have no reason to be tired but Brain Science tell us that your unconscious brain may be absorbing the stress and fears of your daily life’.

Suggestion: Take a time out!

Of course this is what your spouse or partner means when they say: “Why don’t you take a break’ when you are really stressed but I really mean it here. Take a time out for about 3-5 minutes.

Get up from your office and get away where you can concentrate, meditate and forget what is currently stressing you.

Ok nothing new here – you have done this before without thinking too much about it in the past or perhaps the suggestion came from someone to go for a break. Some smokers claim that they think better after a cigarette break – I can’t comment here. Once you come back from a break however you seem to have found your inspiration or ability to think, but what really happened in this process?

Here is how it works:

Find yourself a quiet spot where you can be alone, without interruptions like cell phones, internet and sms free your mind of the work issue. This place should facilitate a quiet moment for 3-5 minutes where you need to concentrate on your breathing.

The idea is to focus your thinking on only one thing. When you focus on your breathing, inhaling oxygen, holding it only for 1-2 seconds (actively recognize that little moment between inhaling and exhaling) then completely exhaling the air out of your lungs, continuously focusing on your breath. While focusing on your breathing process, it is impossible to be able to think about anything else.

Try it now for a few moments. As you concentrate on your breathing – you will not be able to think about anything else…pretty cool eh!

This is not so much a relaxation technique bur rather a method to reduce this amygdala activation. By not thinking about anything except your breathing for 3-5 minutes you are essentially setting your amygdala in a more relaxed state. You of course can’t see this happening but trust me, this is what is happening which explains why after 3-5 minutes you regain focus, composure and inspiration.

What I want to emphasize here is that if you are stressed, from reading this article you will know in the future that consciously taking that Time out will help you.

Next time you are in a Board meeting and you are really stressed, try taking a washroom break (no one can blame you when nature calls) and instead of using the washroom for its real purpose, use the toilet stall to hide, close your eyes and focus on your breathing for 3-5 minutes.

Apply this to any issue that stresses you: Personal, business or social.

I have used this practice often including one particular event I was organizing. Everything was falling apart and the guests were arriving in one hour and my thoughts were frozen, I felt paralyzed. I could not decide on easy, basic matters yet having done this time and time again before.

I took a time out and after 5 minutes I regained my ability ‘to put out the next fires’.

The brain is an amazing tool but at times it can go into meltdown and easing off on the amygdala can put you back in shape. The best way to fix this is to ‘Take a time out’.

For a cool video presentation on amygdala activation, check out this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GdALwuYtG8

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