I recently listened to a great interview on The James Altucher Show with neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman. James and Andrew covered many topics but what interested me the most was a simple strategy that Andrew recommended, to mitigate stress during uncertain times.
I’m still in Mexico, and incredibly happy to be here, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to see my family again. Many of us are unsure if we still have a job. Or if our freedoms will continue to be restricted. Those of us in relationships don’t know if they’ll survive the pandemic and if we’re single, we don’t know when we’ll next be able to go on a date. We don’t know how many of our loved ones will get sick and die from COVID-19. And we don’t know if this is just a dress rehearsal for a far more serious threat around the corner.
Andrew warns that if we stay in a state of hyper-vigilance indefinitely, we risk burning out our nervous systems. He outlines a simple technique that we can follow, to pace ourselves for as long as it takes.
THE NEUROSCIENCE BEHIND THE TECHNIQUE
During periods of high stress and uncertainty, our system is flooded with adrenaline—a key stress hormone that triggers the fight-or-flight response. The release of dopamine—a neuromodulator involved in the brain’s reward and motivation network, halts the secretion of adrenaline, resetting the balance between readiness for action and a state of rest and relaxation. The following technique allows us to take control of this mechanism so that we can keep our stress levels in check and make it through the crisis in tact.
THE DAILY STRATEGY
Every day, hit meaningful milestones, en route to your bigger goals. This is how that looks for me. Every day I:
- Wake up at 6am.
- Go for a run with the dogs.
- Do a short resistance workout.
- Spend 30 minutes in the sunshine.
- Work on my new series of yoga videos.
- Eat a whole-food diet.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Teach yoga to my household.
- Go to bed before 10pm.
Andrew adds that registering the completion of each task amplifies the effect. I do this by marking them off on the Streaks app on my phone.
Not only does this strategy mitigate the stress response but the continual release of dopamine gives us a buoyancy that feels good, keeps us focused and propels us forward. With the completion of each activity, we feel a renewed sense of gratitude, optimism and possibility. We’re literally being rewarded in real-time for successfully pursuing our goals.
When I wake up in the morning, I’m no longer worried about an unknown future. I know that all I have to do is stick to the plan. None of us know how long this pandemic will last but we can all keep moving forward, even if only in baby steps. With this technique, we’re able to continually replenish our tanks so that instead of emerging from this crisis exhausted and burned out, we will be stronger, more resilient and a few steps closer to our goals.
Those of you who are currently thriving are probably, intuitively, already doing something similar. What I loved about this interview is that by understanding the mechanism of action behind this strategy we can trust more deeply in our process and replicate our success in the future.
What baby steps are you committed to taking every day?