The Least Stressed Nation on Earth: And How to Reduce Yours

  1. Be curious. Curiosity doesn’t just breed mischievous children, it is a fundamental and primordial function of the brain that lies upstream of learning. Its expression is strongly associated with mental health and intelligence, even at the molecular level. To become more resilient to stress, I recommend you try to foster your own curiosity for how you react to stressful surroundings and experiences. Explore as many different aspects of your reactions as you can. Dive deeply into them. Doing so redirects brain activity to strengthen the modulatory potential of the prefrontal context over subcortical regions involved in the stress response. Be curious.
  2. Know your body. The late, great Christopher Hitchens once said, “We don’t have bodies. We are bodies.” This is wisdom worth remembering. The relationship between body and brain is deeply intimate. It is actually debated in neuroscience if we will our bodies to move, or if our bodies move and then we retroactively rationalise that it is we that must have willed it so. Philosophical discussions on consciousness aside, it is well recognised that the body and brain have a strong feedback loop in the context of stress. For example, an external signal can cause your heart to speed up without any conscious contribution, but once your brain realises your heart is racing, it may interpret this as a sign that you are stressed, and trigger the release of stress hormone in response. Knowing feedback loops like this exist can be pivotal for building stress resilience, but the real power derives from learning how to tune in to what your body is doing, and understanding what it means. A heightened sense of your body will help you determine when a stress response is appropriate, and when automatic bodily reactions can be safely quelled. You can often shunt the positive feedback loop by taking a deep breath and being curious about the specific details of what it is you are feeling in the present moment. These techniques work together. Be curious and know your body.
  3. Know when to give a f*ck. Finally, sometimes the best stress relief is to just stop caring. In no way am I promoting apathy, or even nihilism, but I am promoting a mindful allocation of your mental resources. Stoic thinkers such as Seneca have enjoyed long standing popularity specifically because they knew when to care. Life is full of choices, and frankly speaking, it’s pretty hard to know which of the myriad choices we are forced to make on a daily basis might be the most important. If there’s a choice that needs to be made and you’re not sure if it’s an important choice, I recommend you assume it’s not. Low fat or full fat milk? Hotel or AirBnB? How much does it really matter? Face it, most decisions in life have little long term consequence, and the little decisions that do end up leaving long lasting impact are pretty much impossible to predict. I therefore recommend you focus on what’s most likely to have far reaching consequences on your life, like your career or loved ones. Another related technique that can be truly powerful is to differentiate between what is fully under your control, what is partially under your control and what is absolutely not under your control. For example, you have a lot of control over whether or not you celebrate your next birthday, but you only have partial control over who attends the celebration, and you have basically zero control over what the weather will do that day. Evoking this kind of thinking will help you become less stressed if things don’t go as planned. So if your hero Alessandro doesn’t show up, or if Ada brings that jerk Adam, just remind yourself that you only ever had partial control over who attended in the first place. If you wanted 100% control over who attended, you could have decided not to celebrate your birthday in the first place. The fact that you did means you congenitally accepted that some elements of the celebration may not go as planned. Be curious, know your body and know when to give a f*ck.

--

--

--

Neuroscientist & CEO @ Mobio Interactive. I support my team in the pursuit of effective and accessible healthcare for every human.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Do We Live in Isolation? Developing the Concept of a “Psychological Ecosystem”

The story of Phineas Gage

(3/4) The Science Behind Modern Psychometrics Tools

The Relational Nature of Shame: A Conversation on Shame Inspired by the Work of Patricia DeYoung…

Why do we love photo filters so much?

"conspiracy theories" are dangerous because they seduce our brains via

The 1 Crucial Aspect To Intelligence Nobody Ever Talks About

What Can We Do When Faced With Too Many Choices?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Bechara Saab

Bechara Saab

Neuroscientist & CEO @ Mobio Interactive. I support my team in the pursuit of effective and accessible healthcare for every human.

More from Medium

What is Holism? An In-Depth Look at Holism Psychology

The future of mental digital therapeutics: Immersive, Personal and Always On.

Do We Really Have 2-Million Unemployed Graduates?

My Neighbors Are Making Incredibly Loud Noise While Renovating

A person renovating the exterior of a house.