The Neuroscience of Exhaustion!
If there is one thing that almost everyone agrees upon today, it is that life can be exhausting. Whether it’s taking care of kids, going to school, or working 9 to 5, the fast-paced, high-tech, high-demand life most of us lead often leaves us exhausted at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, while most people recognize the problem, very few of us know how to address it, because we are either unable or unwilling to change the aspects of our lives that seem to be exhausting us.
This is why I love looking at life from the perspective of how the brain processes information. Because, given the fact that everything we think and feel and do and say is dependent on this process, if we can learn how to influence this aspect of life, we can have a tremendous impact on our ability to stay engaged and energized throughout the day.
For example, we now know that the middle brain (the limbic system) acts a scanner, processor, and router. It scans incoming data, processes it or interprets it, and then either routes it down to the brainstem, or up to the upper 80% of the brain, the neocortex, where we have access to our interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, clarity, confidence, creativity, compassion, etc.
Most people are unaware of this process, and the chemicals that are triggered by each part of the brain. For example, the lower brain triggers adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, while the upper brain triggers other chemicals, such as, serotonin and endorphins.
Most people are also unaware of the role that these chemicals play in our becoming exhausted. For example, when we are stressed, frustrated, anxious, annoyed, angry, etc., we are triggering chemicals designed to move us into fight-or-flight. This means that not only does our blood pressure and heart rate go up, our muscles tense, and our breathing becomes short and shallow. Unfortunately, if this state is sustained, or triggered again and again throughout the day, this will exhaust us.
In other words, the reason that we are exhausted at the end of the day is not because we have done a lot of physical activity. It’s because we have been dumping adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol into our body all day long! If, instead, we are willing to start the day in the neocortex, we will be triggering serotonin and endorphins, which help us think clearly and feel good. Then, if we will go into the afternoon clear about who we want to be, we will once again be triggering serotonin and endorphins.
This means that by the time we are going into the evening, we will not be nearly as exhausted because we have been triggering the sort of chemicals that allow us to be successful and give us energy, versus sapping our energy with stress.
If this is something that you would like for yourself and your organization, I suggest you contact me, because, until we shift our focus from trying to change the world around us so that it no longer “exhausts us,” to triggering the chemicals that support our energy and effectiveness, we will forever be at the mercy of people and things that are out of our control.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill