If you were to ask me “Ben, what's one of the most paramount things you have ever learnt?” I would say “to cultivate the art of mindfulness and practicing being present as a way of living”. Mindfulness, I believe, is no longer an ancient eastern idea derived from Buddhist Anapanasati, but rather something critical to every human being. It is often missing as we journey through times of mass uncertainty, change and turbulence.
Debunking Hyper Vigilance
Hyper vigilance is a heightened state of being and is evident when we are in fight or flight mode. In this state, we perceive reality with a certain level of threat to our safety and security.
Both the past and the future produce two emotions that are linked to our thoughts - regret and anxiety. When we become hyper vigilant, we arouse heightened levels of a hormone known as cortisol -- the hormone instigated when our fight or flight response is triggered. In short intense periods, cortisol serves to stimulate and energize. However, long term it is catabolic and, among other things, detrimental to our mood and sleep. When we produce greater amounts of cortisol by remaining in a hyper vigilant state, we produce less serotonin, a chemical needed to maintain an upbeat mood. Less serotonin in turn affects the output of melatonin, a key hormone needed to achieve deep bouts of sleep.
The more hyper vigilant we become, the harder it is to manage circumstances of change, challenge and pressure.
When we live in the past or future too often, not only do we produce more cortisol but it can affect the frame of mind we manage reality from. It also causes us to use a different network of the brain known as the narrative network. This impacts our ability to distance ourselves from fear based emotions, so we tend to drift into our imaginations and lose control of the present moment. This means we end up feeling like we have less control and can become very unhappy.
This is important when collaborating with others and managing what they might say and do. Handling uncertainty in the future and being able to work on a task with a laser-like focus means: we must learn to work in a more present, calm and optimistic state and avoid our thoughts being caught in the past or future -- the two places where hyper vigilant individuals invest most of their thought and energy.
Challenging Times Are Not Going Away
Working with people effectively and learning to manage circumstance that lie outside our control are two crucial skills of successful individuals. Mindfulness is an encore to this. Begin making a conscious effort to live more in the present and less in the past and future. Notice the difference in your performance when you are less hyper vigilant and become conscious to the fact that you may be dwelling somewhere else, outside real time that could be detracting from your performance.
For more solutions to leading a team through turbulent times or how to master the skill set of mindfulness and enhance personal performance contact Ben today.