Science to fore in reducing stress

Speaker Lance Burdett (left), with Rural Support Trust Mid Canterbury's Allan Baird, says people need to learn how to stop their brains from overthinking. Photo: Supplied
Speaker Lance Burdett (left), with Rural Support Trust Mid Canterbury's Allan Baird, says people need to learn how to stop their brains from overthinking. Photo: Supplied
''Our brain is working 10 times faster than ever predicted possible. We've lost control,'' says resilience speaker and crisis negotiator Lance Burdett.

It has led to overthinking with increased negative thoughts, sleep problems and much worse.

And people needed to learn how to turn their brains off, he said.

Mr Burdett, the founder of WARN International, was in Ashburton May 9 to speak at an event hosted by the Rural Support Trust Mid Canterbury. It was part of a national tour. Around 130 people attended.

In an informative and humorous presentation he explained ''the science behind our brains''

and offered his captive audience tips and techniques to help handle difficult situations by understanding what goes on in people's brains.

He also shared breathing techniques to induce relaxation, switch off the brain or relieve anger along with a simple risk management tool to help relieve anxiety.

Mr Burdett said we lived in an age where we did not talk to others in the same way as we used to, our brains were processing too much information, and we had higher expectations of ourselves, while at the same time wanting more for less.

It was no wonder there were more angry people around - it was our default setting, he said.

We needed to ''do something about what you're worrying about'', rather than letting small things fester.

His risk management tool involved singling out an issue or problem, then listing ''what could happen'', followed by ''what's likely to happen'' and then a list of ''what can be done'' about it.

This helped ''release'' the thought and allowed you to focus on a solution.

Mr Burdett said breathing techniques were useful to switch off the brain, especially when waking in the early hours and and getting caught up in negative thoughts.

It is often in the middle of the night when a minor thought, feels like a major issue, he said.

Millennials had at least 90,000 thoughts a day and the brain rewired at different stages of life - first at 2 years old, then again at 13 for girls and 14 for boys, before stabilising at 15.

''We don't grow into our brains until 25. Our emotions don't develop properly until we're 30,'' he said.

With our brains overloaded with everyday life choices, it was on heightened alert and on the lookout for signs of danger - in another harking back to our prehistoric brain.

''We have relaxed. We don't have to think anymore. We have technology. We've lost control.''

He said it was natural for people to talk to themselves but ''we all have a negative bias'' and most of that talk was going to become negative.

Those negative emotions caused a state of alertness - with the default position being anger - but positive emotions were calming.

''We tend to forget the positives.''

Mr Burdett said the longer something stayed in our head, the more it grew.

Those intrusive thoughts are completely normal, he said, but controllable.

Help at hand

Anger relief

A quick and effective breathing technique to relieve anger is to breathe in deeply and then hold your breath for four seconds before slowly expelling and then repeating (too many times and you will feel dizzy).

Switching off

A relaxation to switch off the brain (recommended twice a day; at lunchtime and in the evening) is to breathe in steadily for six seconds, then breathe out for six seconds. Repeat. Do this slowly and methodically for up to two minutes.

Sleep time

Take deep breaths through the nose focusing on  the cold sensation as the air goes up one nostril. Then three breaths feeling the cold air as as it goes up the other nostril. Then with the final three breaths feel it as really cold air going up both nostrils. Repeat twice.

Protein boost

A small piece of protein before bed such as walnuts, almonds, cooked meat, or cheese to suppress waking between 2am and 3am, which hails back to prehistoric living when humans needed to wake and check for danger. The sleep time breathing technique and the switch-off technique are also useful when waking in the wee hours.

Work / relaxation division

Those who work from home should designate two chairs as work chairs.

‘‘Brains associate negative stuff with a place. Where you’re sitting is associated with work.

‘‘Don’t work where you need to relax. Have that division.’’

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