Finding Centre - Without Losing Your Cool

3 min read
13 May 2022

When something is in homeostasis, there is a balance. In nature, this might mean the appropriate amount of water to support plant growth without drowning or dehydrating the plant. The same principle works in our brains. When we find our centre, we can achieve homeostasis, or the balance between the brain and the body. Our emotions don’t drown us, but neither are we parched from the lack of them.

When we constantly focus on how upset or angry we are, others will pick up on it. People may become distracted and unable to work on their own tasks and obligations. The person venting is now losing out not only on their productivity but affecting the performance of others. As leaders, we know how detrimental this can be to the morale and atmosphere in an organisation. 

It’s no surprise that stress can make this situation worse. When things are already not the best, stress can push us over the edge. Unstable people are more unstable when they are in high-stress situations. In these moments, all homeostasis is lost, and the brain is not functioning optimally. 

It is probably not surprising that our modern technology can also add to this instability. We find that so many tasks are more manageable because of technology, but what price do we pay? Social media is often uplifting and joyful, but it is also a cesspit full of nightmare content. How can we possibly manage everything expected of us in our professional and personal lives and still maintain a social presence (digitally or physically) without being split into tiny pieces?

The Prefrontal Cortex--Emotional Control (Or Not)

The easy answer to the previous question is the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This brain area is responsible for complex behaviours, such as reasoning, creativity, problem solving and comprehension. It is also part of the emotion network, allowing us to interact with the world in a calm, open-minded manner. When the prefrontal cortex functions properly, we can better achieve and maintain homeostasis. 

In a new book called “Frontal Fatigue” by Dr Mark Rego, he explores many mental illnesses and how mental illnesses are becoming more common and more severe in our modern society. The Covid-19 epidemic has brought some of these issues into the spotlight, but it’s quite clear that we as a species are not addressing a significant problem--our declining collective mental health. 

Research has shown that technology is related to the rise of mental illnesses. We have essentially created a new kind of stress because of technology, and unfortunately, the prefrontal cortex is straining to handle these new and pervasive demands. While the PFC is a miraculous thing, it simply doesn’t work well under stress, and any vulnerabilities to mental illness are exposed once the stress has taken over. 

Our way of life requires us to be always on, always available, constantly checking our emails and messages and social media accounts. The PFC is not equipped to handle this load, and the effects are apparent. We face a public health crisis, but it seems like many people are too focused on their devices to notice. 

Most people view our era as one of stress. In fact, ours is often called the age of anxiety. 

Dr Mark Rego

So, is there no hope? It is definitely too late to roll back our use of technology. But, can we still learn to regulate our emotional self and find our centre? Fortunately, according to Dr Rego, there are things we can do to rest and reset our prefrontal cortex, which will allow us to become better leaders, partners, friends, and members of society.

  • Quiet your mind. While it’s tempting to park yourself in front of the TV, this is not exactly what Dr Rego recommends. Instead, find things that you enjoy and let yourself do those things. Paint that picture, take up tennis or dance lessons, or take a yoga class. Learn to breathe and listen to your body. Take a walk outside and just enjoy the day. If we can disconnect from the world's demands, we will be better prepared to accomplish the things we want and need to do. 
  • Read something, but not something short. Dr Rego recommends that we ‘read deeply’, meaning we should find something longer than typical emails and texts. The content itself doesn’t matter, but do find something that captures your attention for more than just a minute. Allow your brain to focus on one single thing, allowing for an increase in critical thinking while allowing your mind to drift into an almost meditative state.
  • Start to shift your thinking about things you don’t like. This is perhaps the most uncomfortable suggestion because we must look within. If something causes you to have a negative response, look inside yourself and ask why. What is causing the bad feeling? Are you already in a difficult headspace, already irritable and ready to go off? We first have to accept the problem before finding solutions, so soul-searching is required if we truly want to have a healthier balance of emotions. 

Watch Mark’s Brain-Friendly Channel Session

When: May 19 2022 7AM GMT+10
Hosted: Silvia Damiano, Founder, About my Brain Institute
Guest: Dr. Mark Rego, Psychiatrist & Author

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