Heath & Wellness

Technology that really can change your life.

April 8, 2014

CBefore we talk about technology, let’s talk about stress. There are actually a couple different types of stress. Good stress – short term, acute stress that can actually boost cardiovascular performance and focus. Bad stress – long term, chronic stress that can play havoc with everything from your physical health to your psychological health and your brain power. Nowadays all of us live with a lot of stress in our day-to-day lives. Most of it is the bad kind. And lawyers live with more than their share of bad stress – literally. Lawyers live not only with their own stress, but all too often, lawyers take on their clients’ stress. The burden can be overwhelming.

A Bit of Neuroscience

In the book, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School, author and molecular biologist, John Medina explains that our brains were designed to deal with stress that lasts a very short time, seconds, in fact. When our ancestors faced stress from the fear of being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, that stress came and went very quickly. You either ran away or were eaten – or maybe you killed the tiger. But it was all over very quickly. Today our stressors last for days, weeks, months or even longer. That is a big problem.

The two primary hormones that help us deal with stress – adrenaline and cortisol – are meant to defend us against acute stress – that saber-toothed tiger that wants to eat us.

These days, our stresses are measured not in moments with mountain lions, but in hours, days, and sometimes months with hectic workplaces, screaming toddlers, and money problems. Our system isn’t built for that. And when moderate amounts of hormone build up to large amounts, or when moderate amounts of hormone hang around too long, they become quite harmful.
– From Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

The harmful effects of having stress hormones build up in our bodies over time can make us more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. It can weaken our immune system and lessen our ability to fight infections. There are also tremendous negative effects of long-term stress on our brains. Our brains are very responsive to stress. If the stress is not too severe – good stress – our brains actually perform more effectively. (The theory that when our stress level is just right we perform at our best is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law.) But if our brains are subjected to chronic stress the damage can be devastating. According to the research reported in Brain Rules, people affected by chronic stress don’t process language efficiently, have poor long and short term memory, have poor concentration, and may suffer from depression.

In almost every way it can be tested, chronic stress hurts our ability to learn. One study showed that adults with high stress levels performed 50 percent worse on certain cognitive tests than adults with low stress. Specifically, stress hurts declarative memory (things you can declare) and executive function (the type of thinking that involves problem-solving). Those, of course, are the skills needed to excel in school and business.”
– From Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

This is not good news for highly stressed lawyers.

Technology to the Rescue

So, bad stress is really bad. Yet, it’s everywhere. It’s so much a part of our lives; how can we do anything about it? That’s where technology comes in. Well, sort of. Technology can’t solve your chronic stress problem. But, it can help you practice one of the most effective means for reducing chronic stress – mindfulness meditation.

I know. I strung you along thinking this post would be all about technology, and yet, here we are talking about mindfulness meditation. Here’s why. I know that if you’re a lawyer reading this post you are dealing with chronic stress. There is no magic pill that can help you get rid of it. There is no coach or coaching program that can rid you of it. Yes, I can help my clients gain more control over their lives by showing them how to work more effectively. And yes, the more control we have over our lives the less stressed we feel. There is an inverse relationship between control and stress. Less control = more stress. More control = less stress. But the only way for you to reduce your stress level is to take an active role in rewiring your own brain.

I promise I’ll get to the technology part, but first just a few words about mindfulness meditation. The benefits of meditation are many. Numerous studies have found that people who meditate regularly are happier than the average person. But that’s not all, a variety of other studies cited in Mindfulness: An Eight –Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman have found that:

  •  Anxiety, depression and irritability all decrease with regular sessions of meditation.
  • Memory also improves, reaction times become faster and mental and physical stamina increase.
  • Regular meditators enjoy better and more fulfilling relationships.
  • Studies worldwide have found that meditation reduces the key indicators of chronic stress, including hypertension.
  • Meditation has also been found to be effective in reducing the impact of serious conditions, such as chronic pain and cancer, and can even help to relieve drug and alcohol dependence.
  • Studies have now shown that meditation bolsters the immune system and thus helps to fight off colds, flu and other diseases.

Here’s another great thing about mindfulness. It costs you practically nothing. Here comes the technology part.

Get Some Headspace

Starting a mindfulness mediation practice can be a challenge. Here’s where technology can really help. You’re already stressed out. How are you going to cram one more thing into your day? I’m not saying that making time for meditation each day will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it. I began a mediation practice last year and wrote about it in an earlier post. Click here to read the post. It has made a tremendously positive impact on my life. And I feel passionately that mindfulness can help my clients and other lawyers improve their lives and their law practices.

In my post from earlier this year, I recommended a couple of meditation resources: The audio book Meditations to Change Your Brain and the iPhone app Calm.com. Since then I’ve discovered www.getsomeheadspace.com It’s a crazy name for a phenomenal service. I highly recommend visiting the website, watching the videos and downloading the app. Both the app and the first program “Take 10” are free. Take 10 is a ten-day program of ten-minute guided meditations. If you’re like me, you’ll want more, and you can subscribe to the service which gives you access to all of the programs.

You owe it to yourself to explore whether being more mindful can help you reduce your stress, increase your focus, enhance your overall feelings of happiness and well-being, and well . . . get some headspace.

If you do checkout GetSomeHeadspace, I’d love to hear from you!

1 Comment

  1. […] Technology That Really Can Change Your Life (Real Life Practice) — Nora Riva Bergman explains how the selective use of technology can reduce stress and increase productivity […]

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