Saturday, September 5, 2009


I have been reading a lot of Martha Beck’s and SARK’S articles on the importance of sleep in getting things done. I have found them most inspirational since I know firsthand the importance of sleep. I went at least a year of being sleep deprived.
I felt overworked and got very little done.

Sleep is very underrated and so often, gets bad press, that it’s understandable that people don’t recognize the benefits of it.

On Martha Beck’s website, she talks about The Adequate-Sleep Life-Enhancing Experimental Project (ASLEEP), you are encouraged to get a full night’s sleep. Instead of relying on caffeine to wake you up, you just take a nap.
She says in her blog:

“I made a radical decision: I would put sleep above all other priorities until I was no longer tired. Every night, I would sleep until I woke up. I would consume no stimulants, and I would go back to dreamland whenever I felt fatigued.

When I woke up six weeks later, the whole world seemed shiny and attractive, like Patrick Stewart’s head. I was filled with ideas. My eye-bags had shrunk to the point where they looked less like Hefty garbage disposal units than tasteful evening clutches. I felt an inner peace I thought came only from enlightenment or horse tranquilizers.”

A blogger concurs saying,
“I have definitely noticed that by late Sunday afternoon or early evening, I’m bloody brilliant and could easily run the world while standing on one leg juggling cats.”

I think this is a great idea, but don’t know how realistic it is. I may be forced to build a George Costanza-esque bed under the counter at the Starbucks I work at. I’m sure the customers won’t bother me.

I’m going to give it a try. I encourage everyone to try it as well. Just don’t give up Starbucks!

c. 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I've Got the Power

So often we give control of a situation to others. It is so hard to remember that the only control they have is what we allow them to have. For instance, we know our co-workers. We usually know the way they'll respond to most situations. We shouldn't act surprised when they act the way we expect them to.
Instead, we should take this into account, and tailor our actions around them to allow for their respective responses.

I'm not suggesting that we lie or be false with them, but just that maybe we shouldn't open up to particular people. Maybe we don't loan our software or pens to others. This saves a lot of aggravation on both parts, and puts the control in our hands.

c. 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Intentional Moods

One way we can curb reptilian thinking in advance is with intention.

I woke up today in a very good mood. I was well rested, and felt on top of my game. The scene was set for a great day. This was not to be the case though. I got to work and sabotaged my serenity by, not only allowing myself to be distracted by petty annoyances; but almost relishing them. I would not release my grasp on them for anything. Around they spun in my brain like a rotisserie chicken.

I was roasting each and every irksome habit until they were golden brown. My co-worker's tendency to lick her finger while sorting through stacks of paper, another's seeming indifference to the needs of customers paired with the cell phone outgrowth on her ear, all were searing to a crisp in my brain. Whether these aggravations were valid or not is an entirely different issue. After the first hour, I was in a most wretched mood. And you can imagine how pleasant I was to be around this morning.

While I was still thinking somewhat cerebrally, albeit mostly with the primitive, hind regions of my brain. I was able to “catch” these aggravations and filter through them somewhat. Given the small amount of sense I was thinking with this morning, I was able to at least know that I was doing myself (and certainly everyone else) no favors by making these annoyances my primary focus.

“One of the functions of the thinking brain is to exercise veto power over the instinctive forces of the two lower brains. It sets limits on behavior; it provides self-control.” Healthy Congregations by Peter L Steinke

I have often, and have worked for people, who have rationalized a reptilian response in order to “teach the offender a lesson.” This is not only counter-productive, but it usually make the situation worse.

In times of high stress, in order to keep ourselves from a reptilian reaction, we must capture each and every thought. I am constantly learning and re-learning how to do this. Once I could direct my thoughts elsewhere (which did take work and a lot of re-focusing), I was thinking a lot clearer, performing my tasks a lot better, and was in a much much better mood.

It was very hard at first, I won't lie. It took directed intention. I spent a lot of the day “faking it 'til I made it.” But I ended the day in a much better mood, and no reptilian incidents.

c. 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Brain Stem Made Me Do It

This post will dovetail nicely with the previous post on Perez Hilton. You may have read the last post thinking that I was excusing behavior like Hilton exhibited. Well, if it's biological, how can I help it?
My brain stem made me do it. The “my brain stem made me do it excuse” might work in court, under mans rea, but is rarely effective in every day life.

A reptilian reaction is indeed biological, but that doesn't mean that we can just let loose with reactive behavior whenever we are stressed out. That's a good way to make a lot of enemies and ruin relationships. How do you feel about the reactive people in your life? (Oh my gosh, what is WITH her?)

The neocortex, the the largest and most rational part of the brain, can be dominated by our most primitive brain, the brain stem, or reptilian brain. When stress triggers the brain stem, it is programmed to react whether it's perceptions are correct or not (and it's even more embarrassing when you're freaking out about something that isn't quite as bad as it appears – which is actually pretty common).

It requires emotional intelligence to upshift to our higher brains. The reptilian reaction is automatic, and can't be stopped, but if you are able to upshift - basically find the truth in the situation, (OK, this will NOT kill me) - you can prevent an embarrassing situation.

Upshifting is not easy nor is it natural.

How do we do this? How does one overcome an automatic reaction? How exactly do we upshift to the more cerebral regions of our brains? It doesn't require any super brain powers. There are a number of ways. The best way is to laugh.

I know you're thinking, OK, now I know she's crazy. Think about it though. I'm sure we all can think of time when we were just raging mad, and some comic relief managed to creep it's way in to the situation. We most likely forgot what we were so upset about, right? Laughter relieves stress and lightens the situation, (at least for the one laughing, anyway).

There are some times when laugher is the LAST thing we are capable of, and that's OK because there are a couple of other things we can do.

Reframing is one of them. This is probably the next hardest to do because it involves pulling yourself out of the situation and looking at it in a new light. Oftentimes we are so enmeshed in the situation that it is near impossible to see a different angle of it. If we are not actually in a dire situation, perhaps we may have the time to reflect on how irrational our thoughts may be.

What are some other ways we can deal with stress, thus avoiding reptilian reactions?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reptilian Rant at the Miss USA Pagent

I'm sure that everyone has heard about the Miss California, Perez Hilton incident. But what they probably don't know was that Perez's reptilian response was very typical. Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not excusing or condoning his behavior.

Perez felt, as do most people with differing opinions, that when an opposite view is merely presented, no matter how nice a manner, that he is under attack. I'm sure lots are reading this with a “not me” attitude. “I can surely listen to a counter opinion placidly.” And you may indeed. I'm here to tell you it's tough. Not that we all respond on national television as belligerently as Perez Hilton. But we all have the capacity to do it.

So, Perez, a gay man who relishes in being different as well as being the underdog,
takes any dissent as a personal attack, and reacts accordingly. Even though, Carrie Prejean answered a completely loaded question with more grace than most could muster in a similar situation, it was the “wrong” answer in Hilton's eyes. This triggered an automatic belligerent response. He was stuck in his lowest brain [the brain stem], probably letting her opposing response fester there so he was rendered incapable of reasoning. Tolerance was simply not an option for him. Tolerance requires thinking from our higher brains. Often by the time we realize what is happening, the damage has already been done.

This may be the case with Perez Hilton. I hear he is requesting to have dinner with Prejean, which she is understandably declining. Even though it is an automatic reptilian response, we must still take responsibility for any harm done. He may be attempting to reach out to make amends, but I kind of doubt it.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Fight or Flight Stress Response

The fight or flight stress response is controlled by our brain stems. You may have heard it called the “reptilian brain.” It is called this because our human brain stems are equal to the entire brain of a lizard or other such reptile. When the primitive little reptile gets stressed out about something, the only way it can respond is to “fight,” leave, or to “freeze.” You may have heard this called the fight or flight stress response. This is built into our brains for our protection.

But as with all aspects of human nature, it has the capacity to go terribly awry. The “reptilian brain” is our most primitive brain and doesn't think or reason. Therefore it cannot tell the difference between real or imagined stress. Unless we move the situation up to the more cerebral regions of our brains (where we can think and reason), it will automatically react as if the perceived stress were life-threatening.

This can encourage some very scary or comical behavior depending on how you look at it.

People as young as elementary school aged kids have “reptilian moments.” Do you remember when you were playing sports, and during the heat of the game, everything seemed so dire. The poor unathletic types would often get a brutal tongue-lashing, and sometimes more, if they didn't catch or hit the ball in the right way.

Our young brain stems didn't know it wasn't a dire situation. It was just programmed to survive, by any means possible. “Fight” is the usual means employed in this situation. Since I was an unfortunate, uncoordinated soul, I would often choose the “flight” method for dealing with my stress.

As we grow older, our reptilian moments don't go away and certainly don't get any more sophisticated.
Our workplaces abound with reptiles. It can be almost comical when it's not so darn annoying.
If we don't learn to deal with the reptiles (because they are not going anywhere), we risk our own sanity.

I'd love to hear some of your reptilian moments at work.

c. 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Political Reptiles

What is it about a differing political opinion that can make one defensive, or just plain rude? I've encountered plenty of usually nice people, who will "attack" at the slightest differing political opinion (I've even done it myself plenty of times).  I want to hear thoughts on this. Why do politics affect us this way? Is it really about the issues & politicians or is it more about the ideals behind them?  Or is it  just a way to validate ourselves, proving that we're right?....b

Saturday, April 18, 2009

People are strange...

People are strange. Everyone knows this. Are they strange because we're strange, making normality odd to us? 

My book discusses bad behavior in the workplace. I want to hear your rantings on your experiences with rudeness at work.