Are you happy and fulfilled with your career and life at this moment? You have worked hard to acquire titles, possessions, and achieve goals on your life checklist. Perhaps something feels as if it is missing from your life, so you reassess or reassign another goal to cross over to the path of contentment.
I too spent my years checking off the lists to make sure that I became a doctor, got married (and then divorced) in style, and collected designer high heeled shoes.
There was a signature sound of my designer high heels that echoed in the hospital corridors where no stilettos had ever roamed before. The click-clack of my heels was the signal to my physician colleagues, nurses, and patients that I had arrived. Female brain doctor, epilepsy specialist, and never-to-recover chocolate addict. The truth of the matter was that I was overwhelmed and sleep-deprived trying to keep up with 80-90 hour work weeks. Despite professional success, I felt all alone. My single prayer every morning was that no one would discover my shame and loneliness that was I hiding underneath a starched white lab coat.
ARE YOU STUCK IN THE STRESS-SUCCESS CYCLE?
Since my lonely time almost ten years ago, I have learned that I am not the only success-driven professional woman or man who feels trapped in a life you created for yourself. No one is immune to feeling lonely or unhappy while the world thinks you are wildly successful. The solution is in the power of pause.
We pause and set a big goal such as getting promoted to senior leadership, losing weight, saving up for the exotic vacation, doubling your sales goals from last year. You stress yourself out to reach the goal, and you succeed. You pause and think “am I happy now?” The happiness stays with us for a small moment, and then we find ourselves in that same lonely or unhappy place only to start this stress-success cycle all over again. Being stuck in this stress-success cycle does not only keep us unhappy but it dangerous to our health. The stress can kill, I should know not only because I am a doctor, but because the stress almost killed me.
WHEN STRESS CAN KILL
I kept fighting in that stress-success cycle until my emotional and physical health deteriorated requiring life-saving surgery. I remember laying the hospital gurney in pre-op holding not worrying about whether I had cancer or would end up disabled. I slipped into a darker place, wondering how did I let my so-called successful life plummet to this low point?
After successful surgery, I started light yoga and meditation. With meditation, I noticed that my post-operative pain felt better and that my mood was getting lighter.
This sent me on a journey around the world learning about the role of mindfulness & meditation in healing. I returned home to find decades of medical research supporting the power of meditation and mindfulness-based practices to help our brain and physical health. I knew I had to share this message with other driven professionals stuck the stress-success cycle.
HOW A PAUSE FOR MEDITATION IMPROVES YOUR BRAIN:
I ask you to keep open mind and heart to the power of taking a pause.
When we pause, we shift our brains to a place of calm and feeling back in control of a situation again. You see when we are stuck in the stress success cycle, it negatively impacts our brain function. There is a region of our brain called the temporal lobe that is responsible for memory and emotions. Inside the temporal lobe, your amygdala acts as the airport traffic control center of your mind. It processes all the incoming words, sights, sounds and other sensations into memories, actions, and emotions.
When we are stuck in the stress-success cycle, our airport traffic control center in the brain freezes- creating a stress-response. Now it is as if our mind is hijacked, and we cannot think clearly. Emotions overrule rational thinking. In this state of a brain freeze, we become reactive. You run the risk of sending an angry email, saying the wrong words during a sale pitch or start a conflict with a colleague.
PAUSE: TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR MIND
To take control of the situation, we must take control of our brains. The secret is in the power of pause. When we pause through controlled breathing, meditation, or other mindfulness-based techniques- we shift from a brain freeze to a state of calm and controlled thinking. When we are in a state of this calm and controlled thinking, we break the stress- success cycle and move forward achieving goals in a consistently high performing state.
So how do we take the power of pause into our over-scheduled lives? You may think that you do not have time to meditate. When we look at the successful psychological habits of high-achievers, they have one thing in common. They understand that to speed up we must slow down. Yes to speed up, you must first slow down.
BRAINUP! 3 STEPS TO STOP THE STRESS-SUCCESS CYCLE
Slow down with the power of pause is practiced in these three simple steps:
Number 1. Disconnect to Reconnect
Number 2. Perform a brain dump
Number 3. Take a breath break
Step 1: Disconnect to Reconnect:
The first step in the “power of pause” is to disconnect from our digital devices. In our hyperconnected world, I understand that expectations are that we must be available at all times. I ask you to power down all of your electronics 30-60 minutes before bedtime. The blue light from our devices stimulates the back of our eyes- and tells the airport traffic control center of our brain, “WAKE UP! Starting thinking and analyzing again.” The blue light from our screens activates our mind and sends us into a brain freeze. In this state critical neurochemical levels of serotonin and melatonin in the brain drop. This leads to difficulty sleeping and pushing us into a high-stress state. Instead, shut down all of your digital devices 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
Step 2: Perform a Brain Dump
Do you feel like your thoughts are running a marathon inside your brain when you are trying to fall asleep? By pausing to be present with these thoughts, we stop the racing thoughts from running us crazy in our minds. Use pen and paper to write down all of these racing thoughts in a list. You are now allowing your brain permission to rest and stop worrying about your to-do list.
Step 3: Take a Breath Break
Take a moment to close your eyes, and if you don’t want to close your eyes, find a focal point on your lap to stare down into. Lead controlled breathing for 3 minutes.
I often get asked if I really meditate every day. Meditation is medicine for my whole person. Meditation is a key component of my plan for maintaining well-being and staying healthy eight years after life-saving surgery. I ask you to consider meditation to pause, and realize the power of yourself as a whole person.
And if you are reading this today and feeling all alone in the on your life journey, I am holding this intention for you. My intention is that you realize by connecting to the power of pause, we are never truly alone.
I am Dr. Romie, and I ask all of you to join the movement and pause.