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Calming down our stress response

July 30, 2009


Two weeks ago, I attended a great presentation by Linda Page, Founder and President of the Adler School of Professional Studies. She talked about information in her upcoming book with David Rock, Coaching with the brain in mind.  Here is a brief summary of her powerful message that really resonated with me.

The brain is made up of many complex areas that are responsible for various aspects of our functioning. The amygdala’s*, role is to sense threats and respond or trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response which is especially important given our stress driven society.  When we feel threatened, the amygdaqla goes into overdrive and takes over.  It’s what Daniel Goleman calls amygdala hijack and results in a lack of focus, panic and complete inability to be productive.  Unfortunately, threats are rampant in the today’s workplace (e.g. downsizings, management changes, more work and less resources etc.) and frequently send us into ‘hijack’ or the stress response.

How do we calm down the amygdala to better manage stress?  According to Linda, one way is to cultivate meta cognition. You’re probably asking meta what? It’s basically our awareness of our cognitive/mental processes or plain old self awareness.

That is well and good but how do we do we cultivate this meta-cogntion or self awareness?  According to Linda Page, one great way is through meditation. Meditation helps us quiet the mind and develop greater awareness of our thoughts and behaviors. In fact recent research by Yi-Yuan Tang and Michael Posner found that even 5 days of meditation results in better attention and control of stress than relaxation training.

The easiest place to start your mediation practice to start is with guided meditations. They are available at a bookstore (try those by Jon Kabat Zinn or Jack Kornfield), library or online at To learn more about how meditation can help you check out next week’s blog.

* An almond shaped mass of gray matter in the temporal lobe of the cerebrum that is involved in the processing and expression of emotions, especially anger and fear.


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