This issue’s topic is Physical Intelligence, a topic that is often gets less attention during the winter months. Physical intelligence revolves around the idea that if we are tuned into the physical needs, that we have a much greater likelihood of having as much success as we want and deserve. You could not get across the country in a vehicle in poor condition. The same is true of the physical body. If you want to reach your goals and destinations, it is necessary to have a vehicle is good working order. The program that is presented here is based on over 30 years of research, practice and teaching in the business, education and health fields.
Increasing physical intelligence may or may not mean working harder. Sometimes just the reverse is true. We are so used to pushing forward and doing what needs to be done, that often we ignore the signals in our body that we are stressed, tense, tired, hungry, cramped of generally uncomfortable in some way. Stress and it’s management is a crucial aspect of any physical intelligence program. It puts you in touch with the vehicle that is going to get you where you want to go.
Part One: Causes
It may sound unusual, and you may say that you are well acquainted with the people and things that cause stress for you, but take a minute and identify the three greatest stressors in your life right now. They will come from three categories: Personal, Interpersonal and Environmental. I refer to this as the P.I.E. Recipe for Stress. Let’s look at each one of these stressors from end to beginning.
Environmental Stressors are anything in your surroundings that comes at you from the outside in. These include the weather, your job requirements, significant life events such as death in the family, illness of a family member, moving and birth of a child, as well as whether or not your car starts in the morning.
Personal Stressors are the worries, thoughts and beliefs that we have that effect out health and performance in every area of our lives. Personal stressors are the ones over which we have the highest degree of control. We may not be able to change a problem person or drive out income up within the desired time frame, but we can control our thoughts and beliefs about the stressor and about ourselves. If we think we can accomplish something or if we think we can’t, we are usually right. Feelings of capability to take action in your life or the wisdom of inaction if the time is not right are ways to use the mind and emotions in your favor instead of against you. For anyone who has taken my workshops, you know that within a second of introducing a negative thought into your mind, there is a measurable downward spiral of muscle strength and physical energy. Look at the thought you are having at any time of stress and give your body the positive fuel it needs to fuel the engine of your vehicle.
Part Two: Cues
The traditional fight or flight reactions to stress are inappropriate within the business sector and reactions must be modified for the benefit of success as well as for meeting the demands, which we will experience in the world of work. Because we have to stop or modify these responses, we begin to ignore them and tune them out, decreasing our physical awareness and intelligence. The following list includes fight/flight cues that people may exhibit under stress. Those in the left column represent immediate responses to stress and those in the right column represent those of a person in a more advanced stage of stress.
If we pay attention to the symptoms on the left, and do something to intervene, we will not end up in pain, or exhausted. Illness is nothing more than the culmination of long periods of stress on the body. By watching the immediate cues and intervening, the more advanced cues can be avoided. Interventions will be discussed in the section on Cures.
Part Three: Curve of Peak Performance
The degree to which stressors affect us depends on the curve of peak performance. People are most effective when they are slightly challenged but not overloaded. The curve of peak performance looks like this:
Peak Performance is closer to overload when we are slightly challenged and have just a bit more to do than we think we can accomplish. It forces us to be maximally efficient and organized, hence the saying, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it.”
Each person’s level of peak performance is different. What may be manageable for one person may be overload for another. For example, a full time job, family and volunteer work may be your peak level of performance, while a coworker may only be able to manage the load of the job to stay effective Identifying the level of activity that is best for each person and staying within a safe range of activity is critical to effective physical intelligence.
Part Four: Cures
We have reviewed the causes, cues and curve of peak performance. So how do you become proactive, now that you are in touch with your body’s physical signals that it is time to intervene? There are many ways to regroup and stay on task without ignoring these cues and pushing forward.
First, add water to your day. Water stimulates the brain, manages the body’s electrical system and increases concentration and focus. If you are stress, blocked or feeling ineffective, continue to sip water throughout the period. Keeping water on the desk and drinking it everyday will improve your thought processes. By hydrating the body, you increase the ability of the mind to think successfully and openly. There are academic training programs that encourage every student to have water on the desk at all times, especially when taking exams. This applies to the CPA, Bar or other exams.
Breathing is one of the simplest and most effective relaxation techniques. In addition, breathing controls the mental state and the mental health, according to Nobelist Roger Sperry. In addition, he uses breathing for stimulating brain processes of cognition and creativity. He concluded that individuals can take a personal role in controlling reactions through breathing techniques. Studies found that relaxation breathing when used by professional adults increased levels of health, ego strength (self esteem), and adaptability while calming the mind and body. Following are specific practices for the utilization of breathing as a physical intelligence practice.
Whenever you have a stress response, count the number of seconds it takes to inhale, and the number it takes to exhale. Whatever the count increase each by one count. Breathe again increasing the inhale and the exhale each by one count. If it is comfortable, increase the breath next by another count, so that at this point, if your initial breath was two seconds, now it would be four seconds. The technique stops the mental and physical response to stress. Do this for about one minute or until the symptoms stop or decrease. It can be done at your desk, in meetings, in the car, or anytime you want to, without interrupting your day.
Look at your thought. Is it supporting your purpose at this moment? If not change it. Look at which thoughts might support your purpose. You cannot have a negative stress response while thinking a positive thought. If the thought is truly exhilarating, you may have a positive stress response, but not a negative one.
Place your hand flat against your forehead, being sure to make contact with the hairline. This integrates the right and left sides of the brain, removing over stimulation to the stress centers of the brain. Clear thinking and calm relaxation can be achieved by using this technique along with breathing.
Exercise in a way that suits you. If you tend to be a fight responder to stress, a walk or run may burn off stress. If you tend to be more of a flight responder to stress, yoga or meditation will be more effective.
Deeper levels of physical awareness, control and physical intelligence can be obtained through longer training sessions than the one possible in this article. The more tricks you have in your bag, the more likely you are to succeed.
Know what causes you stress
Know what cues tell you that one of your stressors is creating a physical response. Don’t ignore this cue.
Keep to the curve of peak performance. Know how much you can have on your plate at one time, and keep within that range as much as possible.
Use one of the cures when you have a cue that suggests that it is time to intervene to avoid overload, illness, and ineffectiveness
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. There is genius, power and magic in it.”