Make Your Brain Work For You
Radical resilience is the only character trait needed to rebound from stressful situations, and no one who works is stress-free. While physical illnesses may require vaccines to reduce the strength and severity of the illness, and medications are developed to mask the symptoms of various mental illnesses, and talk therapy can temporarily relieve a person's stress, none of these actions offers a 100% cure for whatever problem they are intended to treat.
An increasing number of people in the U.S. are suffering from stress, many whom are turning to drugs, albeit legal. In June 2020, a study of adults under 25 years old showed 90% experienced moderate-to-severe depression, and 80% showed moderate-to-severe anxiety. A San Diego State University study found 70% of its sample group in the U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-severe mental distress in April 2020, while 2018 studies resulted in only 22% in distress. During the COVID-19 shelter in place, anti-anxiety medications increased by 11%, and anti-depressants increased by 10%.
To heighten the gravity of the situations created by stress, of 150 million overweight and obese adults in the U.S., 1 in 7 meet the criteria for addiction. Deaths by suicide increased by 20% during the pandemic, while work stress alone kills 120,000 people annually. If these numbers don't ring the alarms, the U.S. ranks last in life expectancy among the 12 wealthiest industrial nations.
Medications are only covering the symptoms produced from a nation under stress, not solving its problems. As a researcher starting out 40 years ago, Dr. Laurel Mellin's curiosity about human emotions and the brain's functionality turned into a career studying the disconnect between the two. She discovered the key to making a difference in outcomes was through radical resilience -- one's ability to rebound after stress and trauma -- and started studying neuroplasticity. That led to the discovery of the "EBT process," which stands for "emotional brain training."
The brain is wired for five levels. Changing moods from one extreme to another is the brain's physical process of changing levels caused by one's emotions. Level five is the reptilian brain; think of an alligator born to snap and attack. A person in level five is filled with anger and rage; he or she might shout or throw items against a wall or, worse, at a co-worker. A human brain in level five is not capable of answering such questions as, "How do you feel?" or, "What do you need?" Stress has overwhelmed the angry employee, and he or she cannot process logical and verbal information. The EBT process teaches people how to help a person go from level five to level four. Ultimately, EBT tools are aimed at enabling a person to go from an overwhelmed level five all the way down to a calm and peaceful level one.
In her book "The Stress Solution: A Revolutionary New Method for Emotional Resilience," Mellin shows how the EBT process becomes the vaccine of choice for positive change. She found that to change brain levels, the talk must be specific, brief and guided. Without precise language, the reptilian brain finds a way to sabotage the rewiring process. An EBT-trained counselor takes the lead and, in approximately four minutes, can lead the person being trained to a higher brain level.
In talk therapy, the patient takes the lead, choosing to talk about anything on his or her mind. He may describe a time when a co-worker angered him or belittled him in a meeting in front of others. After releasing the experience in the session, he may leave feeling relaxed. But he hasn't changed his brain level, so when he returns to his car to find a parking ticket, he bursts out in anger over the new situation. His angry feelings had stayed with him because the talk therapy was temporary, and his brain has returned to a reactive state of mind -- likely a level four.
Using EBT, the person takes a minute to describe the situation. The next minute is to express healthy anger about it, and the following minute is to describe negative and then positive feelings. Once situations are briefly reported, there is no dwelling on the issues that were distressing. The process is taught to psychologists and other health professionals.
Most people are not taught how to release emotions in a healthy way. Perhaps they were told to never say anything bad, which completely negates their emotions. EBT trains people to use their brains. In a country rated last for life expectancy on a list of the 12 wealthiest nations, with a workforce filled with highly stressed employees, the EBT process offers hope to all those who learn about the brain and how to use it to achieve happiness.
See EBT.org for the science, memberships and mobile app.
Email career and life coach: Lindsey@LindseyNovak.com with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.