Stress, anxiety and neuroscience. When anxious we escape faster with a fear stimulus.

In this post we will see the relationship between stress, anxiety and neuroscience. That is, the brain foundations of anxiety and stress. We will start by dealing about the relationship between anxiety and stress. So far in this blog we had only talked about stress. To do all this, we will refer to an article summarized in Neuroscience News, which explains that we, when anxious, exaggerate the response to the fear cues.

In this post we are going to focus on the fundamentals of anxiety in neuroscience. Also, we will deal about anxiety and stress: Its similarities and differences, and the existing relationships between anxiety and stress.

In previous articles, from NeuroQuotient®, we have already written about stress and neuroscience. Mainly, about self-induced stress (reducing or not increasing stress?). We have also seen how to manage stress. Specifically, how to avoid increasing it (learning not to increase stress with the neuroscience).

We had pending to discuss about the relationship between stress, anxiety and neuroscience. The decision to get into it has come when reading the summary of Neuroscience News: Anxious people quicker to flee danger.

This summary is about an article by Boweng J. Fung et al, Slow escape decisions are swayed by trait anxiety. Published in Nature Human Behavior.

This article helps us to confirm our ideas regarding anxiety and neuroscience. On the one hand, which are the brain centers involved in anxiety. On the other hand -the NeuroQuotient® point of view- that some cognitive processes, which we are very good at, can limit us. For example, wanting to stop anxiety, we get the opposite. In the final part of the post we will comment it thoroughly.

In this blog we talk more about stress than anxiety.

If in previous posts we have focused on stress and not anxiety and neuroscience, it is because the NeuroQuotient® tool and, consequently, this blog is more focused on coaching and in business contexts. They are also very appropriate for psychology and life coaching, but less for psychiatry and medicine.

Our purpose is to provide tools to coaches and psychologists, to help their clients to increase their satisfaction and self-leadership. In this case, for example, managing stress better; one of the most common problems of our society. When it comes to psychiatric issues, like anxiety disorders, we prefer to make way for psychiatric professionals.

In the same way that professionals define themselves in the opposite direction. One of the referents in psychiatry on the subject of anxiety is the Dr. Antoni Bulbena. In his book  Ansiedad. Neuro conectividad: La Re-evolución, says textually: ‘Stress is a word very used in popular language but that professionals tend to use little’.

In NeuroQuotient we leave, then, psychiatric disorders for professionals. However, we must not forget that to determine the key brain systems in human behavior, we asked ourselves the following question: What are the brain centers and pathways involved in the most frequent disorders? What happens in depression, in ADD, etc. Also, in anxiety disorders. That’s why we can easily understand the relationship between anxiety and neuroscience.

Anxiety and stress according to professionals.

What do the experts tell us?

The SEAS, Spanish Society for Anxiety and Stress, in the questions and answers section, tell us about anxiety as an emotion. ‘An unpleasant emotion … that arises in a situation in which the individual perceives a threat (possible negative consequences). To confront this situation and try to reduce the negative consequences the individual must put him/her-self on alert.

It is shown at different levels,

At the cognitive-subjective level, … it is characterized by feelings of discomfort, worry, hypervigilance, tension, fear, insecurity, feeling of loss of control, perception of strong physiological changes (cardiac, respiratory, etc.).

At the physiological level, … it is characterized by the activation of different systems, mainly the Autonomic Nervous System and the Motor Nervous System. Although others are also activated, such as the Central Nervous System, or the Endocrine System, or the Immune System …

At the motor or observable level, … it manifests as motor restlessness, hyperactivity, repetitive movements, difficulties in communication (stuttering), avoidance of feared situations, consumption of substances (food, drink, tobacco, etc.), crying, tension in the facial expression, etc. ‘

Following with the SEAS. Regarding stress, they explain …

‘Currently stress is interpreted as an interactive process, in which the demands of the situation and the resources of the individual to face the situation are at stake. The demands of the situation depend on the subjective assessment that the individual makes about how this situation will affect their interests. Therefore, the same situation can be much more stressful for one individual than for another.
In turn, coping resources are also valued by the individual himself, who may judge them inadequate, although they really are not. This bias in the valuation of own resources will also cause a greater reaction of stress, a greater overload, and a worse use of own resources.’
 

What they see between anxiety and stress in the SAES (Spanish Society for Anxiety and Stress)

‘Does anxiety and stress could be used as synonyms?

‘In many cases the terms anxiety and stress are used as synonyms, however, there are different fields of work in research and professional practice, although certainly with some overlaps.

Stress is a process in which the individual faces the demands of an important situation for him. This process can trigger an anxiety reaction, which is an unpleasant emotion that arises in the face of a possible threat.
However, stress can also trigger other emotional reactions other than anxiety, for example: joy, satisfaction, anger, sadness, etc.

And how do we see in NeuroQuotient this relationship between anxiety and stress?

In our interpretation we are going to relate stress, anxiety and neuroscience. Let’s see:

In the face of an actual (or imagined) threat, the brain amygdala that is part of the threat (or fear) system is activated. Then, the stress system is put in place to be able to fight (cope with the threat) or flee.

Stress is related to the autonomic nervous system (ANS). In stress, the sympathetic branch of SNA (adrenaline) activates to trigger energy and fight or flight. The heart beats faster, the bronchi expand, the muscles tense, etc. But, at the same time, the parasympathetic branch of the SNA, slows down.

The parasympathetic branch helps the recovery of energy. It facilitates, for example, the secretion of saliva, and digestion; rest, closing the pupils and the bronchi. Therefore, when we are stressed (with the SNA parasympathetic branch less active) some symptoms can appear: dry mouth, digestive problems, difficulty to sleep, etc.

But, as we told, in humans the threats, the stimuli of fear, can be imagined (‘we imagine lions where there are none’) or exaggerated (‘we turn mice into lions’). In this case, our prefrontal cortex (CPF) intervenes interpreting the situations. When the tendency to pay attention to small dangers, real or imagined, and to interpret them negatively and with exaggeration, we can talk about anxiety. If this is accompanied of stress symptoms, of course.

In addition, normally, humans in a social situation do not fight or flee physically. Our Motor Nervous system are not fully activated. Therefore, we do not release the energy triggered by the stress system and we can end up somatizing it.

Also, when permanently stressed, not only are we on alert, but the stress slow way is set in motion. The stress way of cortisol. Cortisol, among other functions, consumes the body’s reserves to release more energy, and we end up exhausted.

And to all of this we can add the negative interpretation of the physical signals of stress.

If we tend to be anxious, we negatively interpret the physical signs of somatized stress, very likely. We have, then, another source of imagined and/or exaggerated threat. The consequence is, therefore, more anxiety and stress.

Thus, from NeuroQuotient, we see the fundamental characteristics of anxiety in the exaggerated and negative interpretation of the stimuli of fear (sometimes imagined) and body stress signals. The origin of anxiety is, then, in our thinking ability.

With all of this, we are more alert and more prepared to activate the stress system. And the loop is negatively reinforced.

And, when this tendency and symptoms are very high we can fall into a …

Generalized anxiety disorder

Let’s see what the NHI, National Institute of Mental Heath, tells us about Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

‘People with generalized anxiety disorder are extremely worried or very nervous about … many … things, even when there is little or no reason to worry. It is not easy for them to … control their anxiety and stay focused on daily activities

What are the signs and symptoms of GAD?

GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. People with GAD may:

  • Worry very much about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their worries or feelings of nervousness
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Feel restless and have trouble relaxing
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel easily tired or tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable or feel “on edge”
  • Sweat a lot, feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot.

Summarizing, what we told before: a high tendency to imagine, interpret and anticipate negatively (worry). With activation, consequently, of almost permanent stress. Together with stress somatization, which we also interpret in a negative way.

When they have time to think, people with anxiety react more quickly to fear cues.

Let’s finish with the article by Boweng J. Fung et al., which we quoted at the beginning:

Slow escape decisions are swayed by trait anxiety. Published in Nature Human Behavior.

And with its summary in Neuroscience News: Anxious people quicker to flee danger.

In the essays, the participants were presented with a stimulus of fear, simulated in a computer game. Half of these participants had a high level of anxiety, evaluated according to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

In a first essay, the virtual threat ((the fear stimulus) appeared suddenly. There was no time to make a rational decision (quick escape decision). In this case all the people, whether they had anxiety or not, ‘escaped’ quickly.

However, when the fear stimulus appear farther away, and they had time to evaluate it (slow escape decision), participants with anxiety escaped earlier.

That is, when they have time to think, people with anxiety react more quickly to fear stimuli.

All this reaffirms us in that the origin of the anxiety is in the dysfunctional use of the ability to think that we humans have. Let’s see it

The article confirms us which are the brain centers that participate in the anxiety circuit. The centers and pathways involved in the anxiety and neuroscience relationship are the vmPFC (ventromedial prefrontal cortex), the amygdala (limbic center of the threat system) and the hippocampus (memory center).

The amygdala, as we said above, is the one that, after its activation, starts the sympathetic autonomic nervous system (stress) to fight or escape.

How do we see all this from NeuroQuotient? How do we think the stress, anxiety and neuroscience relationship works?

Our hypothesis is that, we learn, we anticipate, we plan, etc. to be able to think that we have resources to calm the amygdala (see how not to increase stress). To believe our-selves prepared to be able to send a message of calm from the vmPFC to the interspersed GABA neurons of the amygdala. The GABA neurons  prevents from activating the central amygdala. A message saying something like ‘I am prepared to face the future uncertainty’.

This is a skill of rational people, who are very accustomed to using the prefrontal cortex. An ability that many times can turn against us.

It turns against us when the preparation is excessive and negative. ‘When we imagine lions where there will never be lions’ or when with our thought ‘we turn mice into lions’. Wanting to calm the fear, we achieve the opposite. We generate our own anxiety. We are almost permanently on alert. With the stress system sensitized, ready to attack or flee.

What happens with anxious people when a cue  of fear (actual or simulated as in the experiment) appears, and they have time to evaluate it?

Well, the circuit vmPFC, memory, and amygdala turn on. We are searching in memory the strategy that, supposedly, we have prepared for this situation, to be able to send the calm message to the amygdala.

However, having, on the one hand, threat and stress systems sensitized, ready to respond. Together, on the other hand, that the emotional limbic part works much faster than the rational part. Then, the result is that people with anxiety escape sooner, before finding the solution in memory.


 

Neuroscience and coaching. Neurocoaching for leadership – NeuroQuotient®

Being able to connect neuroscience and coaching is important for the people development, especially of the leadership. So, we can practice neurocoaching. We reviewed the path that led us to create NeuroQuotient®, the tool that makes it possible in a practical and efficient way. A path with high expectation, false myths, some frustration and, since a long time, with results.

A little history to place us.

Since the end of the last century advances in the understanding of the human brain and its relationship with behavior are being exponential. That is why, in the 21st century, it is essential to take advantage of this knowledge for people development. Therefore, the connection between neuroscience and coaching and leadership development is becoming more important.  By creating NeuroQuotient® we want to do it more understandable and practical.

Neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI (functional nuclear magnetic resonance) allow us to observe which brain centers are activated when we perform a certain task. From here, neuroeconomics and neuromarketing have been developed, for example. In both cases we try to answer the question: what happens in the brain when we make decisions?

Anyway, these studies do nothing more than confirm the previous work, of psychobiology, carried out in laboratory animals. This is because the brain structures are very well preserved from one species to another. Our brain is not very different from that of a guinea pig. Except for the prefrontal cortex (CPF), naturally. The motivational and memory limbic centers are similar. The neuroimaging techniques have allowed to observe in a non-invasive way the connection of these centers with the PFC.

Do not confuse the neuroscience and coaching binomial with neurolinguistic programming (NLP)

It is important to make clear that when talking about neuroscience and coaching, about neurocoaching, we are not referring to NLP (neurolinguistic programming) applied to the people development.

John Grinder and Richard Bandler, the creators of NLP, were successful to use the word ‘neuro’ to name the result of their work. And it is that the ‘neuro’ attracts, it helps to sell. However, NLP is not neuroscience. But, taking advantage of its slipstream, a first version of neuromarketing and a first neurocoaching emerged. More than one has signed up for NLP looking for neuroscience, right?

With this we do not say that NLP is not useful to connect neuroscience and coaching. Once the cerebral bases of behavior are understood, NLP techniques can be very useful for the leadership development.

Our approach to neuroscience and coaching.

In 2001, 19 years ago, we began our journey as coaching professionals and, simultaneously, in NLP. Since then we were looking for the connection between neuroscience and coaching, the neurocoaching, thinking about applying it to the leadership development.

On this path there are some culminating points, which are not the final ones, which are a master’s degree in neuroscience (2009-2010) and the creation of NeuroQuotient (2010-2103). Anyway, we want to point out some milestones, in the form of books, that we now remember as important and that can help us in this connection between coaching and neuroscience and leadership development. Above all, in what we consider key: the need to be able to understand the brain foundations of human behavior; and the connection of the limbic centers with the prefrontal cortex.

Although, these books are only references that have been helping us to confirm that we were on the right track. Actually, the information we used for the creation of NeuroQuotient were basic neuroscience articles and reviews. Case apart is the book,

James J. Gross (editor). Habdbook of Emotion Regulation. The Guilford Press, 2007

that we can define as a great compilation of reviews and articles that was essential in the generation of NeuroQuotient®.

As for the books, in order of reading.

Nolasc Acarín. El cerebro del rey. Una introducción apasionante a la conducta humana. RBA libros SBA, Barcelona 2001

Joe Dispenza. Evolve your brain, 2008

David Rock. Your brain at work. Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus and working smarter all day allong. Harper Collins Publishers, 2008

Amy Brann. Make Your Brain Work. How to maximaze Your Efficiency, Productivity and Effectiviness. Kogan Page Limited, 2013

Joaquín M. Fuster. The Neuroscience of Freedom and Creativity. Cambridge University Press, 2013

and, finally, one that we discovered just when writing this post. by its title it is the most pertinent to establish the nexus between neuroscience and coaching,

Amy Brann. Neuroscience for Coaches. How to Use the Latest Insights for the Benefit of Your Clients. Kogan Page, 2017

This book does not fall into our hands until now, because since 2013 we have been using NeuroQuotient®  to make the conection between neuroscience and coaching for the development of leadership. But, sure, we will learn a lot from it.

A little dopamine and a lot of serotonin.

When we talk about neuroscience and coaching, it is very likely that the first thing that comes to mind are neurotransmitters. The molecules that facilitate the connection between neurons in neuronal synapses.

If we did a survey we can be sure that the neurotransmitters most cited would be serotonin and dopamine. Then, perhaps, oxytocin and adrenaline, although these two are more neurohormones than neurotransmitters.

And this, why? Well, because both with dopamine, and serotonin the simple word conveys a meaning to us. We do not have to study hard. Their names suggest their functionality. An erroneous assumption, but it seems that we understand it. Perhaps other neurotransmitters, such as glutamate or GABA or acetylcholine, are more important, but at the outset, they do not tell us anything directly.

dopamine sounds like ‘dopping’ and pleasure. serotonin to tranquility. there we have another case of marketing success, how the nlp. especially, with serotonin.

Everything is much more complicated. the brain has between 50 and 100 billion neurons!

And for coaching and neuroscience, the direct and easy path (our mind seeks simplicity) is to think that it can be enough to increase dopamine and serotonin. The connection between coaching and neuroscience would thus become almost pharmacological. Take a pill and you are done!

But it is much more complicated. The brain has between 50 and 100 billion neurons. Of dopamine there are many types of receptors, for instance.

On the other hand, dopamine starts the reward system, but does not generate pleasure. It is part of the motivation process of behaviors that can generate pleasure.

For example, when a dog perceives a bone, its spices memory indicates that it is a signal of reward. Dopamine is in the motivation of action to eat the bone, not in pleasure (endorphins are responsible for this). If the bone is poisoned the result will not be exactly pleasant.

Do not forget, in addition, that dopamine is also part of the mesocortical pathway of the reward system. This way favors the focus of attention towards the ‘object of desire’ that has awakened the reward system.

Not always a lot of serotonin is suitable.

On the other hand, the word serotonin transmits serenity. In addition, we are prescribed serotonin enhancers (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRI) to treat depression. Fuoxetine (Prozac), for example.

However, they do not tell us the paradox of serotonin.

They do not explain to us that people genetically more prone to depression have less effective serotonin reuptakers. That is, they have more free serotonin. We finally understood it, after giving it many laps, thanks de Gordon Book chapter 6 “ James J. Gross (editor). Habdbook of Emotion Regulation. The Guilford Press, 2007. (On “Genetics of Emotion Regulation” pag. 110 and “the 5-HTTLPR-SSRI Paradox pag. 124 (Ahmad R. Hariri, Erika E. Forbes)”.

So, everything is much more complicated! It is not enough to identify the role of some key neuro transmitters! It is not easy to connect neuroscience and coaching for leadership development. For this reason, to simplify it, with NeuroQuotient® we identify what is most relevant within this complexity.

Facilitate awareness. A very important coaching competence. How to enhance it with coaching and neuroscience, with neurocoaching?

Creating Awareness is the 8th coaching competence according to the ICF. They define it like: ‘Integrating and accurately evaluating multiple sources of information and making interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results’.

And we ask ourselves, how could we use the connection between neuroscience and coaching to facilitate awareness?

In coaching, especially when it comes to leadership development, tools are used to facilitate awareness. Some are about the personality and quite a few of them we have seen in this blog. DISC, MBTI, Discovery Insights, Enneagram, Only in DISC, William Moulton Marston, its creator, thought about a far connection with the neuroscience.

So, we proposed, at the beginning of 2009, to create a tool to connect coaching and neuroscience.

For this it was essential to have clear the fundamentals of neuroscience. Then, try to identify what is key, to be able to define a simple structure (a model) that will sustain the relationship between brain and behavior.

The first point was addressed with a master’s degree in Psychobiology and Cognitive Neuroscience. The second, studying basic neuroscience, trying to find the fundamental brain systems that simplify complexity.

And, at the end of 2011 many ideas of what we had studied from previous years, not only of neuroscience, crystallized in a first structure for the model. (The key elements for this ‘fusion’ of ideas will be discussed in another post).

What does NeuroQuotient® bring us in the neuroscience and coaching connection?

In mid-2014 the web application was running. With it, those of us dedicated to the development of people, especially of the leadership, can connect neuroscience and coaching. After Certifying in NeuroQuotient®, we can send questionnaires to clients and then interpret the results and prepare the reports, which are derived from their answers.

The main contributions of NeuroQuotient can be seen on this website or participating in one of the free introductory workshops). Or, better, contact us and we will provide you with the information you require (+ info).

Anyway, the fundamental contribution is that it helps us connect neuroscience and coaching. NeuroQuotient is a tool based on neuroscience and with a coaching approach.

It facilitates a quick awareness of the brain processes that help each one to satisfaction and leadership.

The customers answer about their current and desired status. Comparing both, they easily perceive which is the priority where to focus his action for a more efficient development.

NeuroQuotient® is the neuro tool of the coach to boost better, faster and easier the satisfaction of their clients.

Neuroscience and coaching. Neurocoaching for leadership - NeuroQuotient
Fig 1. NeuroQuotient® graphics. Efficacies (color) and Limitations (gray). People want to increase Efficiencies and decrease Limitations

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient

Neuroscience in companies, applied to people development, is an important resource but not easy to be used. In this post we will see the value contribution of NeuroQuotient in the neuroleadership development. How it makes possible and practical the application of neuroscience in companies. The processes are more efficient, since it works on the self-leadership focusing on the priorities. In addition, it allows to measure progress.

Introduction

We listen to the contribution of neuroscience in companies for people development. More specifically for the neuroleadership. There are proposals for courses and workshops to do so. However, it is not easy. Above all, is difficult to demonstrate tangible results beyond the novelty.

Moreover, people who discover NeuroQuotient®, some of them through introductory webinars observe their possibilities and ask us,

Can NeuroQuotient® be used for the development of people, while applying neuroscience in companies and organizations?

They have become aware of the great power of the neuro tool for coaching and development. They understand that it can contribute too, to introduce neuroscience in companies and organizations. Converting the neuroleadership development into something tangible.

The answer is:

Of course, NeuroQuotient® is being used with great success to apply neuroscience in companies in the development of neuroleadership.

With this post we explain why so, by answering the following question:

What is the value contribution of NeuroQuotient®?

The answer is addressed to those responsible for the areas of people development. They will be able to see how to apply neuroscience in companies in a practical and tangible way. Also, it’s for the people certified in NeuroQuotient®, and to those who want to be certified.

We will start with a small Introduction to NeuroQuotient. But before, give us to introduce the two key differential elements with respect to other tools and development strategies.

  • The processes are much more efficient.
  • NeuroQuotient measures progress.
What is NeuroQuotient?

A tool to understand and apply neuroscience in a practical way to the people development

It is clear, that human behavior (understood in a broad way, including thinking and feeling) is based on brain patterns, supported by neural networks. Therefore, in NeuroQuotient, we are talking about neuro behaviors (nbhvrs, hereafter).

The NeuroQuotient explains in a simple way the brain bases of behavior. The neuro behaviors. In this way, it makes neuroscience practical.

On the other hand, the neuro tool (Fig. 1) helps us to measure the intensity of these neuro behaviors, differentiating between those that provide satisfaction (we call them efficiencies, and we graph them in color) and those that do not provide good results (limitations and we draw them in grey).

In addition, it has a development approach. The person asks himself where he is (current state) and about his desired state (Fig 1). People, as in the example (a real case), want to increase their efficiencies and reduce limitations.

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient
Fig 1. NeuroQuotient graphics. Efficacies (color) and Limitations (gray). From the current State to the Desired one, people want to increase Efficiencies and decrease Limitations

Why is NeuroQuotient so powerful to apply neuroscience in companies and organizations?

Very Easy! Because Development processes are more efficient and productive, that is, they provide greater results in less time.

Due to two reasons, mainly:

  • Works from self-leadership
  • Helps to focus on the key points to improve results

 

Self-leadership or personal leadership

It is common for initial development goals to refer to more or less tangible competencies, but deep down, self-leadership always is underlying.

Usually, in the development processes, objectives are focused on tangible competences, for example:

Communication / Teamwork / Organization and Planning / Leadership

And, too many times, we intend to achieve them with training sessions that rarely serve much.

However, when it is addressed, even if only partially, with individual sessions, we find situations such as the following:

People who are asked (and want to) communicate better (for example, make more persuasive presentations) realize that they get nervous facing an audience. (neuro behaviors: being afraid to do it wrong, after fear comes stress, and the need to flee, and, later, only anticipating the situation, fear and stress are triggered).

Another example. Team work is no easy for who, apparently, have a great self-confidence, but focuse only on their interests and treats others with ‘aggressiveness’. (Ncomp: perceives others as a threat and, as in the previous case, their fear and stress systems are also active, but in the fight mode).

In both cases the key is ‘emotional self-management’, the self-confidence (well understood), the optimism, etc. Ultimately, the self-leadership.

With NeuroQuotient the person alone (it’s not a 360) answers the questionnaire. Next, in a climate of trust with the expert, becomes aware of the neuro behaviors that lead him/her to a greater satisfaction. Yes, greater satisfaction. The results that really count are emotional. And, the satisfied people (happy, why not) contribute more to the results of the company. Directly and indirectly, because they contribute to creating a more productive climate (collective emotional state).

Neuroscience in companies with the neuro tool enhances leadership. Self-leadership translated into positive influence (leadership) in others.

Focus on the most important. Prioritize.

It is quite common to use tools for the development of people that provide a lot of very good information. However, the person thinks: All this! Where do I begin?

NeuroQuotient, by comparing the current state with the desired one, helps identify what is a priority for development. It makes possible the Pareto principle: with 20% of shares, you get 80% of results.

With NeuroQuotient the person focuses on developing the priority to achieve a noticeable advance in their self-leadership. From there, to become a leader is easy.

And when someone reaches an adequate level of self-leadership it is easy to become a good leader. When they acquire an enough level of self-confidence, emotional self-management, etc., to lead is only to learn some techniques in training workshops.

Development with neuroscience in companies with the neuro tool is more productive, thanks to a greater focus. Pareto Principle, 80:20

A report for the person, another for the company.

NeuroQuotient provides different graphics and reports to the person and the company. To work in depth and maintain confidentiality with the person and inform the company accordingly.

At this point, everyone is already convinced that every process of leadership development had to include some individual sessions.

And here it is common for a problem to arise. For the process to be efficient, a great trust is necessary between the person and the coach or the consultant. This requires maintaining the confidentiality of what was discussed in the sessions. More with NeuroQuotient that can identify some ‘delicate’ issue in the limitations.

But the company ‘pays’ and wants, logically, to intervene in some way. The process can not be totally opaque for the company. Something must be transparent.

The NeuroQuotient solution is to use different graphs for the company. With some indexes in which the limitations are absorbed in the efficiencies (Fig2). Each efficiency absorbs a limitation of another level.

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient
Fig 2. Graphs with the neuroquotient dimensions for the person and graphs with neuroquotient indexes, which allow measuring progress, for the Company

The most important NeuroQuotient index is NQ, which embraces all the efficiencies and limitations. It is higher when the efficiencies are higher and the lower the limitations.

NQ measures self-leadership!

We had it clear from the design of the tool. But, in addition, to confirm this, in the tool validation regarding TCI-R (Temperament and Character Inventory of Dr. Robert Cloninger), we found a very high correlation (0.69) with the Self-Directedness scale.

The other indixes, that at least embrace an efficacy and a limitation, can be seen in Table 1.

These graphs can be used both to state the individual development goals and, as we will see below, to demonstrate the results obtained.

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient
Table 1. NQ indices with the most outstanding neuro behaviors.
Measure of progress,

The NeuroQuotient indexes allow measuring and demonstrating the progress in the processes of development.

But companies want to see justified their investment. They usually want to be shown improvement. For this, a qualitative report is not enough. However, quantifying progress is complicated. You can resort to 360 studies, but they are not very efficient.

There, is one of the most important contributions of NeuroQuotient. The neuro tool allows measuring progress.

Most of the tools that are used in development determine the personality through the behavioral traits.

NeuroQuotient does not deal with the personality. It is centered on the behavior and on the intensity of the neuro behaviors. In a coaching process of a few months the personality is impossible to be changed, but it is very feasible to adjust the behavior to improve the results.

Let’s continue with the example. Let’s see, Fig 3. the progress by comparing, with the graphs for the company, the current state at the beginning of the process and at the end of it. In this case the process lasted three months.

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient
Fig 3. Measurement of progress in a development process with NQ indexes

There is a progress in NQ, self-leadership and, mainly in the indices A, [A1] and [A2], those referring to neuro behaviors of approximation. Those who, in effect, the person was raised as priority improvement opportunities.

More than one will observe that the index [I1] – the highest at the beginning of the process – has decreased. This is totally consistent with the person’s purpose: he felt no need for improvement in dimension I1 (see Fig 1). Also, it is consistent with the model: a high efficiency points to the risk that the limitation of the same level is also. Efficiencies and Limitations are like two sides of the same coin.

Finally, write down a topic for a future article of interest to the company.

Prevention of psychosocial risks. Resilience is a particular case of self-leadership.

Self-leadership affects all the people in the company, not only those who have dependents.

The prevention of psychosocial risks is usually addressed from the point of view of the company so that people feel less negative effects.

It is rarely considered from the point of view of helping people to be more resilient. Or to work with those who ‘expelling their stress outward’ emotionally contaminate the environment.

But, let’s leave it for another article.

At the beginning we said that we wanted to present the contribution of the neuro tool in the practical and efficient application of neuroscience in companies and organizations. We hope this has been achieved.

Stress management. Learn how not to increase stress from the neuroscience

Stress management. Learn how not to increase stress from the neuroscience

In this post we will see strategies from the neuroscience for stress management. Depending on how we focus our thought and attention from the prefrontal cortex, PFC, we may increase our stress. We will understand in what situations it happens. But, the GABA neurons in the amygdala can help us to calm the fear and the consequent stress. We will learn to take advantage of it to improve our quality of life.

In the previous article, we started to see the neuroscience of stress. After that, we have little doubt that it is better not to increase stress than just trying to decrease it.

High stress negatively affects our quality of life. But, often, we become aware of the need to manage stress when it is already very high and has become distress, chronic stress or anxiety. Or when it is difficult to reduce it and/or when there are other collateral damages such as gastric ulcers, heart problems, etc.

In this post we will first go deeper into the neuroscience of stress seen from NeuroQuotient®. This will allow us to design strategies for stress management, especially to avoid increasing it. We will also see things that, in general, we are not aware we can do better about.

Stress, seen from neuroscience, is the response to cues of threat or fear. But, in humans, these threats may be only in our mind or intensified with it.

Let’s first to review some concepts of stress neuroscience that we have already discussed in the previous post. It is convenient that we keep them in mind so that we can better understand the stress management strategies.

First. Behind the stress is, mainly, the threat or fear system.

In this system work together perception (through the senses), the amygdala (limbic center of fear) and memory (hippocampus). If the memory indicates that the perceived cue is a danger, then it time to flight (if the threat is too great) or fighting (if it is possible to cope it successfully). If exposure to the threat lasts for a certain time (mora than 10 min), cortisol begins to act, which can have significant negative side effects.

But, human animals, with the PFC (prefrontal cortex), we can direct attention, imagine or remember. So the threat signals do not necessarily have to come from a direct perception of the senses. Obviously, depending on how we use the PFC, the result regarding stress management can be very different. That is, in the neuroscience of stress, the PFC is fundamental.

From NeuroQuotient® we use to say that sometimes we imagine lions where there are none and, probably, never there will be. Or that, in our mind, we turn mice into lions.

NeuroQuotient® turns neuroscience into something practical, in this case the neuroscience of stress.

But, also, with our thought, from the PFC, we can modify the meaning of the threat cues and, thanks to the GABA neurons, stop the activation of the amygdala and stress.

But, in the previous post we left pending the key of the neuroscience of stress to avoid increasing it. The prefrontal cortex also intervenes in it.

We said, that between the basolateral amygdala (the one that receives the danger signal) and the central amygdala (the one that triggers the fight or flight), there are cells (neurons) interspersed (CIT).

These CITs are neurons of the GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter. With its activation they slow down the central amygdala and stress is not started, since GABA is the main modulating neurotransmitter.

How are they activated? Well, with a message from the PFC saying, this signal, which seemed a danger, is a false alarm.

These days, post summer solstice days, some children still have firecrackers left. It is common to walk down the street and get scared. The hard noise triggers the amygdala, but soon we slow it down thinking something like:

‘Wow, it was just a firecracker’. That’s how we calm down.

Another quite common way to stop the amygdala and the consequent stress is to use tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Normally benzodiazepines. Diazepam (valium), alprazolam (tranquimazin), lorazepam (orfidal), etc. The benzodiazepines are ‘agonists’ of GABA, that is, they act in the same way in the receptors of the central amygdala.

We do not consider it advisable. Benzodiazepines create addiction. In addition, there are also GABA cells in the reward system, so they not only inhibit fear, but also the will to live.

Caffeine acts like noradrenaline (norepinephrine), helps wake up, but also activates the stress system.

Nor did we see in the previous post that norepinephrine intervenes in the start-up of stress. In connection with the amygdala – and from the locus coeruleus – noradrenaline activates the sympathetic nervous system and slows the parasympathetic nervous system.

Prior to adrenaline (epinephrine), which acts primarily in the body, noradrenaline is activated in the brain. An excess of noradrenaline involves brain stress.

In this review of stress neuroscience, we point it out now for two reasons:

First, because it is very important to maintain the balance between the two branches (sympathetic and parasympathetic) of the autonomic nervous system. We’ll see when we talk about how to reduce stress.

And second, even more pertinent, because in the noradrenaline receptors, and in the same way as she does, one of the most daily ‘wake-up’ acts: caffeine.

I remember a person who, to activate himself in the morning, and during the day, use to take several coffees. Then, to brake at night, he resorted to sleeping pills. Well, each one is responsible for himself. Maybe if this person had read this post he would have changed his stress management strategy.

Let’s see now what the main internal sources of stress are. Do you identify with any of these neuro behaviors?

Then, what can we do not increase stress, so as not to self-stress?

The first step is to become aware of how we activate or intensify the brain system of fear or threat. In many cases it has to do with how we use and focus our thinking, the PFC. We can ask ourselves the following questions:

1. Do you tend to worry (to pay attention in the future in a not positive way, paying too much attention to supposed threats)?
2. Do you have a trend to perfectionism (do you need everything to work out well)?
3. Do you want to encompass it, control it, everything, with a high level of self-demand?
4. Impatient; it’s hard to wait; Do you want it now?
5. Do you tend to see others as a threat to your interests?
6. Do you tend to ‘listen’ in negative to your bodily sensations of stress?
7. How is your daily dose of coffee?
8. How is your relationship with benzodiazepines?

By the way, if we find it difficult to identify these sources that make stress management difficult, with the NeuroQuotient® tool, we’ll find it out in 15 minutes.

Once identified our points of improvement, it is about finding alternative neuro-behaviors for these situations. Strategies arising from the understanding of the neuroscience of stress.

We have already realized that, in most cases, it is about avoiding or intensifying the signs of fear (not turning them into lions) that push the threat system to fight or flee, without it being necessary.

Once identified some neuro behaviors that make stress management difficult, let’s see some ideas on how to avoid increasing the stress.

Here there are some specific ideas for most of the previous points. They are referenced in the same way.

To ask ourselves, ‘what is really important’? is at the base of many of these ideas.

1. Instead of worrying, let’s decide what is important and, then take action. Don’t keep thinking about it. Excessive reflection with worry kills the action. Let’s take advantage of the energy directing it towards action to achieve what is important.

By worrying we also unleash energy, but we waste it; and we can end up somatizing stress.

And let’s try to change the focus in positive. It is as easy to think about what we are going to achieve than to imagine the opposite.

2. Perfectionism? Again, let’s decide what is important. Let’s forget the irrelevant details. Not everything needs the same level of precision. Prioritize. There are many things in which, if we fail, absolutely nothing happens. There are others, not so many, more important than it’s worth not to fail.

3. When we want to have everything under control, with high self-demand. We must bear in mind that not everything is possible at the same time. We have limited time resources, especially if we have to do it alone.

Then, once again, prioritize. Let’s organize ourselves to make better use of time. Let’s write down in the schedule when we are going to do something. Do not try to have everything in mind; in this way, we will only stress our PFC.

When we know what is important, we can deal with it and, at the same time, we stop worrying about what is not relevant.

On the other hand, regarding the non-important, we can send from the PFC (the thought and the focus) a message of tranquility to the amygdala. ‘I’m taking care of the important things. There is no reason for alarm ‘

And we continue with ideas to avoid increasing stress, following the items on the list for awareness

4. Impatience, in general, has to do with worry. We focus on the future and in a negative way. ‘The train does not come. I’ll be late’. Is it a matter of life or death that you arrive on time? If it’s so important, let’s get busy on it, let’s find an alternative to get it. If we can’t do anything, it does not make sense to worry.

5. Perceiving some other people as a threat. Often the lack of trust in someone makes us perceive them as a threat. Their simple presence or, just thinking about them, triggers our fear or threat system. And how, fortunately, it is not usual to ‘stick with others’, once again energy accumulates as stress within the body.

To avoid this, it is about changing the focus on these people. If they are important to us, of course. If they are not, then, just forget them.

Impatience with others has more to do with ‘the fight’ and with a level of demand, sometimes disproportionate. Watch out! Often, the ‘fight’ with others is also a way to get rid of stress and to avoid somatizing it.

In order not to increase stress when it has to do with the ‘fight’, there is another interesting approach. It has to do with trust and oxytocin, and it’s for more than one article. In some a way we advance it in a previous post: ’empathy to deactivate bullying’ (right at the end of the post).

6. Tendency to pay attention and interpret the body sensations in a negative way. If the symptoms are very intense, if it is serious, better go to the doctor. If not, we can pay attention to them, but without trying to interpret them or control them. And let them evolve by themselves. Our body is wise and by itself it will reach balance. This idea is partly related to the TIPI technique.

Attention! TIPI is much more than this (for more information you can inform yourself directly from its creator, Luc Nicon).

Finally, the exogenous elements. Drugs more or less

7. Regarding coffee, there is little to say. Do not abuse! Mainly, if our body is especially sensitive to caffeine.

8. If we need to take benzodiazepines, this mean that our stress level is already very high. Do not increase it, at least. And, please, not with caffeine.

Relaxing drugs cause drowsiness, counteracting it with caffeine is quite absurd. As an alternative to sleeping pills we can try something more natural, like valerian. As it smells very badly, there is no risk of addiction.

In general, for situations that are repeated and that start the amygdala and stress, it is important to change the focus and the meaning to trigger the CIT neurons as soon as possible.

Finally, please, remember that the NeuroQuotient® tool helps us understand the neuroscience of behavior. In this case the neuroscience of stress. And above all, with it we can see how our neuro behaviors help our satisfaction and well-being.