Managing nerves, anxiety, and burnout | Jonny Miller (Nervous Systems Mastery)

Managing nerves, anxiety, and burnout | Jonny Miller (Nervous Systems Mastery)

Jonny’s background (00:00:00)

  • Jonny Miller teaches courses and does one-on-one coaching with tech professionals, helping them with nervous system mastery.
  • Nervous system mastery involves cultivating calm, upgrading resilience, and increasing aliveness.
  • Jonny's insights are based on his personal journey of burnout and the loss of his fiance to suicide.
  • He emphasizes the importance of understanding the inner landscape of the body and emotions.

The bottom-up approach to nervousness and anxiety (00:07:19)

  • Jonny advocates for a bottom-up approach to managing nervousness and anxiety, focusing on changing the state of the body rather than trying to change thoughts or feelings directly.
  • The afferent and efferent neurons in our bodies create a superhighway of information from the body to the brain, allowing us to rapidly change our state by influencing our physiology.

The power of breath in changing states (00:09:42)

  • Changing the way we breathe can significantly shift our physiological state and nervous system.
  • Breathing into the upper chest, shallowly, and rapidly activates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increased adrenaline and cortisol.
  • Consciously changing the breath to emphasize the exhale has a calming effect and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

The concept of state over story (00:11:47)

  • Jonny introduces the concept of "state over story," emphasizing the importance of focusing on the state of the body rather than the story we tell ourselves about our situation.
  • Defocusing the gaze, expanding awareness, and breathing with an extended exhale can all help calm the nervous system.
  • Reactive thoughts and feelings can reinforce anxiety, creating a self-reinforcing cycle that can lead to panic attacks.

Personal experiences with nervousness (00:13:56)

  • Jonny shares his personal experiences with nervousness, particularly before public speaking, despite being able to hide it well.
  • He explains that the nervousness stems from the fear of not knowing how he will perform or how it will turn out.

Breathing exercises to calm you down (00:15:01)

  • Jonny recommends breathing exercises as a rapid and effective way to manage nervousness and anxiety.
  • He guides the audience through a simple 4-4-8 breathing exercise: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds.
  • The exercise is repeated for a minute or so, with an additional round of humming at the end.
  • Humming releases nitric oxide, a vasodilator that promotes a calming effect and reduces eye tension.
  • Jonny suggests creating a toolkit of different breathing practices suitable for various contexts, such as the 4-4-8 breathing, humming, expanding awareness, and grounding techniques.
  • He emphasizes the importance of finding what works best for each individual and having a personalized "if this, then breathe" strategy.

The “espresso” breath exercise to give you energy (00:20:40)

  • Jonny introduces the "espresso" breath exercise as a way to boost energy and combat lethargy.
  • It involves rapid exhales through the nose, similar to the Breath of Fire in the Wim Hof method but gentler.
  • Jonny demonstrates the technique and recommends doing 30 breaths per round, followed by a long pause on the exhale.
  • This exercise can be particularly helpful before giving a talk or when needing a quick energy boost.

Interoception and the A.P.E. framework (00:25:44)

  • Interoception is the ability to sense, track, and feel internal landscapes.
  • Interoception can be trained and improved like other senses.
  • Low levels of interoception are associated with ADHD, PTSD, and trauma.
  • The A.P.E. framework (Awareness, Posture, Emotion) can help improve interoception.
  • Awareness: Narrowing or expanding awareness can have different effects on the body.
  • Posture: Posture affects how we feel and can be adjusted to improve well-being.
  • Emotion: Noticing bodily sensations and emotions can provide valuable information.
  • Regularly checking in with A.P.E. can help identify and address issues early on.
  • Paying attention to breath and sensations can also enhance interoception.

The “feather, brick, dump truck” phenomenon (00:34:47)

  • Burnout often starts with subtle signs that can be easily missed.
  • The "feather, brick, dump truck" phenomenon describes the progression of burnout.
  • The "feather" stage involves mild symptoms like tiredness and exhaustion.
  • Ignoring or missing early signs can lead to more severe symptoms like frustration and arguments ("brick" stage).
  • The "dump truck" stage represents a full-blown health crisis or other major negative consequences.
  • Developing interoceptive skills can help identify and address burnout at an early stage.

Recognizing emotional debt and avoiding burnout (00:37:40)

  • Emotional debt: when the nervous system experiences stress and the mobilization cycle isn't completed, leading to allostatic load and fragility in the nervous system.
  • Early warning signs of emotional debt:
    • Increased reactivity, irritability, and frustration.
    • Difficulty sleeping or waking up feeling rested.
    • Strained relationships, especially intimate or work relationships.
  • Emotional debt can accumulate over time and lead to health crises and challenges.
  • Key sign of reaching a threshold of emotional debt: inability to naturally downshift or downregulate the nervous system without external substances like wine or CBD.

Using somatic-oriented therapy for healing (00:40:47)

  • Somatic-oriented therapy focuses on the body and physical sensations to address emotional challenges.
  • Talk therapy alone may not be sufficient in addressing the root of stress and emotional debt.
  • Somatic practices, such as breathwork journeys, can help release stored emotions and trauma held in the body.
  • Cultivating interoception, self-regulation, and emotional fluidity are key to healing emotional debt.
  • Working with a somatic practitioner or therapist can provide guidance and support in the healing process.

Telltale signs of emotional debt (00:45:26)

  • Signs of emotional debt include:
    • Dysregulated breathing patterns, such as constant sympathetic or hypervigilant states.
    • Disassociation from the body and living primarily in the mind.
    • Emotional reactivity that is disproportionate to situations.
    • Two common reactivity patterns: freezing/withdrawing/shutting down, or becoming aggressive/attacking.
    • Importance of recognizing reactivity patterns and downshifting the nervous system before making decisions.

The competitive advantage of “feeling the feels” (00:48:13)

  • Feeling emotions provides a competitive advantage in decision-making.
  • A study on a patient with a brain tumor that removed his emotional capacity showed the importance of emotions in decision-making.
  • Avoiding certain emotions can lead to biased decision-making.
  • Welcoming and accepting all emotions allows for clearer and more informed decision-making.

Advice for people overwhelmed by stimuli (00:50:20)

  • People with high interceptive capacity may find it overwhelming to process all the stimuli in their environment.
  • For those overwhelmed by daily stimuli, it is recommended to work on increasing nervous system capacity through practices like SAER and cold plunges.
  • It is important to allow oneself spaciousness after intense emotions to process and release them, preventing the buildup of emotional debt.
  • Emotional debt can lead to burnout and long-term health issues.

The NSDR (non-sleep deep rest) practice for emotional release (00:52:36)

  • NSDR is a practice coined by Andre Hean, inspired by the ancient yoga practice of Yoga Nidra.
  • NSDR involves a guided body scan and relaxation techniques to promote deep rest and emotional release.
  • It can help improve interoception, reduce stress, and provide a sense of rejuvenation.
  • NSDR is recommended for those who experience emotional debt or need to downshift after periods of stress.

Daily practices for emotional well-being (00:55:38)

  • Experiment with different practices to find what works best for you.
  • Start with simple practices like 4-4-8 breathing or humming for a few minutes each day.
  • Incorporate the NSDR practice at least once or twice daily.
  • Consider working with a somatic practitioner or therapist to enhance body awareness and emotional well-being.
  • Add the 8 practice before and after breathing exercises to notice the difference.

Thoughts on meditation (00:58:23)

  • Meditation can be beneficial for training specific skills like loving-kindness, focus, and spacious awareness.
  • Embodied meditation practices, such as body scans, are recommended for interoceptive awareness.
  • Meditation can increase the psychological space between stimuli and response, allowing for more conscious reactions.
  • While mindfulness and meditation have gained popularity, there has been an oversight of body-based approaches.
  • Meditation is valuable for certain goals, but bottom-up practices are more effective for enhancing body awareness and overall well-being.

The Body Keeps the Score (01:01:26)

  • The book "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel van der Kolk explores the concept of incomplete mobilization reflexes stored in the body.
  • Trauma is not strictly held in the body but rather mapped in the brain, but it manifests as physical sensations and tension.
  • By developing emotional fluidity and awareness of these sensations, tension can be released, leading to reduced reactivity and emotional debt.
  • The body can be seen as a "scorecard" that reflects our emotional experiences and patterns.
  • Peter Levine's book "Waking the Tiger" provides further insights into mobilization reflexes and their impact on the body.

Contrarian corner (01:01:58)

  • Jonny Miller introduces a new segment called "contrarian corner" where he shares unpopular opinions.
  • He believes talk-based meditation is not as effective as other forms of meditation.
  • Burnout is vastly underestimated, with a median cost of $100,000 for startups.
  • Burnout has second and third-order consequences such as talent attrition, opportunity costs, and loss of productivity.
  • Emotional contagion from leaders can negatively impact their teams.
  • The nervous system of an organization reflects the nervous system of the CEO.
  • Working hard is acceptable, but it's important to maintain the body, mind, and nervous system.
  • Building nervous system capacity is crucial for balancing hard work with rest.

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