How To Stay Calm when You Know You’ll Be Stressed

For your Monday morning inspiration this week check out a TED talk by neuroscience expert Daniel Levitin titled: How To Stay Calm when You Know You’ll Be Stressed. Given our busy/stressed lives this talk provide excellent information to help us be more productive. Good idea to put systems in place to deal with stress and remain as calm as possible.

A few years ago, I broke into my own house.I had just driven home, it was around midnight in the dead of Montreal winter, I had been visiting my friend, Jeff, across town,and the thermometer on the front porch read minus 40 degrees–and don’t bother asking if that’s Celsius or Fahrenheit,minus 40 is where the two scales meet–it was very cold.And as I stood on the front porch fumbling in my pockets,I found I didn’t have my keys.In fact, I could see them through the window,lying on the dining room table where I had left them.So I quickly ran around and tried all the other doors and windows,and they were locked tight.I thought about calling a locksmith — at least I had my cellphone,but at midnight, it could take a while for a locksmith to show up,and it was cold.I couldn’t go back to my friend Jeff’s house for the night because I had an early flight to Europe the next morning,and I needed to get my passport and my suitcase.

So, desperate and freezing cold, I found a large rock and I broke through the basement window, cleared out the shards of glass, I crawled through, I found a piece of cardboard and taped it up over the opening, figuring that in the morning, on the way to the airport, I could call my contractor and ask him to fix it. This was going to be expensive,but probably no more expensive than a middle-of-the-night locksmith, so I figured, under the circumstances, I was coming out even.

Around the home, designate a place for things that are easily lost. Now, this sounds like common sense, and it is, but there’s a lot of science to back this up, based on the way our spatial memory works. There’s a structure in the brain called the hippocampus, that evolved over tens of thousands of years, to keep track of the locations of important things–where the well is, where fish can be found, that stand of fruit trees, where the friendly and enemy tribes live.The hippocampus is the part of the brain that in London taxicab drivers becomes enlarged. It’s the part of the brain that allows squirrels to find their nuts. And if you’re wondering, somebody actually did the experiment where they cut off the olfactory sense of the squirrels, and they could still find their nuts. They weren’t using smell, they were using the hippocampus, this exquisitely evolved mechanism in the brain for finding things. But it’s really good for things that don’t move around much, not so good for things that move around. So this is why we lose car keys and reading glasses and passports. So in the home, designate a spot for your keys — a hook by the door, maybe a decorative bowl. For your passport, a particular drawer. For your reading glasses, a particular table. If you designate a spot and you’re scrupulous about it, your things will always be there when you look for them.