Got a challenging problem that’s causing you stress and preventing you from working to the best of your abilities? Then take a lie down! While lying down on the job might sound like the worst thing you could do when you have a problem, it’s actually one of the very best options of all. Let’s take a look at why…
Neurochemistry and Problem Solving
The way our brains work is essentially to put us in different brain states as and when we need to be in them and to use different neurochemistry to achieve this.
When we are stressed, our body assumes that we are in immediate danger and it responds by putting us in the ‘fight or flight’ mode. Effectively this means that flooded with norepinephrine, dopamine and cortisol – stress hormones.
These have a number of effects on the body from contracting our muscles, to clotting our blood (so we can better survive injury) to taking blood and energy away from digestion and immune functions. But in terms of brain function, this has the effect of causing us to focus intently and to get ‘tunnel vision’ so that we can escape from the threat we’re facing. This is very useful if you need to keep your eye on the terrain while you run from a leopard chasing you but it’s not very helpful when facing down the kinds of problems you encounter in the office.
Creativity and Problem Solving
This is because problem solving in the modern world requires creativity. Specifically, it requires us to be able to think outside the box and to make connections between disparate ideas. That’s why we are actually at our most creative when we are relaxed – even when we are close to sleep. The ‘hypnagogic’ brain state that we encounter just before we lose consciousness is actually considered responsible many creative works and scientific breakthroughs.
This is also why studies have shown that sitting in a more supine position at work increases creative thinking in the office. Likewise, being exposed to the color green alone is enough to help us increase creativity because we unconsciously associate it with being in natural environments. Even alcohol can help increase creativity in some circumstances as it is a depressant that puts us in a subdued state.
Advisory Panels and Stress
Taking ‘time out’ to calmly review your greatest challenges in a safe environment like an advisory panel will open up your creative mind … problems seem smaller and more soluble. This isn’t the wisdom of the Panel necessarily, it’s just the process of being placed in a supportive environment away from the pressure which is placing you in ‘fight or flight’ mode, inhibiting your natural abilities.
So next time you’re faced with a problem that’s causing you stress, remember that your stress will only make it more difficult to find the answer. So relax, take a breather and come back to it when you feel calmer!