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Personal development is such a wide topic that I often get asked how you could measure ‘levels of development’.
I don’t think you can actually measure it but I do believe you can ask yourself some questions to start the process of seeing if you are happy with your personal development. Personal development is learning by doing. Here’s a start of a ‘checklist’ that I will update over time (initial version March 2016).
If you workout with music on your headphones it will feel easier and you can go longer with more energy. Maybe it does not sound that surprising to you but if you understand WHY this works the way it works you can turn it to an even greater advantage in your life. So how does it work?
Neuro-psychologist Erik Scherder was interviewed by Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant and provides interesting insights into how music helps us make things easier. He summarizes the impact of music on sports performance as follows; music has rhythm just like our bodies. For example our legs move to a (predictable) pattern. Also the communication between brain regions functions in a certain rhythm. And, if you play music that matches that rhythm then it improves communication between these different regions of the brain.
So what does that have to do with sports? To make sure we walk straight, our legs constantly tells our brain what they are doing. That information gets to the sensory parts of our brain, right next to the brain parts that control motion. That’s also where the music from our ipod arrives and that gives extra stimulation to this area, which then helps to make the legs move and perform better.
There’s more though! We have neurons in the brain called mirror neurons. These jump into action when we remember things, like emotions from the past such as a good time, a party, romantic time spent. If you use a song that has memories attached to it, then the mirror neurons will also facilitate and stimulate the movement of the legs with a perceived lower effort.
And… when the legs get tired from the sports movement, the music creates a distraction in our heads. It diverts from the signals saying that we are tired.
Surprising detail from research done as to which music creates the best effect? Eye of the Tiger from the Rocky movies does a lot better than a lot of other music. Maybe it’s because people who know the movie have good memories and emotions with that music.
Mindfulness is a great way to learn to relax but it will not necessarily help a person recover from a burnout nor prevent burnout from happening again. So why does mindfulness not solve the underlying cause of a burnout? There are in fact two essential reasons for this.
First of all, burnout is a gradual process that runs its course based on each individual’s belief and behavior patterns. There are some recognizable character traits that are often associated with a higher risk of burnout; such as having perfectionist tendencies, being a conflict avoider, or having the need to be ‘always’ helping other people. If we do not live up to some of these personal expectations about ourselves and our performance, feelings of guilt, failure and self-recrimination start to build up.
We start to ignore our energy and recovery boundaries thereby resulting in a chronic state of stress
Mindfulness can ease your stress in the short term, i.e. while you practice it. In such a way, it can contribute to lessening your immediate stress momentarily. What it doesn’t do is to take the heat of the chronic stress off. Mindfulness one of the functional tools used to help prevent a burnout but not necessarily to alleviate it.
Stress is like a teakettle of boiling water on a stove. Mindfulness can add cold water to the boiling water thereby keeping it at a simmer rather than having it boil over. Burnout treatment focuses on learning how to turn the gas up and down on the stove itself.
The second reason why mindfulness during a burnout may not be the ideal way to deal with the situation at hand is the ‘staying in the moment’ effect. People in a burnout are often dealing with a negative or depressed view of self, others, situations, even life in general. As mindfulness is about ‘staying in the moment’, maybe you can already see where problems can arises. Mindfulness in such a negative state can trigger a situation where too much attention is paid to the negativity that is being experienced in that moment and actually contribute to getting caught in a progressive downward spiral of negative thoughts and emotions. Instead of finding a moment of ‘zen’, feelings of emptiness, helplessness, and apathy can gain a firmer foothold in the belief system thereby actually increasing the symptoms of the burnout itself.
Staying at home and doing nothing for a number of months often has the adverse effect that people start to find it more difficult to go back to work. This often leads to a negative spiral where people risk getting depressed. Burnout treatment needs to focus on physical recovery, cognitive and behavioral changes, and eventually on teaching people new skills to, hopefully, avoid any relapse. Treatment needs to include assistance for people by helping them to start resuming work in a gradual step-by-step plan.
I am not saying that Mindfulness should never be used as a tool in cases of Burnout, but rather, that in these cases, a well-trained and experienced healthcare practitioner should be consulted and the technique used with caution.
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