The Power of Frustration, Radical Self-Compassion & The Oxygen Advantage
🤸♀️ Stretch 31
I'm working from Lisbon for a month, and I've rented a scooter—one of those fancy city bikes, with two wheels in front. It's a heavier model than what I'm used to, so I've been struggling to take it on and off its center stand and parking on the hilly, cobbled streets.
It feels clumsy and embarrassing, but I constantly remind myself of the most interesting fact I've discovered about my brain: the greater the struggle, the better.
Not just mentally—also neurologically!
🤸♀️ IN THIS WEEK'S STRETCH:
The power of frustration. Your brain wants you to "embrace the suck."
Radical self-compassion. A practical technique by Dr. Peter Attia.
The Oxygen Advantage. My April Creative Body Experiment.
😖 THE POWER OF FRUSTRATION: EMBRACE IT FOR RAPID LEARNING.
Most of us don’t like making mistakes. We get flustered and annoyed, feeling like we’re wasting our time and we're “just not cut out for this.”
But here’s the thing:
Every new project or skill comes with frustration, uncertainty, and confusion.
Struggling and making mistakes is critical for learning because it cues up your forebrain. It makes your nervous system pay attention to what’s not working and make necessary adjustments.
This trial-and-error feedback loop triggers the release of a delicious neurochemical cocktail:
Epinephrine for focus
Acetylcholine for alertness
Dopamine for motivation
Frustration and discomfort are not signs that you need to stop. These negative sensations are designed to focus us.
We've turned them into something negative. Something to avoid.
Instead, this is exactly when you need to make the most of the increased alertness and focus to persevere and “embrace the suck” of learning something new.
Keep practicing and capitalize on your mistakes by trying again and again, while your brain is in a maximally attentive state.
🔻 Read the full post 🔻
👯♀️ RADICAL SELF-COMPASSION: BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
There are times when if I'd talk to my friends the way I talk to myself... Weeeeell, let's just say I wouldn't have many friends left.
I find this one tough to admit because people wouldn't expect this from me, and it's not sexy and shiny—but I have a horrible inner voice insisting I should do more and achieve more. Be a better friend/daughter/sister/colleague/person. Have a better memory. And on it goes.
I heard this clip from Peter Attia on the Huberman Lab podcast (starting at 3:18:04) that really stuck with me:
First of all, it's always helpful to hear other people talk about their inner voices. It's a nice reminder that many people struggle with this in some shape or form.
Secondly, I decided to try out Peter's approach, which helped him deal with his own inner critic.
Here's how it works:
When that negative voice in your head starts going off about something you said or did, stop and record yourself as if you're talking to a friend who did or said the same thing.
An example hot off the press:
Inner voice: "Why did you get such a heavy bike? Why didn't you just go with the regular model, the one you're used to? Look, those people are watching you and must be judging you. They're probably thinking it's ridiculous for a girl to get such a bike. And if you drop it now, they're going to have to come over and help you. This is so embarrassing."
Recording: "I think it's great you're pushing past your fears and trying something new. If you don't try anything new in life, you never learn. And look, if you're really not comfortable, just go back to the shop and get the smaller model. But I think you're doing great, and also, don't forget; you haven't dropped the bike yet. You're just worried you will. And no one is watching you. And even if they are... who cares?!"
I mean... a world of difference, right?
Here's where it gets interesting:
Peter talks about sending those recordings to his therapist.
Now, what I've been doing is sending myself audio messages via Whatsapp. (You can just click "new conversation" and select your own name.)
No one will ever hear them. You don't ever need to listen to them. But by immediately stopping the critical voice and countering it with a positive perspective—from yourself, for yourself—you're slowly rewiring your brain.
I've been doing this for over a week now, and I think it's having a very positive effect on me for two reasons:
First, I'm trying out a new identity. I'm tricking my brain into believing that I'm actually being kind and compassionate to myself. And I can imagine that if I do this for long enough, this just becomes a part of who I am.
And second, I'm speaking the words out loud. Not just thinking them, or writing them down. I'm transforming these should's ("I should be kinder to myself" or "I really shouldn't be this hard on myself") into actual real-life words.
What do you think—would you give this a shot?
💨 THE OXYGEN ADVANTAGE: A BODY EXPERIMENT.
I'm trying something different for my April Creative Experiment.
So far, all of my experiments have focused on creating, learning, writing, and reading. Very head-y stuff. It left me feeling in a bit of a funk at the end of last month.
So, this month is going to be a Body Experiment. The goal is to take my attention OUT of my mind and INTO my body.
I'm centering the experiment around a book called The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown.
This book is all about learning how to breathe correctly, which might sound strange at first. We breathe all the time, right? What do you mean, we're not breathing correctly?
Breathing comes naturally, but breathing efficiently takes practice.
We assume our body reflexively knows how much air it needs at all times, but seems like that is not the case. Our bodies have adapted to our modern lifestyles, which often involve chronic stress, sedentary habits, unhealthy diets, overheated homes, and lack of fitness. (Evolution doesn't necessarily mean progress, coined dysevolution by Harvard biologist Daniel Lieberman.)
This has led to a culture of chronic over-breathing. We breathe too much and too fast (and through the wrong hole!)
The Oxygen Advantage is based on a simple technique:
Breathe through your nose at all times
Breathe lightly, deeply and slowly
The book offers a range of exercises designed to retrain your breathing and improve your BOLT score: Body Oxygen Level Test. It's basically a test to assess the health of your breathing. I'm currently at 18 seconds, and according to the book, a healthy and efficiently breathing individual has a score of 40 seconds.
Ultimately, my goal is to make breathing exercises a conscious part of my day to day. (Ever heard of screen apnea?)
I'll report back on my experience and progress in a couple of weeks.
🌸 TOOL RECOMMENDATION: SPRING CLEANING FOR YOUR INBOX
I've been unsubscribing from a bunch of newsletters. Feels good! The FOMO is real, but so is the overwhelm.
I've also been using Meco—a newsletter reader app specifically designed for Gmail users. Meco connects directly with your email account and then takes your newsletters out of your inbox and into your Meco app, where you can group them and customize your reading experience.
It's a really nice reading experience and just helps with making your inbox feel less cluttered.