Huberman Lab - Master Stress: Tools for Managing Stress & Anxiety

Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast,

where we discuss science

and science-based tools for everyday life.

I’m Andrew Huberman,

and I’m a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology

at Stanford School of Medicine.

This podcast is separate

from my teaching and research roles at Stanford.

It is, however, part of my desire and effort

to bring zero cost to consumer information

about science and science-related tools

to the general public.

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Today’s episode is going to be all about

the science of emotions.

The first month of the podcast,

we talked about sleep and wakefulness.

Last month, we were talking about neuroplasticity,

the brain’s ability to change in response to experience.

And this month, we’re going to talk about

these things that we call emotions.

We’re going to decipher what they are,

how they work, how we can control them,

when we might not want to control them.

There are going to be four episodes on emotions.

And today, we’re going to talk in particular

about something that most often is called stress.

You might be thinking, wait, stress isn’t an emotion,

but stress really lies at the heart

of whether or not our internal experience

is matched well or not to our external experience

or the events that are happening to us and around us.

And as you’ll soon see, those converge or combine

to create what we call emotions.

Now, I want to be very clear

that we’re going to talk about the biology of emotions.

We’re going to talk a little bit

about some psychological concepts related to emotion.

And we are definitely going to talk about tools

to control what we call stress

or commonly think of as stress.

We’re also going to clean up some common myths about stress.

For instance, that stress impairs your immune system.

That’s true in certain contexts.

And in other contexts,

stress actually enhances your immune system

and makes it function better.

There is going to be a lot of discussion

about whether or not our internal state,

whether or not we are alert or calm,

is good or bad depending on the circumstances.

So where we’re headed here

is I’d like you to come away from today’s episode

with what I call an organizational logic,

a framework for thinking about these things

that typically we just call happy or sad

or depressed or anxious.

And I’m going to make sure that you have tools

that are grounded in physiology and neuroscience

that will allow you to navigate

this otherwise complex space that we call emotions

that will allow you to ground yourself better

when you’re feeling like life is weighing on you

or you’re kind of being pulled by the currents of life,

as well as to support other people,

whether or not that’s in a psychological practice,

if you’re a practitioner,

or you have clients or children or spouses,

really to be able to support other people

in your environment better.

And the tools that I’m going to focus on today

range from behavioral tools.

We will talk about some of the more valuable

supplementation tools that are out there.

And we’re going to talk a little bit

about things like depression, PTSD,

but we will be devoting entire episodes

to things like depression, PTSD,

and even attention deficit

and obsessive compulsive disorder,

which believe it or not,

although this might not surprise many of you,

have a very strong emotional component.

It’s not just about compulsive behaviors

and intrusive thoughts,

it’s also about the emotional load of being in that state.

So I promise that today we’re going to clean up

a lot of misunderstanding.

We’re going to give you a lot of tools

and you’re going to learn a lot about the biology

of how your body and brain work together.

Because if ever there was a topic

that brought together the brain and body

or mind-body relationship,

it’s stress and emotions.

It’s also the positive emotions.

When we feel something, whether or not we’re super happy

or just feeling kind of pleasant,

or we are feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed,

it isn’t just in our head, it’s also in our body.

And as you may recall, the nervous system,

which includes the brain and the eyes and the spinal cord,

but also all the connections with the organs of the body,

includes the brain and body.

And those organs of the body,

your gut and your liver and your spleen,

they’re also communicating with the brain.

So I look forward to a day, in fact,

when we no longer think about neuroscience

as just the brain.

And many neuroscientists now also think about the body,

of course, the brain controls the body,

but the body is also having a very profound

and concrete influence on the brain.

I think up until recently,

people would hear about kind of brain-body

and always think about mindfulness.

We’re actually not going to talk that much

about mindfulness at all today.

Mindfulness is kind of a vague concept, in fact.

When you think about mindfulness,

it’s good to take the opposite.

What’s the opposite of mindfulness would be mindlessness?

Well, all of a sudden we’re into territory

that isn’t really easy for one person

to describe their experience

or to help others with their experience.

Today, we’re going to talk about objective tools

that match the brain-body experience

or separate the brain-body experience

in ways that leverage your ability

to lean into life better, to feel better,

literally to just feel better about what you’re experiencing

and believe it or not,

to be able to control your emotions when that’s appropriate.

This isn’t about becoming robotic.

This isn’t about trying not to feel human.

This is actually about being able to lean into life better

as a consequence of being able to control

some of your inner real estate.

This nervous system that includes the brain and body

and how that nervous system is interacting

with the outside world.

So it’s to place you in a greater position of power.

And so let’s get started in deciphering what is stress?

What are emotions?

And why did I batch stress and emotions

into one discussion today?

Okay, so what is stress?

We hear all the time that stress is bad.

We hear people saying they’re really stressed out.

What is stress?

You’ve all presumably heard the arguments or the framework

that stress is this horrible ancient carryover

from times in which humans were pursued by animals

or other human predators.

And that whenever we feel what we call stress

or feel stressed out,

that it’s just this unfortunate invasion

of something that we no longer need in modern life,

that this was designed for when we were being attacked

by bears or tigers or lions or whatever it is.

And gosh, what an unfortunate thing.

And we have so many creature comforts nowadays,

but we have not eliminated this stress.

Almost as if it was like an organ or a system in our body

that was bad for us,

that we’re stuck with just because of the species

that we are.

But first of all, all species experience stress.

And I think that it’s fair to say,

even though I wasn’t there,

that yes, in fact, throughout our evolutionary history,

we were vulnerable to animal attack

and other human attacks on a regular basis

up until points where we started developing

weapons and structures and fire

and other things that allow us to protect ourselves better

from those animals and invaders of various kinds.

But it is entirely naive for us to think

that in ancient times,

ancient times being a kind of loose term

for previous time, medieval times,

100 years ago, 1,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago,

of course there were infidelities, right?

Partners cheated, people died.

In fact, before the advent of phones,

which we’re going to talk about today,

you can imagine that someone might head off on a hunt

or to go visit a relative and never come back

and you would never know why.

That would be very stressful.

So there was psychosocial stress.

There was the stress of losing loved ones.

There was the stress of cold, of famine.

There was the stress probably also of just worry.

This idea that ancient versions of humans,

1,000 years ago, 100 years ago, didn’t worry,

I think that is entirely inconsistent

with everything we know about the structure

of the human brain 100 years, 1,000 years ago.

So all the problems that we’re struggling with

existed forever.

It’s just that stress at its core is a generalized system.

It wasn’t designed for tigers attacking us

or people attacking us.

It’s a system to mobilize other systems

in the brain and body.

That’s what stress really is.

It’s designed to be generic.

And that’s the most important thing

that I’d like you to understand today

is that the system that governs what we call stress

is generic.

It wasn’t designed for one thing.

And that gives it a certain advantage

in taking over the state of our brain and body,

but it also gives you, all of us,

an advantage in controlling it

because it’s based on hardwired biological mechanisms.

And there are hardwired biological mechanisms,

meaning cells and chemicals and pathways and tissues

that exist in you right now

that require no neuroplasticity

that allow you to put a brake on stress.

And so we’re gonna talk about those.

So you have a system for stress

and you have a system for de-stress

that are baked into you.

They were genetically encoded

and you were born with them and you still have them now.

So if you’re alive and listening,

you have the capacity to control your stress.

And today I’m gonna talk about ways

that you can control your stress,

not just by doing some offline practice of meditation

or breath work or something like that,

but real-time tools,

tools that allow you to push back on stress

when stress hits in real time.

This is something that my lab works actively on

in developing and testing these tools

and evolving these tools.

And there are other laboratories that do this as well.

So let’s talk about the stress response.

And by doing that,

you will understand exactly why the tools

I’m gonna give you work.

For those of you that are saying,

wait, I just want the tools, just give me a summary.

Trust me, if you understand mechanism,

you are going to be in a far better position

to incorporate these tools,

to teach these tools to others,

and to modify them as your life circumstances change.

If you’d like the cheat sheet

or you just want the one-page PDF,

eventually we’ll get that stuff out to people,

but it’s really important

to understand the underlying mechanism.

Okay, so what is stress?

Well, let’s just distinguish between stressors,

which are the things that stress us out,

and stress, which is the psychological

and physiological response to stressors.

I’m mainly gonna talk about stress,

which is your response to things.

Let’s be clear about what we already know,

which is that stressors can be psychological

or they can be physical, okay?

If I put you outside on a cold day

without a jacket for a very long time, that is stressful.

If I have you prepare for too many exams at once

and you can’t balance it all with your sleep schedule

and your other needs for comfort and wellbeing,

like food, rest, sleep, and social connection,

that is stressful.

So stress, and as I mentioned before, is generic.

It doesn’t distinguish between physical

and emotional stress.

So what happens when the stress response hits?

Let’s talk about the immediate

or what we call the acute stress response.

We could also think of this as short-term stress.

So you have a collection of neurons.

They have a name.

It’s called the sympathetic chain ganglia,

and it has nothing to do with sympathy.

Sympa means together, and there’s a group of neurons

that start right about at your neck

and run down to about your navel, a little bit lower,

and those are called the sympathetic chain ganglia.

You don’t need to memorize that name.

There will not be a quiz,

but it’s important to know that in the middle of your body,

you have a chain of neurons

that when something stresses us out,

either in our mind or because something

enters our environment and we see something

that stresses us out, that we don’t like,

heights if you’re afraid of heights,

somebody you dislike walks into the room, et cetera,

that chain of neurons becomes activated

like a bunch of dominoes falling all at once.

It’s very fast.

When that happens, those neurons release a neuromodulator,

neurochemical that I’ve talked about before

on this podcast called acetylcholine.

They release that at various sites within the body.

Now, this is important because normally acetylcholine

would be used to move muscles.

Actually, every time we move a muscle,

pick up a cup of coffee, write with a pen,

walk down the street, it’s spinal neurons

connecting to muscle and releasing acetylcholine.

So in the brain, it’s involved in focus,

and at muscles, it’s involved in making muscles twitch.

But if we were stressed,

we wouldn’t want all our muscles to contract at once

because we would just be kind of like paralyzed like this,

in what tonic activation as it’s called.

We wouldn’t want that.

Something called tetanus, believe it or not,

because the tetanus toxin will cause

that kind of rigor of the entire body.

You do not want that.

When those neurons are activated, acetylcholine is released,

but there’s some other neurons

for the aficionados out there.

They’re called the postganglionic neurons.

Those ones respond to that acetylcholine,

and then they release epinephrine,

which is the equivalent to adrenaline.

So we have this system where very fast,

whenever we’re stressed, the core of our body,

these neurons down the middle of our body,

release these chemicals,

and then there’s adrenaline or epinephrine

released at particular organs and acts in particular ways.

We’re going down into the weeds here,

so just stay with me

because it’s going to make a lot of sense,

and you will appreciate having this knowledge in hand.

That epinephrine acts in two different ways.

Some things like the muscles of your legs and your heart

and other things that need to be active

when you’re stressed,

they have a certain kind of receptor,

which is called the beta receptor,

and that beta receptor responds to epinephrine

and blood vessels dilate.

They get bigger and blood rushes in to our legs.

The heart rate speeds up.

Lots of things happen that get activated,

and at the same time,

that epinephrine activates other receptors

on certain tissues that we don’t need,

the ones involved in digestion, reproduction,

and things of that sort that are luxuries

for when things are going well,

not things to pay attention to when we’re stressed,

and that binds to other receptors

that contract the blood vessels.

So basically, the stress response,

this is the key phrase here,

the stress response, A, is generic.

I said that before,

and B, it basically pushes certain systems to be activated

and other systems to not be activated.

So the stress response is two-pronged.

It’s a yes for certain things,

and it’s a no, you may not right now for other things.

So that’s the key thing to understand

about the stress response.

That’s why your heart speeds up.

That’s why you feel blood in certain organs

and tissues of your body, but not in others.

That’s why your throat goes dry,

because it turns out that when you get stressed,

the salivary glands are shut down.

There’s a lot less blood flow to the neurons

that control salivation,

and so you’re going to start swallowing.

You feel like your throat is getting dry.

There are a lot of different effects.

I’m not going to list them all off,

but basically you are activated

in ways that support you moving.

So that’s the third thing.

First of all, it’s generic.

Second of all, the stress response activates certain things

and shuts down other features of our body,

and then it’s a sense of agitation

that makes you want to move,

and that’s because fundamentally,

the stress response is just this generic thing

that says do something,

and movement in this case can either be the bias

to move in terms of action,

or it can be the bias to say something.

When we are stressed, we are more likely to say something

that probably we shouldn’t say.

We are more likely to move,

and if you’re trying to suppress movement,

you’ll feel that as a tremor.

You’re going to feel agitated,

and that’s because it was designed to move you.

So this is important,

because if you want to control stress,

you need to learn how to work with that agitation.

I’d like to give you a tool at this point,

because I think if we go any further

with a lot more science,

people are going to begin to wonder

if this is just going to be

a kind of standard university lecture

about the stress response.

I’m going to give you more science about the stress response,

but I want to take what we now already know

about the stress response and use that

as a framework for thinking about how one might reduce

or even eliminate the stress response quickly in real time

should it arise when we don’t want it.

So we’re taking the podium

or we’re sitting down at a Zoom call,

and all of a sudden we’re feeling flushed.

We’re feeling like our heart is racing.

We’re feeling a little too alert.

We’re feeling a little worked up and we want to calm down.

As far as I am aware of,

the best tools to reduce stress quickly,

so-called real-time tools,

are going to be tools that have a direct line

to the so-called autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system is a name

given to the kind of general features of alertness

or calmness in the body.

It’s typically, it means automatic,

although we do have some control over it

at certain so-called levers or entry points.

Here’s what doesn’t work to control stress.

Telling yourself to calm down.

In fact, that tends to just exacerbate stress.

Telling someone else to calm down

also tends to exacerbate their stress.

If you want to reduce the magnitude of the stress response,

the best thing you can do is activate

the other system in the body,

which is designed for calming and relaxation.

And that system is called the parasympathetic nervous system

because as I mentioned before,

the neurons that control stress

run from about your neck to your navel.

The parasympathetic neurons, para just means near,

exist in, they are some of the cranial nerves.

So it’s kind of neck and lower brain stem,

kind of back of the brain and in the neck,

and in the pelvic area.

And the parasympathetic nervous system

is really interesting

because especially the cranial nerves,

the ones that are up in the brainstem and in the neck area,

those have a direct line to various features of your face,

in particular, the eyes.

They control things like eye movements,

pupil dilation, things of that sort,

as well as the tongue, the facial muscles, et cetera.

The parasympathetic nervous system,

many people don’t realize this,

is the system by which we control the face and the eyes,

and to some extent, our airway, the trachea.

And it’s these neurons that reside within the pelvic area.

Now, the neurons within the pelvic area

are involved in control of the genitals,

the bladder, and the rectum.

And those don’t have a direct line.

You don’t have a direct way to control those.

It actually has to go from brain to spinal cord

and then out to those organs.

Whereas the parasympathetic nervous system

has certain entry points or what I’ll call levers, right,

that will allow you to push back on the stress response

in real time and diminish it

and feel more relaxed really quickly.

So I’m going to teach you the first tool now

so I don’t overwhelm you with all this academic knowledge

without giving you something useful.

And the tool that, at least to my knowledge,

is the fastest and most thoroughly grounded

in physiology and neuroscience

for calming down in a self-directed way

is what’s called the physiological psi, S-I-G-H.

Now, some of you might’ve heard me talk about this

on previous podcasts, but I’m going to explain this

in the context of how respiration in general

is used to calm us down.

And it turns out you’re all doing this all the time,

but you are doing it involuntarily.

And when you stress, you tend to forget

that you can also activate these systems voluntarily.

This is an extremely powerful set of techniques

that we know from scientific studies

that are being done in my lab,

Jack Feldman’s lab at UCLA and others now,

that are very, very useful

for reducing your stress response in real time.

And here’s how they work.

These days, there seems to be a lot of interest

in breathwork.

Breathwork typically is when you go and you sit down

or you lie down and you deliberately breathe

in a particular way for a series of minutes

in order to shift your physiology, access some states.

And it does have some utility that we’re going to talk about

that is not what I’m talking about now.

What I’m talking about when I refer to physiological size

is the very real medical school textbook relationship

between the brain, the body,

and the body as it relates to the breathing apparati,

meaning the diaphragm and lungs, and the heart.

Let’s take the hallmark of the stress response.

The heart starts beating faster.

Blood is shuttled to the big muscles of the body

to move you away from whatever it is the stressor is

or just make you feel like you need to move or talk,

your face goes flushed, et cetera.

Heart rate, many of us feel is involuntary,

just kind of functions,

whether or not we’re moving fast or moving slow.

If you think about it, it’s not really purely autonomic

because you can speed up your heart rate by running

or you can slow it down by slowing down, by your run.

You can move to a walk or lie down,

but that’s indirect control.

There is, however, a way in which you can breathe

that directly controls your heart rate

through the interactions between the sympathetic

and the parasympathetic nervous system.

Here’s how it works.

When you inhale,

so whether or not it’s through the nose or through the mouth,

this skeletal muscle that’s inside your body

called the diaphragm, it moves down,

and that’s because the lungs expand,

the diaphragm moves down.

Your heart actually gets a little bit bigger

in that expanded space.

There’s more space for the heart.

So I’m not talking about your emotional heart getting bigger,

I’m talking about your actual physical heart

getting a little bit bigger, the volume grows.

And as a consequence, whatever blood is in there

is now at a lower volume

or moving a little bit more slowly in that larger volume

than it was before you inhaled, okay?

So more space, heart gets bigger, blood moves more slowly,

and there’s a little group of neurons

called the sinoatrial node in the heart

that registers, believe it or not,

those neurons pay attention

to the rate of blood flow through the heart

and send a signal up to the brain

that blood is moving more slowly through the heart.

The brain then sends a signal back to the heart

to speed the heart up.

So what this means is if you want your heart to beat faster,

inhale longer, inhale more vigorously than your exhales.

Now, there are a variety of ways that one could do that,

but it doesn’t matter if it’s through the nose

or through the mouth.

If your inhales are longer than your exhales,

you’re speeding up your heart.

If your inhales are more vigorous,

so even if your inhales are shorter than your exhales,

you are speeding up your heart rate.

Now, the opposite is also true.

If you want to slow your heart rate down,

so stress response hits,

you want to slow your heart rate down,

what you want to do is, again,

capitalize on this relationship between the body,

meaning the diaphragm and the heart and the brain.

Here’s how it works.

When you exhale, the diaphragm moves up,

which makes the heart a little bit smaller.

It actually gets a little more compact.

Blood flows more quickly through that compact space,

sort of like just a pipe getting smaller.

The sinoatrial node registers

that blood is going more quickly,

sends a signal up to the brain

and the parasympathetic nervous system,

some neurons in your brainstem,

send a signal back to the heart to slow the heart down.

So if you want to calm down quickly,

you need to make your exhales longer

and or more vigorous than your inhales.

Now, the reason this is so attractive

as a tool for controlling stress

is that it works in real time.

This doesn’t involve a practice

that you have to go and sit there

and do anything separate from life.

And we are going to get to emotion.

Emotions and stress happen in real time.

And so while it’s wonderful to have a breathwork practice

or to have the opportunity to get a massage

or sit in a sauna or do whatever it is that you do

in order to set your stress controls in the right direction,

having tools that you can reach to in real time

that require no learning.

I mean, I had to teach it to you.

You had to learn that,

but it doesn’t require any plasticity

to activate these pathways.

So if you’re feeling stressed,

you still need to inhale, of course,

but you need to lengthen your exhales.

Now, there’s a tool that capitalizes on this

in a kind of unique way, a kind of a twist,

which is the physiological sigh.

The physiological sigh was discovered in the 30s.

It’s now been explored at the neurobiological level

and mechanistically in far more detail

by Jack Feldman’s lab at UCLA,

also Mark Krasno’s lab at Stanford.

And the physiological sigh is something

that humans and animals do

anytime they are about to fall asleep.

You also do it throughout sleep from time to time

when carbon dioxide, which we’ll talk about in a moment,

builds up too much in your system.

And the physiological sigh is something

that people naturally start doing

when they’ve been crying

and they’re trying to recover some air or calm down,

when they’ve been sobbing very hard,

or when they are in claustrophobic environments.

However, the amazing thing about this thing

that we call the diaphragm, the skeletal muscle,

is that it’s an internal organ

that you can control voluntarily,

unlike your spleen or your heart or your pancreas,

where you can’t just say,

oh, I want to make my pancreas

churn out a little more insulin right now.

I’m just going to do that with my mind directly.

You can’t do that.

You could do that by smelling

a really good donut or something,

but you can’t just do it directly.

You can move your diaphragm intentionally, right?

You can do it anytime you want,

and it’ll run in the background

if you’re not thinking about it.

So this incredible pathway that goes from brain to diaphragm

through what’s called the phrenic nerve,

P-H-R-E-N-I-C, phrenic.

The phrenic nerve innervates the diaphragm.

You can control it anytime you want.

You can double up your inhales or triple up your inhales.

You can exhale more than your inhales,

whatever you want to do.

Such an incredible organ.

And the physiological sigh

is something that we do spontaneously,

but when you’re feeling stressed,

you can do a double inhale.

Long exhale.

Now, I just told you a minute ago

that if you inhale more than you exhale,

you’re going to speed the heart rate up,

which would promote more stress and activation.

Now I’m telling you to do a double inhale exhale

in order to calm down.

And the reason is the double inhale exhale,

which is the physiological sigh,

takes advantage of the fact

that when we do a double inhale,

even if the second inhale is sneaking

in just a tiny bit more air,

because it’s kind of hard to get

two deep inhales back to back.

You do big, deep inhale,

and then another little one sneaking it in.

The little sacs in your lungs,

the alveoli of the lungs,

your lungs aren’t just two big bags,

but you’ve got millions of little sacs

throughout the lungs

that actually make the surface area of your lungs

as big as a tennis court.

It’s amazing.

If we were to just spread that out.

Those tend to collapse as we get stressed,

and carbon dioxide builds up in our bloodstream,

and that’s one of the reasons we feel agitated as well.

So, and it makes us very jittery.

I mean, there’s some other effects of carbon dioxide

I don’t want to get into,

but when you do the double inhale, exhale,

the double inhale reinflates

those little sacs of the lungs,

and then when you do the long exhale,

that long exhale is now much more effective

at ridding your body and bloodstream of carbon dioxide,

which relaxes you very quickly.

My lab, in collaboration with David Spiegel’s lab,

David’s the Associate Chair of Psychiatry at Stanford,

are doing a study right now,

exploring how physiological size

and other patterns of breathing done deliberately

can modulate the stress response

and other things related to emotionality.

Those work are ongoing.

I want to be clear, those studies aren’t done,

but it’s very clear from work in our labs,

from work in Jack Feldman’s lab and others,

that the physiological sigh is the fastest hardwired way

for us to eliminate this stressful response in our body

quickly in real time.

And so I’m excited to give you this tool

because I think most people have heard

that mindfulness and meditation is good,

exercise is good for us,

we all need to be getting enough sleep, et cetera,

but life happens.

And when you find yourself in a position

where you are more alert and activated

than you would like to be,

regardless of whether or not the stressor

is relationship-based or it’s financial or it’s physical

or anything like that,

you can look to the physiological side

because it bypasses a very important feature

of how we function, which is that it’s very hard

to control the mind with the mind,

especially when we are in heightened states of activation.

When we are very alert or very sleepy,

it is very hard to use these so-called top-down mechanisms

of intention and gratitude and all these things

that are really powerful tools

when we are not super activated and stressed

or not super tired.

But when we are anywhere in the range of very alert

and stressed to very sleepy,

physiological sides are a powerful way

of bringing our level of so-called autonomic activation,

which just means our level of alertness down.

And so whether or not it’s in line at the bank

or whether or not you’re wearing a mask nowadays

or you’re not, whatever the conditions may be

where you’re at and your needs,

when you’re feeling stressed,

the physiological side done just one to three times,

so it’d be double inhale, exhale, double inhale, exhale,

maybe just two times,

will bring down your level of stress very, very fast.

And as far as I know,

it’s the fastest way to accomplish that.

An important note about the physiological side

or exhale-emphasized breathing

for lowering the stress response.

Many people worry that their heart rate

does not come down fast enough.

I want to tell you,

you do not want your heart rate to reduce very fast.

There’s actually something called the vasovagal response

where people will stand up

or they’ll get up in the middle of the night

to use the bathroom,

and then all of a sudden they’ll collapse, they’ll faint.

That’s because the heart rate was reduced too much.

Some people will see blood

or they’ll see something really troubling and stressful

and they’ll pass out.

That’s an over-activation

or an acceleration of the calming response.

They’re not so stressed

that they kind of fall off the cliff of stress.

They get so stressed that the rebound mechanism

for calming themselves down goes too high, too fast.

They calm down too fast and they collapse and faint.

And so be aware that if you’re going to use

the physiological side

or exhale-emphasized breathing to calm down

that your heart rate will take about 20 to 30 seconds

to come down to baseline.

And you may need to repeat the physiological side

a few times.

So that’s an important note about the use of breathing

to control levels of stress.

The other thing is that when you decide to look to the body

to control the mind,

it does something else that’s very powerful.

When you are stressed in your mind and body,

so you’re feeling really agitated, activated, and worried,

and you use a tool like the physiological side

or exhale-emphasized breathing,

you will notice that then your brain and your mind

becomes more available

for controlling the stress response and reacting to it,

which is great because the sweet spot in life

is to be, provided you’re not trying to sleep,

is to be alert and calm.

And so that’s the idea is to be alert and calm

and to bring you back into that sort of plane of alertness.

For those of you that have trouble sleeping

or just relaxing through the day,

the physiological side can be repeated

for 10, 15 cycles if you like.

Some people find that it actually puts them to sleep.

So if they lie down and they’re reading

and they do too many of these,

that actually can put them to sleep.

And what you’ll find is that most breath work protocols,

the kind of stuff that’s done away from real life

that you set aside time

and decide to do quote-unquote breath work,

most of that works such that if you’re doing inhales

that are longer and more vigorous than exhales,

it tends to be activating and alert you.

And if you’re doing exhales

that are longer and more vigorous than the inhales,

it tends to put you to sleep.

And many of the protocols that are out there

from laboratories and that populate the internet

and wellness sites and whatnot,

if it’s exhale-emphasized breathing,

oftentimes it’s been used as a tool

for trying to teach people to fall asleep.

Physiological size, a little different.

It’s designed to be used in real time.

Just think of it as just kind of in your kit of things

that you can do as life happens

and as you need to react to life.

A note about nasal versus mouth breathing.

There’s a plethora of information out there now

because of James Nestor’s book,

“‘Breath, the New Science of a Lost Art,”

which came out this last year, excellent book,

as well as JAWS, which is from Sandra Kahn, Paul Ehrlich,

with a forward by Jared Diamond and Robert Sapolsky.

So a collection of people from Stanford.

Jared Diamond’s not at Stanford, but the rest are.

And some heavy hitters on that book,

which is about the benefits of nasal breathing.

And in many cases,

nasal breathing is more advantageous than mouth breathing

for all sorts of things,

cosmetic features of the face, especially in kids,

warding off infection, et cetera.

With the physiological sigh,

the best way to do it would be double inhale

through the nose, exhale through the mouth.

But if you can’t,

and you can only do that through your mouth,

just do it through your mouth.

If you want to do all through your nose,

do it through your nose.

This anchors back to some underlying neurology

or neuroscience.

So for those of you that want to know,

you have two breathing centers,

one that’s involved in rhythmic breathing for inhales,

followed by exhales, followed by inhales, followed by exhales

the so-called pre-Botzinger nucleus

named after a bottle of wine

and discovered by Jack Feldman at UCLA.

And a nearby nucleus called the parafacial nucleus

also discovered by Jack Feldman at UCLA.

And the parafacial nucleus is involved

in anytime you double up the inhales

or double up the exhales.

It was designed so that you could breathe

while you’re speaking

because you can’t always go inhale, exhale,

inhale, exhale when you’re speaking.

So I tell you this not to overwhelm you with knowledge,

but just know that when you double up your inhales

or you double up your exhales,

you are activating this parafacial nucleus

and it has other cool effects

because it’s located near the neurons that control the face.

It also has a tendency to relax the jaw.

There’s some interplay between the neurons

that control the speaking stuff

and the stuff for your tongue.

So all of a sudden when we do this physiological sigh,

we tap into neural circuitry

that allows us to speak more clearly,

to control the muscles of the face and jaw.

Maybe that means not saying certain things

when we’re stressed and just generally to relax.

And so this brings us back to the neuroscience

of this parasympathetic nervous system,

this calming system that’s been genetically encoded into us

that we all have, regardless of who our parents are,

which is that the neurons that control all this stuff,

the face, the eyes, et cetera, are all working together.

And that’s why when we get stressed,

it’s hard for us to speak

or we tend to jitter and these kinds of things,

just like all the neurons that cause stress

in the center of the spinal cord

are working together to get our body activated.

Okay, a lot of science today.

You’ve now got the physiological sigh as a tool.

You know that exhale-emphasized breathing

will slow your heart down

and inhale-emphasized breathing will speed your heart up.

So let’s think about something now.

Let’s think about stress

from not whether or not it’s acute or chronic,

whether or not it’s good for us or bad for us,

but on three different timescales,

because then we can arrive at what this is all about

as it relates to emotions.

Because trust me, this has everything to do with emotions

and whether or not you’re functioning well emotionally

or you’re not functioning well emotionally,

whether or not you’re coping or not coping.

So those are typically psychological terms

and psychological discussions.

We are entering this through the portal of physiology,

the stuff of medical textbooks,

and we will arrive at the psychology soon,

but I really want you to understand the difference

between the three kinds of stress

on three different timescales,

short-term, medium-term, and long-term,

and what it’s good for and what it’s bad for.

I think we’ve all heard that stress is bad for us.

We’ve seen these pictures intended to frighten us,

and indeed they are frightening.

You see the nice, really plump brain on the left

that says healthy or control,

and then you see the brain that says stressed

above it on the right, and it’s like withered,

or we see that the hippocampus,

an area involved in memory, is smaller.

People there are stressed.

We see that the Alzheimer’s brain is made worse by stress,

that people who have a predisposition to schizophrenia,

when they get stressed,

higher incidence of schizophrenic episodes.

You hear that addicts will relapse when they’re stressed.

I mean, okay, we get it, and it’s very important,

but I think we’ve all heard now so many times

that stress is bad,

but in that conversation, unfortunately,

it’s eclipsed some of the really positive things

that stress does for us in the short-term.

So stress can be short-term, medium-term, or long-term.

Long-term stress is indeed bad

for all the reasons I just mentioned and many others,

but what’s never actually been discussed

is what stress is so terrific for,

positive for in the short-term,

and I think we tend to overlook the important question,

which is what is short-term and what is long-term?

No one ever bothers to tell us what is chronic,

what is acute, right?

Is it five minutes?

Is it five days?

Is it for the duration of final exams,

or is it for the duration of a senior thesis in college?

No one actually draws boundaries around this stuff,

or even general guidelines,

and so it’s become a bit of a mess, frankly,

to try and decipher this whole space around stress,

so I’m going to try and clean some of this up for you

based on what we know from the scientific data.

First of all, acute stress, when the stress response hits,

that is good for your immune system.

I know that might be a tough pill to swallow,

but it’s absolutely true.

In fact, stress often comes in the form

of bacterial or viral infection,

and the stress response is, in part,

organized to combat bacterial and viral infection.

There are pathways from the same brain centers

that activate these neurons in your spinal cord

to make you feel like you want to move.

There are other neurons in your brain

that activate things like your spleen,

which will deploy killer cells to go out

and scavenge for incoming bacteria and viruses

and try and eat them up and kill them.

So short-term stress

and the release of adrenaline in particular, or epinephrine,

same thing, adrenaline, epinephrine,

is good for combating infection,

and this, to me, is just not discussed enough,

so that’s why I’m discussing it here,

and it relates to a particular tool

that many of you ask about,

but I don’t often get the opportunity to talk about

in such an appropriate context.

It’s not that it’s ever inappropriate to talk about,

but what I’m about to talk about now

is the use of, again, respiration, breathing,

to somewhat artificially activate the stress response,

and that will accomplish two things, okay?

I’ll return to medium and long-term stress,

but I want to say short-term stress is good

because the dilation of the pupils,

the changes in the optics of the eyes,

the quickening of the heart rate,

the sharpening of your cognition,

and in fact, that short-term stress

brings certain elements of the brain online

that allow you to focus.

Now, it narrows your focus.

You’re not good at seeing the so-called big picture,

but it narrows your focus.

It allows you to do these,

what I call duration path outcome types of analysis.

It allows you to evaluate your environment,

evaluate what you need to do.

It primes your whole system for better cognition.

It primes your immune system to combat infection,

and that all makes sense when you think about the fact

that famine, thirst, bacterial infections,

viral infections, invaders, all of this stuff

liberates a response in the body

that’s designed to get you to fight back

against whatever stressor that happens to be,

psychological, physical, bacterial, viral.

Again, the stress response is generic.

The tool takes advantage of the fact

that when adrenaline is released in the body

from the adrenals,

it has the effect of also liberating

a lot of these killer cells from the immune organs,

in particular from the spleen,

but from elsewhere as well,

and interactions with the lymphatic system

that combat infection.

The way this works in the real world

is best captured by a study

that can be mapped back to so-called Wim Hof breathing.

Now, Wim Hof breathing is so named

after the so-called Iceman Wim Hof.

Wim, of course, being this Dutch,

I think his self-titled daredevil,

and indeed he has many, many Guinness Book of World Records

for things like swimming under icebergs

and going up Kilimanjaro in his shorts

and crossing the desert without water, et cetera,

things that are quite dangerous

if you don’t know what you’re doing.

And Wim obviously survived,

or I’m telling you he survived.

But there are two components

to a sort of breathing protocol that he developed

that was based also on what’s called TUMO breathing,


So before Wim, there was TUMO breathing.

And many people call this now super oxygenation breathing,

although the breath work aficionados will probably say,

well, it’s not super oxygenation

because you’re also blowing off a lot of carbon dioxide.

What I’m talking about here,

regardless of whether or not it’s called Wim Hof, TUMO,

or super oxygenation is rapid deliberate breathing.

So it’s deliberate hyperventilation.

Why would somebody want to do this?

Well, deliberate hyperventilation done for maybe 25 cycles.

So inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Typically it’s done in through the nose,

out through the mouth,

although sometimes it’s just through the mouth.

If you do that for 15 breaths, 20 breaths, 25 breaths,

you will feel very alert.

People who have anxiety will feel anxious.

They might even have an anxiety attack.

However, we need to ask why that kind of breathing

feels that way.

And it’s because that pattern of breathing,

rapid movements of the diaphragm

will liberate adrenaline from the adrenals.

So it’s the release of adrenaline.

I mentioned that Wim is also called the Iceman.

Well, that’s because he actually discovered

this pattern of breathing somewhat.

And again, it maps back to TUMO breathing

by going into cold water.

When you go into cold water, that too is a stressor

and you liberate adrenaline in response to cold water.

So if you get into an ice bath or a cold shower,

you will immediately release adrenaline from your adrenals.

Now, there are all sorts of things related to this

about psychological control and stress thresholds

that we’ll talk about.

But I really want people to understand

that when adrenaline is released in the body,

you are in a better position to combat infections.

And so whether or not you breathe very quickly

in these cycles of 25 breaths,

and regardless of what you call it, doesn’t matter,

adrenaline is released.

If you take a cold shower, adrenaline is released.

If you go into an ice bath deliberately,

and even if you do it non-deliberately,

adrenaline is released.

You are mimicking the stress response.

And that adrenaline serves to suppress

or combat incoming infections.

And this was beautifully shown in a study

that was published in a very fine journal,

the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

for the US, it’s literally called

Proceedings of the National Academy of USA

to distinguish it from other proceedings

of other national academies in other countries.

The way the experiment went is that people

were injected with endotoxin,

or in some cases they were injected

with a bacterial wall that mimics infection.

It gives you a fever.

It makes you feel nauseous.

It makes you feel sick.

It is not pleasant.

Half of the people did a particular pattern of breathing

that looked very much like the pattern of breathing

I described a moment ago

of doing 25 deep inhales and exhales

followed by an exhale, holding their breath,

then repeating, 25 inhales, exhales, holding their breath.

So this would look something like this,

or if you’re listening, it sounds like,

ah, ah, ah, 25, 30 times, you’ll start feeling heated up.

You’ll start feeling the adrenaline response.

You’re liberating adrenaline in your body.

Then exhale, hold your breath for 15 seconds,

and then repeat.

And then typically after doing three or four rounds of that,

they would inhale very deeply and hold their breath.

Now, I want to emphasize,

never, ever, ever do this anywhere near water.

People have passed out, so-called shallow water breath out.

People have died.

Don’t do it in the bathtub, do it in the hot tub.

Don’t do it before swimming.

Please don’t do it anywhere near water.

Please don’t do it at all

unless you get clearance to do it from your doctor

because there are some pulmonary effects and whatnot.

And the breath holds should definitely not be done

by anyone that has glaucoma or pressure,

you know, concerns for the eyes.

But these repeated cycles of breathing

that liberate adrenaline allowed the group

that did that protocol to essentially experience

zero symptoms from the injection of this E.coli,

which is remarkable.

They had much reduced or no symptoms.

They didn’t feel feverish.

They didn’t feel sick.

They weren’t vomiting, no diarrhea, which is remarkable,

but makes total sense when you think about the fact

that the short-term stress response,

that what’s typically called the acute stress response

is designed to combat all stressors.

In fact, were you to cut yourself very deeply

while out on a hike in the woods,

the other thing that would happen

is that there would be a rapid inflammation response.

And we always hear inflammation is bad.

Inflammation gives us Alzheimer’s.

Inflammation is the worst thing,

but the swelling is associated,

the inflammation is associated with the recruitment

of things like macrophages or microglia,

if it’s a neural tissue, cells in our brain and body

whose job is to act like little ambulances

and rush to that site and clean it up

and indeed the inflammation response looks horrible.

It sounds horrible, but it’s a great thing

in the short term.

You want to have that tissue marked as in trouble

and you want the body and brain to react to it.

So if you’re getting peaks in stress from time to time

throughout your day or throughout your week,

you are in a better position to combat infection.

You are in a better position to heal your wounds,

physical wounds.

Many great things happen in the stress response.

Now, of course, the stress response

isn’t always super intense.

Sometimes it’s milder.

Sometimes it allows us to just focus on something

because we have a deadline that can feel stressful,

but that’s one of the reasons

you procrastinators out there,

people are always asking me,

what can be done for procrastination?

What can be done for procrastination

is you can understand what’s happening,

which is that you are self-imposing stress

because stress acts like a drug.

It is a powerful nootropic.

I get asked about nootropics.

The most powerful nootropic or smart drug is stress.

It’s the concern of failure.

It’s the desire to do well.

It’s the impending deadline.

It’s the, oh my gosh, I have to do this thing now

or I’m going to fail.

That is the best nootropic you will ever find.

That combined with a good night’s sleep,

which we’ll talk about,

but we spent a whole month on sleep,

so I don’t want to backtrack too much, okay?

So short-term stress, great.

The key is to be able to turn the stress response off

when you’re done, when you don’t want that.

In fact, let’s just really tamp down the relationship

between the short-term or acute stress response

and infection.

Many of us are familiar with the experience

of work, work, work, work, work,

or taking care of a loved one,

or stress, stress, stress, stress, stress.

Then we finally relax.

Maybe we even go on vacation.

Like, oh, now I’m finally going to get the break.

And then we get sick.

And that’s because the adrenaline response crashed

and your immune system crashed with it.

So please understand this.

Now, many of you might say, well, how long is it?

Two hours, is it three hours?

A lot of you out there that really like specificity.

It will vary for everybody.

I would just kind of use a rule of thumb.

When you are no longer able to achieve good sleep,

what good sleep means to you,

and please see the episodes on sleep

if you want more about tools to sleep.

When you are no longer able to achieve good sleep,

you are now moving from acute stress to chronic stress.

You need to be able to turn the stress response off.

If I have one wish, well, I have many wishes

for this lifetime, but if I have one wish today

that I hope will permeate and spread out there

is this idea that we need from a young age,

but even as adults and forever,

we need to learn how to turn off our stress response.

Physiological sigh is one.

If we’re going to activate our stress response intentionally

by ice baths, cold showers,

cyclic hyperoxygenated breathing,

aka Tumo breathing or Wim Hof breathing,

we also need to learn how to press the break, okay?

So let’s think about the stress system.

It knows how to activate itself.

Now we’re talking about a way

of deliberately activating your stress system

in order to combat infection.

I do this from time to time.

I might feel a tickle in my throat

or like I’m getting kind of run down.

I will do this kind of breathing, I do.

I will take 25 or 30 breaths, exhale, hold my breath.

25, 30 breaths again, exhale,

hold my breath for about 15 seconds.

25, 30 breaths again, exhale,

hold my breath for 25 or 30 seconds,

then a big inhale and I hold my breath

until I feel the impulse to breathe.

Again, I feel it safe for me.

I’ve run it by my doctor, so it’s fine.

You should not do this unless it’s right for you,

but I do this.

Some people like the ice bath.

I rarely do the ice bath.

Some people like cold showers.

I like hot showers.

So I take hot showers, but I do this kind of breathing.

Again, they are all having more or less the same effect

of increasing adrenaline,

which allows you to combat the infection

because you’re activating the immune response.

Okay, so now let’s talk about medium-term stress.

Medium-term stress is going to be stress

that lasts anywhere from several days to several weeks.

Okay, we might think of that as long-term stress.

There are times in life

when we are just dealing with a lot, okay?

This particular quarter I happen to be directing a course,

I’m doing the lab, I’m doing this.

I enjoy all these things immensely,

but I’m kind of near my threshold.

I’m near the point where any additional thing,

like I couldn’t log onto a website the other day

and it felt like the most intense thing

in the world at that moment,

and I kind of laughed at myself.

Fortunately, I caught it,

but that typically wouldn’t be my response

under conditions where I wasn’t pushed to threshold.

What is this medium-term stress?

What is stress threshold?

Well, stress threshold is actually our ability

to cognitively regulate what’s going on in our body.

So we’ve all hear so much about,

we need to unify our mind and body.

We need to be at one with our mind and body,

or now I realize I’m kind of poking fun

at some of the new agey language,

but the reason I poke fun is

not because I don’t think it has value,

but it has no specificity.

What does that mean?

I mean, I think I’m always in my body.

I’ve never fortunately looked across the room

and seen my arm over there or my leg over there.

I’m connected to my body.

There actually is a syndrome

where people feel disconnected from their limbs.

This is a real clinical condition.

These people actually will seek out amputation.

They will try and convince doctors

to amputate certain portions of their body.

It’s a really terrible thing for people to have.

And it relates to a change in central maps in the brain,

believe it or not.

Most of us want to keep our limbs,

whichever ones we happen to have.

And most of us feel one in mind and body,

so much so that when stress hits,

we feel it in our mind and body.

A lot of stress inoculation,

a lot of managing medium term stress

on the timescale of weeks or maybe even a couple months.

So we’re not talking about years of stress.

A lot of that has to do with raising our stress threshold.

It’s about capacity.

And there are very simple tools,

excellent tools that will allow us

to modulate our capacity for stress.

And they look a lot like the tools I just described.

They involve placing oneself deliberately

into a situation where our adrenaline is increased somewhat,

not to the extreme.

And then when we feel flooded with adrenaline,

and normally we would panic,

it’s about cognitively, mentally, emotionally,

calming ourselves and being comfortable

with that response in our body.

So unlike trying to unify the mind and body

and make it all calm or make it all alert,

this is about dissociating mind and body in a healthy way.

And what would this look like?

Well, this is something I actually do as a practice

because I mentioned before, you can use physiological size.

In real time, you can use

the cyclic hyperoxygenation breathing to combat infection

if you’re feeling kind of run down.

And there’s also a way in which you can use things

like cold showers, or if you exercise

and you bring your heart rate up very high,

you kind of go into that high intensity realm

where your heart is beating a little bit harder

than you’re comfortable with

or just you feel, some people think it’s lactic acid,

no one can agree on this, what the burn is,

whether it’s lactic acid or it’s buildup of hydrogen

or whatever, I don’t want to get into that,

but we’re all familiar with the intense feeling

of your muscles kind of burning

because you’re working very hard physically.

The key in those moments is to learn to relax the mind

while the body is very activated.

And what that tends to do,

there’s a limited amount of research on this,

but what that tends to do is it tends to create a situation

where what once felt like a lot feels manageable.

Okay, you’ve raised your stress threshold

or your stress capacity.

One way that you can do this, and this is kind of fun,

if it’s approved by your physician

and you’re able to do this,

you can bring your heart rate up.

You could do this through an ice bath,

if that’s your thing, or a cold shower

or cyclic oxygenation breathing,

or you could sprint or you could go hard on the bike,

whatever it is that brings your heart rate up.

And then what you want to do

is you want to actually try and calm the mind

while your body is in this heightened state of activation.

And the best way that I’m aware to do that,

again, goes back to physiology, not psychology.

When we are stressed, our pupils dilate.

The effect of that pupil dilation

is to create tunnel vision.

It literally narrows our view of the visual world.

We no longer see in panorama.

And there’s some other effects as well,

but that’s because the visual system

through this cranial nerve system that I described before

is tethered and is part of this autonomic nervous system.

By deliberately dilating your gaze,

meaning not moving your head and eyes around,

but by deliberately going from tunnel vision

to broader panoramic vision,

literally seeing more of your environment all at once.

You don’t have to do what I’m doing, which is not blinking.

You’re welcome to blink.

But it means deliberately dilating your gaze

so that you can see yourself in the environment you’re in.

It creates a calming effect on the mind

because it releases a particular circuit in the brainstem

that’s associated with alertness, aka stress.

Now, this is very powerful.

If you’re running, for instance,

and you’re at max capacity or close to it,

or you’re kind of hitting like 80, 90% of maximum

on the bike and you dilate your gaze,

what you’ll find is the mind can relax

while the body is in full output.

And this relates to work that in various communities,

people are working with this in the sports community,

military communities, et cetera.

But it’s a form, not really of stress inoculation.

It’s more about raising stress threshold

so that the body is going to continue

to be in a high alertness, high reactivity mode,

high output, but the mind is calm.

And so this isn’t about unifying mind and body.

This is actually about using body

to bring up your level of activation,

then dissociating,

not the clinical dissociation kind of disorders,

but dissociating the mental or emotional response

from what’s going on in your body.

And over time, so if you do this, you know,

a couple of times, you don’t have to do this every workout,

but if you do this every, maybe once a week or so,

you start being comfortable

at these higher activation states.

What once felt overwhelming and like a lot of work

now is manageable.

It feels tolerable.

So that’s for navigating medium term stress.

Now there are other tools as well,

but we don’t want to go over 90 minutes

because 90 minutes is one ultradian cycle.

I always try and keep these podcasts

at one ultradian cycle in case you haven’t noticed,

so you can derive maximum benefit from them

based on ultradian cycle principles of learning.

So I don’t want to go into every little bit of this

and I want to make sure we get to emotions,

but I want to emphasize that these medium term stressors

of, oh, there’s been a hard month or hard week

or Stanford’s on the quarter system,

so 10 weeks or semester,

that becomes more manageable when we train ourselves

to be calm of mind when our body is activated.

And if you haven’t noticed,

most of the tools I’m describing today

are nothing like the sort of, okay, sit and do meditation.

I’m not, I’m actively avoiding saying the words NSDR,

non-sleep deep rest.

I talked a lot about those tools

during the months on sleep and neuroplasticity.

And of course they’re wonderful

for replenishing your ability to lean into effort,

to learn, to focus.

Please do try and check out NSDR protocols,

see if they’re right for you.

The margins for safety I think are enormous.

You’re basically just listening to a script.

We have links to them in previous captions.

I’ve talked on them on various podcasts before.

We can provide them again,

but today I’m really talking about tools

so that you can learn to dance with stress,

to in the short term,

reduce that stress response a little bit

if he feels too uncomfortable.

In the medium term,

to be comfortable at these heightened levels of activation,

because life is going to continue to come at you.

We can’t pick the stressors,

but we need to be able to function

at a higher capacity often.

And then there’s long-term stress.

Now, long-term stress is bad.

You do not want adrenaline up in your system

for a very long time.

In fact, ideally you would have your stress go up

various times throughout the day,

but it would never stay elevated

and it would never prevent you

from getting a good night’s sleep.

Now that isn’t realistic, okay?

I would say for me,

three, four nights out of the month,

no matter what I do,

I take on too much or something happens and life is life

and I don’t get the best night’s sleep

that I would like to get.

For many of you, it’s 30 nights per month.

For some of you, it’s zero nights per month.

And congratulations to you zero nights per month people.

If you are managing your sleep really well every night,

that is fantastic.

You really want to be able to fall asleep at night,

stay asleep for most of the night.

And if you get up, go back to sleep

for as long as you need to in order to feel rested.

That’s what I define as a healthy relationship to sleep.

Check out the episodes on sleep

if you want tools to be able to accomplish that.

We can all accomplish that, it can be done.

And there are tools to do it, zero cost tools.

Okay, so let’s talk about long-term stress.

Earlier, I talked about how breathing

can modulate heart rate through this loop

that includes the brain

and the parasympathetic nervous system.

I don’t think I mentioned this

and I want to make sure that I mentioned

that breathing controlling heart rate

through the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system

is the basis of what’s called HRV, heart rate variability.

And we know that heart rate variability is good.

You don’t want your heart rate chronically elevated

or chronically low.

A lot of people think,

oh, I want a really nice low heart rate.

And indeed, if you’re in shape,

the stroke volume of your heart will be greater

and you can have a nice, slow heart rate.

Years ago when I was running regularly,

I think my heart rate was down to like 50 or 60

or something like that.

That’s great, but, and now it’s higher than that

because I’m running a little bit less,

but everyone needs to determine what’s right for them.

But you don’t really want your heart rate

to be chronically low or chronically high.

Both are bad.

We know that chronic stress, elevated stress,

and especially in the so-called type A personalities

creates heart disease,

leading killer for in most every country,

but in particular in the US.

Because of the way that adrenaline impacts

those blood vessels are constricting and some

and dilating others,

it’s just that kind of hypertension,

chronic hypertension is just bad.

And so chronic stress truly is bad.

I want to really make that clear

because I emphasized a lot of what some of the positive

effects of stress,

but you want to be able to tamp down your stress

in real time.

You also want to be able to modulate your stress

and your emotional relationship to stress in the body

in the medium term.

But by no means do you want to be stressed out

all the time chronically for months and months and months

and years on end.

The best tools,

the best mechanisms that we know to modulate

long-term stress might surprise you a little bit.

First of all,

there are going to be the things that don’t surprise you,

which is everyone knows getting regular exercise,

getting good sleep,

using real-time tools to try and tamp down the stress

response, et cetera.

That’s all going to be really useful.

The data really point to the fact that social connection

and certain types of social connection in particular

are what are going to mitigate or reduce long-term stress.

And this is a particularly important issue nowadays

where we have all these proxies or surrogates

for social connection.

You know, we’re online and texting with people a lot.

So we can feel connected.

You know, people are like the plane’s about to take off

and everyone’s texting each other, you know,

whether or not they have fear of flying or not,

they’re like, okay, you know, see you, love you, hate you,

whatever it is that they’re trying to communicate to people.

Then, you know, plane lands, everyone phones out,

see you, love you, hate you.

Let’s hope it’s fewer hate you’s.

But everyone has this kind of need to stay connected

to one another.

Humans are incredibly social creatures.

Now there is a way to look at this whole business

of social connection,

not from just the kind of wishy-washy new agey perspective.

And I want to point out that sometimes

I’ll say wishy-washy new agey.

I have nothing against that.

I just, my goal here is always to put scientific data

and some neurochemistry on things

so that for those of you that are into

wishy-washy new agey stuff,

you also can arm yourself with some arguments

for those of you, the members of your family

and your life that maybe aren’t so tuned

into the typical language around those practices.

Like, oh, connection is really key.

We all get oxytocin.

Actually, did you know that connection

between individuals rarely causes the release of oxytocin?

Oxytocin is released in very particular circumstances

like post-orgasm, baby and mother, milk let down.

It’s associated with kind of really intense

kinds of pair bonding things of mother and child.

Also father and child, but especially mother and child

because it’s relationship to the lactation system.

Couples post-sex, these kinds of things

that reflect deep kind of layers of our biology.

And oxytocin is not just released when we, you know,

walk in and, you know, pat the dog on the head

or we see somebody and we give them a hug

and, hey, great to see you, you know, fist bump.

That’s not a situation for oxytocin.

The way to think about social connection

and how it can mitigate

some of the long-term effects of stress

is really through the systems of neuromodulation

like serotonin and through blocking certain things

that are really bad for us when we feel socially isolated,

things like tachykinins.

So let me explain what these are.

Serotonin, again, is a neuromodulator.

Neuromodulators are a little bit like playlists in the brain.

They tend to amplify or bias the likelihood

that certain brain circuits and body circuits

are going to be activated and that others will not.

Serotonin generally, and I realize

I’m speaking very generally here,

but it generally gives us feelings of wellbeing

at very high levels.

It makes us feel blissed and it tends to make us feel

like we have enough in our immediate environment.

This is why some of the side effects of antidepressants

that elevate serotonin and actually can help a lot of people

with depressive symptoms,

but the side effects associated with drugs

that increase serotonin tend to be reduced affect.

They tend to kind of blunt affect

or make people feel like their libido is lower.

The desire goes down because the body

has so much serotonin and the brain has so much serotonin

that one feels like they have enough.

But serotonin, pharmacology aside,

or taking antidepressants aside,

a topic for another time,

serotonin tends to make us feel good.

When we see somebody that we recognize and trust,

serotonin is released in the brain.

And that has certain positive effects on the immune system

and on other systems of neural repair and synapses

and things that really reinforce connections in the brain

and prevent that long-term withering of connections.

So serotonin is tied to social connection.

Now, social connection can take many forms.

As many of you know, I am very attached to my dog.

I hope he’s attached to me.

He’s asleep most of the time, so I don’t know.

And even if he was awake,

I don’t really know what I would ask him,

but he seems more or less to be attached to me as well.

And there’s no scientific evidence

that it has to be human-human attachment.

I do have attachments to humans as well,

but you can have attachments to other people.

Some of those can be romantic attachments.

Those could be familial attachments

that are non-romantic, friendship, pets,

even attachments to things that just delight us.

One of the things that really can mitigate

against the long-term negative effects

of chronic long-term stress isn’t just having fun.

We hear all this stuff, you need to play and have fun.

That can be a little bit of a tough concept,

especially for the hard driving people

or people that are stressed.

But having a sense of delight,

a sense of really enjoying something that you see

and engage in, witness, or participate in,

that is associated with the serotonin system.

And certainly play is one of those things,

social connection of various forms.

Those are things to invest in.

Some people might say, well, you know,

nobody wants to be my friend

or nobody wants to engage socially anymore.

I’ll be the first to admit,

social connection and friendship

and relationships of all kinds to animals or humans

or inanimate objects takes work.

It takes investment.

It takes time in not needing everything

to be exactly the way you want it to be.

I have a friend who struggles with this

and oftentimes the conversations just circle back

to the fact that when you want social connection,

you often have to be more flexible.

You have to eat on other people’s schedules.

Sometimes you have to eat things

you don’t necessarily want to eat the most in that moment

or stay up a little later or wake up a little earlier.

Social connection is something that we work for,

but it is incredibly powerful.

I want to, of course, tip my hat to,

it’s only appropriate to call him the great Robert Sapolsky,

my colleague who I’m fortunate to know at Stanford,

of course, has talked about this quite a lot.

So I want to acknowledge Robert’s incredible work

and discussions around this.

You can look up those materials online

and his wonderful books.

But primates, and we are primates, we’re social species.

And as Robert has said many times before,

never before in any primate history,

but in particular in human history,

have we interacted with so many strangers at a distance

when we are not really connected to them.

So finding just a few people, even one,

or an animal or something that you delight in,

believe it or not, has very positive effects

on mitigating this long-term stress,

on improving various aspects of our life

as it relates to stress and emotionality.

So that’s the social connection part.

The other thing is that social isolation

that goes too long is associated in everything from flies,

believe it or not, to mice and humans

with this molecule tachykinin.

Tachykinin is a molecule that makes us more fearful,

paranoid, and impairs our immune system.

And so tachykinin is like this internal punishment signal.

It’s like our body and our brain telling us

you’re not spending enough time

with people that you really trust.

You’re not spending time doing things that you really enjoy.

And I often think about tachykinin for myself

because I’m pretty hard driving.

I have a lot of pursuits.

I also have a lot of wonderful people

and an incredibly wonderful bulldog in my life.

But there are times when I can be so goal-directed

and so in motion and trying to accomplish everything

that I sometimes forget about tachykinin.

And I like to remind myself so much

so that I actually have a little post-it above my desk

that says tachykinin to remind me

that tachykinin is this very sinister molecule

that starts being secreted

when we are not socially connected enough.

And this is why long meals with friends or family,

where there are, we’ll talk about phones in a moment,

but where there’s no intrusions, or even if there are,

just feeling like we are connected suppresses tachykinin.

And tachykinin is something you really want to avoid

because chronic isolation, chronically high tachykinin,

it’s associated with long-term stress,

really depletes so many good functions of our brain and body

and promote so many bad ones,

including irritability, paranoia, fear, et cetera,

that is really something to avoid.

And so I want to highlight tachykinin

as something to avoid.

I don’t want to completely disregard oxytocin.

It’s just that oxytocin has been built up a lot in the media

and really serotonin works on much faster timescales.

Now, how do you know if you’re making serotonin?

You don’t know in the moment,

but you can learn if you pay attention

to kind of recognize these feelings of comfort,

trust, bliss, delight, and those are not weak terms.

Those are not associated just with psychological terms.

They are every bit as physiological

as the movement of your muscles

or the secretion of adrenaline.

And many people focus now on gratitude.

Gratitude is a little bit subjective,

and here we’re moving from some objective

to kind of subjective things,

but recognizing, and in particular,

writing down things that you’re thankful for,

however small they may seem,

does seem to have a positive effect

on the serotonin system.

Now, there are a plethora of things

that will also impact wellbeing

and allow you to modulate your long-term stress,

reduce the likelihood that you’ll engage in long-term stress.

And we don’t have time to go into all of these,

but of course, finding the diet and nutrition

that’s right for you, the exercise schedule

that’s right for you, the sleep schedule, all that.

But do not underemphasize the social connection part,


As well, there are some compounds

that are not antidepressants,

although if you need antidepressants

and a clinician prescribes them to you,

please follow their advice if that’s what’s right for you.

There are compounds that are not prescription compounds

that can modulate the stress system.

And sometimes because of the way that life is,

we just don’t have the opportunity to control life

and to control our response to stress.

And at least for myself,

I can only talk about my own experience.

I found it useful in times of chronic stress

to start modulating some of the neurochemistry

related to the stress response in order to help.

Now, if a doctor prescribes you Pregnizone

or prescribes you some other hormone or something,

that’s important.

But what I’m talking about now are non-prescription things.

You should check out, this free website,

which will allow you to put in any supplement

and evaluate that supplement.

They provide links in the so-called human effect matrix

to PubMed.

It tells you the exact subjects they were done in.

It was a post-menopausal women.

Was it kids?

Was it normal adults?

Was it people with autism, et cetera?

Check out that site for any and all supplements

you’re considering or taking.

I highly recommend it.

I have no relationship to them.

I just think it’s a wonderful site

that’s curated all this important information.

But some of these compounds are effective enough,

they can kind of take the edge off.

And I’ll use them periodically myself.

And so I just thought I’d mention them

since there are a number of you that are interested in them.

The three I want to focus on,

and one that I think you need to be cautious about

that I’ve mentioned before, include ashwagandha,

funny name, but that’s what it’s called.

L-theanine or theanine, it’s often called, and melatonin.

Let’s talk about melatonin first.

Melatonin I talked about during the month on sleep.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted from the pineal

in direct relationship to how much darkness you are in,

not emotional darkness, but light suppresses melatonin.

Melatonin helps you fall asleep,

it doesn’t help you stay asleep.

I personally do not recommend supplementing melatonin

because it’s supplemented typically at very high levels,

you know, one to three milligrams or even more.

That is an outrageously high dose.

It’s supra-supra physiological

compared to what you normally would make.

It also has a number of potentially negative effects

on the reproductive axis and hormones there.

Some people can take it without problems.

If you like it and that’s your thing, fine.

I just want to cue to the fact that there can be issues.

You should check on, talk to your doctor,

especially in kids because melatonin

suppresses the puberty response in a number of species.

Enough about the negative things in melatonin,

except that people who take too much melatonin chronically,

oftentimes when they’re taking it to sleep

or for whatever reason,

yes, it can reduce anxiety and stress,

but it also can reduce the output of the adrenals

to the point where it can become problematic.

Now, a note about adrenal burnout.

There is actually no such thing as adrenal burnout

under normal conditions.

The adrenals have enough adrenaline

to support 200 years of stress, for better or for worse.

The concept of adrenal burnout has origins

in the work of Nobel prize winner, Hans Selye,

who actually discovered

what he called the general adaptation syndrome.

He discovered a lot of things about stress.

He did some phenomenal work that turned out to be true,

that we have stressors, there’s something called distress.

He talked about eustress, which is positive stress.

Eustress has never really caught on

in the kind of more general discussion,

but he had this theory that if stress went on long enough

that you would eventually reach a phase called exhaustion.

And that turned out to be wrong.

Although many of you may feel exhausted after chronic stress,

there isn’t really a physiological exhaustion that happens.

And that eventually got picked up

and ran with the general public.

And they talk about adrenal burnout,

too much coffee, adrenal burnout.

You hear all this stuff.

There is no such thing as adrenal burnout.

The adrenals don’t burn out.

There is something, however,

called adrenal insufficiency syndrome,

which is a real physiological problem

where some people have very impaired adrenals

and they can’t produce adrenaline.

And melatonin taken at very high levels

for periods of time that are too long

can cause suppression of the cortisol

and epinephrine release from the adrenals

and can create a kind of pseudo

adrenal insufficiency syndrome.

So beware melatonin for that reason.

Please, I’m trying,

I alone can’t get rid of the phrase adrenal burnout.

I’m not trying to give a hard time

to anyone who feels burnt out or exhausted,

but it is for other reasons.

It is not because the adrenals are burnt out

unless you happen to have adrenal insufficiency syndrome.

So I’m not a fan of melatonin for a lot of reasons.

Now I’ve mentioned several.

The other is L-theanine.

I’ve talked about L-theanine,

which provided it’s safe for you,

can be taken 100 milligrams or 200 milligrams

about 30 minutes or 60 minutes before sleep.

It can enhance the transition to sleep

and depth of sleep for many people.

It increases GABA, this inhibitory neurotransmitter

in the brain.

It tends to turn off our forebrain a little bit

or reduce the activity of our kind of thinking systems

and ruminating systems help people fall asleep.

That’s for sleep.

But theanine has also been shown

for people that are chronically anxious

or chronically stressed to,

if you look at the studies,

I have a large collection of studies

in front of me right now.

If you want to see those links,

I know if you want those,

go to, put in theanine.

They linked, for instance,

it is known to significantly increase relaxation.

There are four studies listed there with PubMed links.

It is known to have a minor effect on anxiety,

but eight studies have shown that,

which I think is a fairly large set of studies.

Some of them in great journals.

It also can reduce task completion anxiety.

So anxiety related to task completion,

not good for the procrastinators perhaps,

but for those of you that are chronically stressed,

it can increase attention a little bit,

it can reduce blood pressure a little bit,

improve sleep quality, et cetera.

It definitely has a notable effect on stress,

two studies in particular,

that it can notably reduce the effects of stress.

So there’s a lot there.

It also has effects on insomnia,

on some blood lipid profiles.

And so go to and check it out.

This is one reason why I supplement theanine for sleep.

But if I’m feeling like I’ve been under a lot of stress

and I’m not managing my stress very well

with the short-term and medium-term tools

that I talked about earlier,

I might start taking a little bit of theanine,

especially in the late afternoon,

which is when I tend to start to feel

like I haven’t gotten enough done

and the day is kind of carrying on.

And so you can blunt the response to stress a little bit,

which is why a lot of companies

are now putting theanine into energy drinks.

I am not a big fan of most energy drinks.

Most of them have taurine,

which I know some of you wrote to me and said,

oh, taurine’s great for all these reasons.

Taurine also has effects on the microvasculature

that at least for me were not good.

It caused bursting of microvasculature

in my sclera, in my eyes,

which is why I’m not a fan of any energy drink

that has taurine or taurine generally.

But that’s just me.

You have to decide for you.

I’m sure the comment section,

there’ll be a couple taurinistas out there that will say,

but I love taurine.


Keep the taurine companies in business.

But it’s not for me.

And I’d like people to know

that it may or may not be for them.

The other supplement that can be very useful is ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is known to lower anxiety and cortisol.

There is six, there are, excuse me,

six studies that collectively show reductions in cortisol,

which is cortisol is typically associated

with waking up in the morning, which is good.

That’s a healthy brief cortisol bump that goes away

provided you’re getting your light at the right time of days

at right, correct times of day,

like morning and evening.

But you don’t want cortisol chronically elevated.

That’s associated with all the bad stuff about stress.

There’s a very strong effect of ashwagandha.

You can find dosages at

They report in across six studies,

14.5 to 27.9 reduction in cortisol

in otherwise healthy, but stressed individuals.

Now, I don’t know about kids.

You have to look at what it says on various supplements.

Most things here are being done in adults.

So please check carefully, but this is great.

I mean, the opportunity for me anyway,

to be able to take something

that can help me reduce my cortisol

so that I don’t get some of the long-term effects of stress.

And I’m not going to take ashwagandha year round.

I would only do this if I was feeling like

I wasn’t managing my short and medium-term stress well.

So I don’t take it on a regular basis.

I do take it when I’m in these times

when things are particularly stressful.

It has, there are five other studies that show

reduced stress.

So that’s not cortisol measurements,

but things like fatigue, cognitive impairment, et cetera.

It does lower total cholesterol,

which may or may not be good or bad for you up to 10%.

So some people don’t want their cholesterol lowered.

Some people might.

Cholesterol, we’ll talk about this in a month on hormones,

but cholesterol is the molecule

from which testosterone and estrogen

and cortisol for that matter are synthesized.

So you don’t want to get your cholesterol so low,

there are all sorts of negative effects,

but you don’t want it too high either.

Mild effects in good clinical studies

on reducing depression,

probably associated with the effects on stress,

and some other things as well.

So ashwagandha is something I use from time to time.

It’s kind of interesting.

L-theanine, I rarely will use those during the daytime,

except under conditions

where I’m feeling chronically stressed.

So check out the Human Effect Matrix on

Again, a phenomenal website.

I think I’ve sent them a few emails before.

That’s the only exchanges I’ve ever had with them,

but I just think it’s wonderful

that they put together this resource.

Otherwise, we’d be stuck mining PubMed.

They’ve collated the papers from PubMed

with links to PubMed.

So terrific resource.

So social connection and some supplementation,

of course, diet, exercise, sleep for long-term stress.

And now we are finally in a position

to talk about what we have set out to do from the beginning,

which is spend the month on emotions.

It was very important that we discuss stress,

and we discuss it in the context

of short, medium, and long-term stress,

that we discuss tools for short-term,

medium-term, and long-term control.

I don’t really want to say mitigation of stress.

Stress is going to happen,

but our ability to modulate and control stress

in real time, offline, using tools such as respiration,

using tools such as dilation of gaze,

using tools like social connection, maybe some supplements,

certainly take care of your sleep

and nutrition and exercise.

Again, tons of resources and information

in the sleep episodes.

So you can look there.

We will do a month on hormones, on exercise, et cetera.

But let’s talk about emotions

because in subsequent episodes,

we’re going to talk about OCD.

We’re going to talk about depression.

We’re going to talk about mania.

We’re going to be talking about dopamine

and all sorts of things.

But at the core of emotions is this question,

what is an emotion?

Well, it’s complex.

There isn’t a single brain area

for any one of these things that we call emotions.

My framework, and I think the modern science,

both psychology and neuroscience,

is pretty well aligned with what

Lisa Feldman Barrett has talked about.

Now, Lisa’s at Northeastern University.

She runs a big lab there.

She’s a world expert in emotions.

She’s written two books that are really wonderful.

One is, How Emotions Are Made, which was her first book.

The second one is, Seven and a Half Facts About the Brain.

It’s a wonderful book as well.

It came out more recently.

I hosted Lisa on an Instagram Live once.

Maybe we’ll get her here on the podcast if we’re lucky.

We don’t agree on everything

about the neuroscience of emotions,

but I subscribe to most everything

that I’ve heard Lisa say.

In particular, the fact that emotions are context dependent.

There’s a cultural dependence, et cetera.

I look at things mainly through the lens

of physiology and neuroscience

at kind of low level circuitry.

And one way to think about emotions

that I think is consistent,

and I think Lisa would generally approve,

I can’t speak for her,

but I would hope she would generally approve

of this description, is that when our internal state

of stress or calm matches the demands on us

or is mismatched from the demands on us,

we tend to interpret those as good or bad.

Let me give you an example.

If I am feeling very anxious, very stressed inside,

and I have a lot to do, that doesn’t feel good,

but it’s really no different than if I’m very tired

and I have a lot to do because there’s this mismatch.

I’m not in the right internal state.

My internal state isn’t correct, rather,

to meet the demands that are being placed upon me.

So in both cases, whether I’m too tired

or I’m too stressed to do what I need to do,

the valence, meaning the value that I assign to that,

is I don’t feel good.

It’s not a good situation and I don’t feel good.

Now, I might call it stressed.

I might call it anxious.

I might call it worried.

Might call it a number of things, but it’s not good.

However, when I’m tired and I want to fall asleep,

well, then I feel good because that’s what the demand is.

I need to go to sleep and I’m tired.

If I’m wide awake and I need to fall asleep,

then that’s not good.

And then the brain tends to go down the direction

of interpreting the situation as a bad one.

So while the discussion around emotions

is far more nuanced and more elaborate than this,

one way to think about your relationship to emotions

is whether or not your internal state

is matching the demands that are upon you.

So in that way, we don’t really place so much value

on whether or not we’re feeling alert or sleepy.

We only place value on whether or not that alertness,

whether or not it’s full-blown stress or not,

or our sleepiness, whether or not we’re falling asleep

or just a little bit drowsy,

whether or not that matches the conditions that we face.

And it’s a useful framework to have,

and it’s the reason in part

why I spent this last hour and a half or so

talking about stress and how to control stress.

One reason we did that

is because I think it’s a valuable opportunity

to learn some tools and understand stress

and really learn how to take control of stress,

which I think we could all benefit from doing

regardless of age.

The other reason is that when you start to understand

that you have this kind of seesaw system in your body,

this autonomic nervous system

that takes you from alert and calm to stressed

to full-blown panic, it has that capacity,

or from sleepy and drowsy to passing out tired

to, you know, God forbid, let’s hope never,

but a coma, right?

That you’re basically on this seesaw all the time

and where you are on that seesaw of alertness or calmness

positions you to be in better reaction

to the demands that you face,

whether or not the thing that you face

is a need to fall asleep or to listen quietly and not react.

You now know, for instance,

that if your job is to take feedback,

well, maybe you’re going in for a job evaluation

or you’re in a relationship where you’re,

there was a call for a discussion

and somebody needs to talk to you about something

and we need to talk about something.

You’re going into there like,

oh, goodness, this is going to be rough.

Learning to reduce that stress response a little bit

so that you are in a position

to hear the information better.

And remember from a previous episode,

if you close your eyes,

you’ll be able to actually focus on the information better.

There’s your permission to not look someone directly

in the eye while they talk to you

if you really want to hear what they have to say.

You will be able to modulate that stress response

and lean into life better.

You will be able to react to things in a more effective way

and to not be reactive.

And this is really one of the important things to me anyway,

is that so much of the language around psychology,

which I think is a wonderful field,

but pop psychology in particular is be responsive,

not reactive.

Well, great, but then how does one do that?

Well, one does that by modulating

their short-term stress response in real time.

Not by saying, hold on, I need to meditate,

hold on, I need a massage

and then I can have this conversation

by modulating the reactivity in real time.

How does one, for instance, be mindful,

which is a beautiful concept, but how are you mindful?

Well, I don’t know, when I’m moving through my day,

a lot of times I’m just trying to get things done.

And as soon as I start monitoring and seeing what I’m doing

and kind of third-personing what I’m doing,

it actually takes me out of the effectiveness

and experience of what I’m doing.

So for me, sometimes that mindfulness,

that observer as they call it,

is something that doesn’t help me, it actually hinders me.

What’s important to me is to be able to work and focus

and then to be able to disengage,

to be able to do a non-sleep depressed

or to be able to still fall asleep

even though I’ve been working hard until 9.30

to put my head down at 10 o’clock

and be out cold sleeping by 10.02.

That’s possible if you can learn

to control this stress response.

And to do that, we can’t use the mind to control the mind,

we need tools.

And so a lot of the people being grumpy

or anxious or depressed, a lot of that,

provided it’s not for some underlying neurochemical reason

that’s chronic, a lot of that comes from being poorly rested

from overworked, from feeling like the world

is bearing down on us.

And so rather than take a subjective view of this,

I take the view of objective physiology.

What can we do that’s anchored to these neuronal systems

in our body, in our brain, in our eyes,

in our diaphragm, et cetera,

and look to those as tools,

levers that we can pull on and push

and maneuver through life in a way

where we start to feel like we have some agency,

we actually have some real control

because we’re controlling the internal landscape.

So I think that ought to set the stage

for where we’re headed next,

which is to talk about all the things

that you normally think of when you think of emotions,

like happiness, like awe, like joy.

And we will get into some of that,

but all of that rests firmly on the foundation

of this thing we call the autonomic nervous system,

this stress modulation, this calming modulation system.

And again, whether or not you’re activated or you’re calm

is not good or bad, it depends on the situation.

Certainly when you want to fall asleep,

being activated isn’t good.

When you have work to do, being activated is great.

So I hope today you were able to take

a slightly different view of this thing that we call stress,

not just see it as evil,

but see it as powerful and useful in certain contexts,

great for us in certain contexts,

and problematic in other contexts,

and as well to think about the various tools

that I’ve presented that can allow you to adjust

and modulate your internal levels of alertness or calmness

so that you can lean more effectively into life,

which includes sleep and social connection,

and the work you have to do.

And of course, acknowledges that the events in the world

are beyond our control.

What’s in our control is how we react to them,

something that’s commonly said in the wellness

and self-help and psychology world,

but for which there often aren’t as many concrete tools

that we can really look to and trust in real time.

And of course, there are other tools out there.

As always, I’ll say it, I strive to be accurate,

but I’ll never be exhaustive.

I might have exhausted you.

I might’ve cured your insomnia with this discussion today,

but in all seriousness,

my goal is to bring you tools and information

so that you can manage better through life.

So thanks so much.

I very much want to thank all of you

for your support for the podcast.

It’s really been wonderful.

If you’ve subscribed to the podcast on YouTube,

Apple, or Spotify, or maybe even all three, terrific.

If you haven’t, please do subscribe on YouTube,

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if you like, that’s tremendously helpful.

And as mentioned at the beginning of today’s episode,

we are now partnered with Momentus Supplements

because they make single ingredient formulations

that are of the absolute highest quality

and they ship international.

If you go to slash Huberman,

you will find many of the supplements

that have been discussed on various episodes

of the Huberman Lab podcast,

and you will find various protocols

related to those supplements.

In addition, if you want to follow us on Twitter,

we’re there at Huberman Lab or on Instagram, Huberman Lab.

I also do some content on Huberman Lab,

a little neuroscience post.

Some are repost of clips from the podcast.

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on the podcast, so you can follow us at Huberman Lab.

And as always, really appreciate your time

and attention today.

I hope you practice some of the tools

if they’re right for you.

I hope you think hard about stress

and how you can control your stress.

And above all, as always,

thank you for your interest in science.

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And thanks for listening to this episode of Huberman Lab.

I hope you enjoyed the video.

Thanks for listening to Huberman Lab.

I’ll see you next time.

See you next time.

Bye bye.

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