I’m reviewing the six episodes in the Disney+ series called Limitless produced by and starring Chris Hemsworth. Each episode explores a topic related to longevity and quality of life.
EPISODE #1 – STRESS PROOF
The first episode is about the effects of stress on aging. Working with stress psychologist Modupe Akinola, Chris works through a series of tasks designed to test his brain and body, equipped with the new skills he’s been taught to combat stress.
WALK THAT PLANK
In this episode, Chris is put in a variety of mild to moderate stress situations which are designed to train him to achieve the ultimate stress challenge of walking a plank on a sky scraper. Of course they overly dramatize the event to make it entertaining. He’s completely protected with straps and cords. Nevertheless, safe to say that walking a plank several hundred feet from the ground would be stressful for most people. I’m happy to report that Chris survived the stunt!
OUR STRESS SYSTEM STILL THINKS IT’S LIVING IN THE STONE AGE
During the show they discuss the physiology of stress. When the brain senses something stressful, it’s like a switch is flipped inside of us. Our nerves send our whole system into overdrive, triggering a flood of hormones into the bloodstream. Our breathing speeds up and our hearts race. We feel on edge, uncomfortable, and not in control.
Our ancestors needed this physical reaction to fight or run away from danger or gear up for the hunt. This “fight or flight” or stress response is hardwired into us. It serves a valuable purpose in preparing us for dangerous situations.
STRESS IS USEFUL
Stress should not be thought of as the enemy. In modern-day life there are times when we need to gear up for confrontation. The challenge is that we tend to not be good at turning off the stress response. When it’s always on, over time, it leads to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, elevated blood sugar, anxiety, and more. When they say stress is a killer, it really can be if it becomes chronic.
FLIP THE STRESS RESPONSE
The discussions in the show suggest that you can change your stress response with simple techniques. Positive self-talk might seem trite, but it actually works. The first key is to catch yourself when you’re stressed. Instead of reacting to the situation, stop, breathe, and tell yourself statements like, “All is well”, “I got this”, “A peaceful resolution is here”.
The more stressed we are, the faster we breathe. The faster we breathe, the more stressed we become. But if we breathe slowly and deeply, our nervous system detects the change in movement and signals our brain to calm down. Ah, that feels better!
YOU GOT THIS
Remember, the stress response is a useful tool for acute confrontations. The key is to use the tools of awareness, breathing, and positive self-talk to stop the stress response when the confrontation is over. You’ll feel your heart rate slowing, your breathing will deepen, and you’ll smile!