Sometimes I sit at my computer waiting for the words to come. And they don’t. So I fidget. And Google. Then I begin to panic.
My amygdala (that little part of my brain that controls fight and flight) can’t tell the difference between this type of computer conundrum and a herd of angry cattle eager to stampede though my living room. Either way my body gets flooded with epinephrine, I get a bit shaky, my thoughts scatter and I’m no good in the subtlety department that helps to cultivate creativity.
Enter Natalie Currie.
She’s been helping people fight off brain fatigue with virtual visits to nature and cooking up slow food.
Natalie worked long hours at Johnson and Johnson and, while she got phenomenal training, she also had an endless workload. She discovered she often couldn’t employ the training she’d received because there was no room to digest it.
Her mentor, Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food Movement began complaining about fast food because some things need time. Like eating and ideas. Petrini suggested that paved roads were getting people places faster and leaving the Italian countryside without luscious green fields to grow the food that was the centerpiece of Italian culture. Fundamentally he questioned why getting there faster is good if an entire history is wiped out in the process.
Natalie makes her own barbeque sauce and invites me to do the same. As I combine tomato paste with mustard, my nose gets a pungent jolt as I add a dash of vinegar. I forget all about the word-smithing crisis I had at my computer and my heart rate slows.
I taste. I am transported. I am grateful for the chicken I’m about to eat.
In this state of rapture my skin softens, my lower back, which was tight, eases and an idea simply arrives. I suddenly know how to solve my problem. I return to the computer and in no more than 8 minutes I’m finished.
Inside my brain I’ve tuned into the secret powers that exist inside my prefrontal cortex. By letting go of the computer drama and tuning into the aroma of the brewing barbeque sauce I channel my inner Himalayan monk. New neural pathways are emerging inside my brain. Over time I’ll create a superhighway of connections.
Natalie introduces me to this super highway’s name: neuroplasticity.
To keep creativity alive, Natalie recommends regular brain-breaks to connect the amygdala to the prefontal cortex. I can do this with barbeque sauce today, an art project tomorrow and a walk with my dog another time. The important thing is to replace adrenaline with rich sensory stimulus.
She also encourages me to work from my strengths. She is a cook. Her naturally tidy husband cleans up instead of bringing her flowers. When they are in the kitchen together they find a rhythm. She teaches her clients to find similar pairings where strengths combine.
“Doing what we love is paramount to growing our brains,” says Natalie. Gratitude is the antidote to perpetual overwhelm.
What are your antidotes to anxiety or a stress-filled lifestyle? When does your amygdala get a little wonky? What is in your barbeque sauce?
It is my belief that gratitude is more than a thankful heart at the end of the day. For many, like Natalie Currie, gratitude has inspired her life’s work. I’m offering a class in November that studies gratitude and a host of people who practice it. Want to know more? Join me and listen to Natalie talk more about calming your amygdala.