During the fight or flight response, our bodies release all sorts of hormones, such as cortisol, adrenalin, norepinephrine and oxytocin, to help us deal with imminent danger Fight or Flight – The Stress Response. In an attempt to survive, our bodies prepare us to either run for our lives, or fight like hell! In our modern day business environment, this translates into aggression which is often taken out on colleagues, staff members or clients or we go into hiding – isolating ourselves from our environment in an attempt to deal with the stress. This is especially so for top managers, CEOs, and business owners who have nobody to talk to about their stress – they can’t discuss their worry about finances, deadlines, expectations, or their own anxiety and sense of overwhelm, so they are left to deal with all these issues alone – their thoughts, worries and concerns being recycled in their mind over and over again, leading to a vicious cycle that often ends in depression, anxiety, or burnout.
A simple solution: Get more oxytocin … and have more sex!!
Oxytocin, also known as the cuddle or love hormone produced by the brain when we engage in activities like cuddling, hugging, and having sex is also released during stress. This means that during times of stress, depression or anxiety, our bodies are programmed to reach out for support. Going back to pre-historic times, this would explain one of the reasons we cry and also show expressions of sadness on our face – to signal to others that we need support. This is shown in research by Paul Ekman on emotional intelligence, and facial expressions. Scientists have shown that reaching out to other people during a stressful event is an effective way to improve your mood.
Unfortunately, the last thing most professionals want to do is admit that they need help. Culturally, it is seen as weakness to admit that you are not coping, that you are over-stressed and overworked, or that you feel overwhelmed with all the responsibility on your shoulders. Many professionals take the attitude that they must “man up”, that they can handle this on their own, and that they don’t need help.
However, at our most elemental level, humans are social animals. Our brains evolved to ensure our survival, and we operate best when we interact and connect with others. Science has proven that social exchanges change the neurotransmitter and circuit activity in the brain which decreases stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms and ups those calm and happy feelings.
Research also shows that many serotonin producing neutrons also have oxytocin receptors, which means that when oxytocin is released, serotonin levels also increase. Oxytocin calms the reactivity of the amygdala, the fear centre of our brain, and strengthens its communication with brain circuits that help us control our emotions.
Social support comes in many forms
Phone calls, emails, Facebook comments, even text messages can help provide support and counteract feelings of loneliness, isolation, and inadequacy. Sometimes, just having one person rooting for you when you feel like the whole world is against you, can make all the difference. Support can also be in the form of a mental health professional. While friends and family can be of invaluable benefit when dealing with stress, depression or anxiety talking with a therapist has distinct advantages. Studies have shown that for some patients, talking with a therapist can be just as successful as antidepressants without the negative side effects.
12 Ways to increase Oxytocin Levels:
1. Stop arguing
Find ways and opportunities to say, “I was wrong.” Pretty soon, you will
learn the value of such admissions and it will actually get to be fun
2. If you must argue, do so from an inquiry point of view.
Ask lots of questions, some of which will begin with, “Are you saying …”
and “Do I understand you correctly that …” The more you learn about
the other side of the issue, the less positional you will be. You might even
use Socratic questions to lead the person into your proposed solution.
But that takes some real skill.
3. Give or get a Hug
A long hug causes your brain to release oxytocin and calms your fear center — plus it just makes you feel warm and fuzzy. (A handshake also does the trick with your co-workers who might not appreciate a hug.)
4. Get a massage.
Most of us think that massages are just fancy spa treatments, but they are much more than that. Getting a massage activates the oxytocin system and causes your brain to release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine while reducing cortisol, the stress hormone. It also helps you sleep better and just feels great. Make it part of your self-care routine ASAP!
5. Get busy between the sheets.
In addition to boosting immunity, having sex can lower stress, increase endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers, and give oxytocin levels a big boost.
6. Simply be around other people.
If you start to feel your mood slipping, go somewhere where you’re simply around other people, like a coffee shop or bookstore. You don’t even have to interact with them to benefit; just being in the same physical space works to reset your mindset. Of course, chatting or chilling with a friend has even more brain benefits, but do what feels comfortable.
7. Do an activity with a friend.
If you don’t feel like talking, try scheduling a date with a friend where you won’t feel pressured to talk, like going to the movies or a concert, or playing a game of tennis. You’ll still benefit from the connectedness, and if you do feel like opening up, you can.
8. Keep it simple: just reach out.
This doesn’t need to be a long conversation or involved in-person hangout. Simply make it a point to stay in contact with friends and family. Call regularly, text, meet for coffee or a casual dinner. Stay connected.
9. Touch a pet.
Just stroking your pet can increase oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine in your brain. Don’t have a pet? No prob. You get the same advantages with someone else’s!
Cheering for your favourite team isn’t just fun, it helps you engage with others in a collective way, which keeps your brain happy. Getting wrapped up in the game provides a sense of community — even if your team loses.
11. Be Trustworthy
Get people to trust you. When people trust you, there is a spike in
your oxytocin, making you more likely to trust them.
12. Get a Coach
Get a coach, or a therapist or read books on Happiness research or motivation, as a
rich life often increases oxytocin.
How do you like to connect with others? Share in the comments below.
Mind Solutions empowers executives, senior managers and business owners who feel isolated at the top with nobody to talk to and under pressure to perform, to reduce stress and anxiety, improve performance and become more confident leaders. Using cutting edge tools of psychology Corina creates a unique and tailored solution to help her clients transform their lives and their business.