WHO: Jenny Evans
WHERE: The Resiliency rEvolution: Your Stress Solution for Life — 60 Seconds at a Time
NOTES FROM TODAY’S CONVERSATION:
[Scroll down for (un)edited transcript!]
It is wrong to attempt to “reduce stress.”
Stress is NOT emotional. It is very much physical.
Very important to “play it out.” But how does one do that?
Important to understand that we take steps that we think will reduce stress, but actually, we only make it worse.
The importance of nutrition to how you deal with stress.
Why you MUST set “optimal defaults” to succeed at this.
Yes, you can actually “hack your stress,” by making small changes and understanding your physiology, you can make stress, and how your body reacts to it, work for you.
This makes you feel better, but also makes you more production, creative, and happier.
ABOUT JENNY EVANS [CLICK HERE to learn more about Jenny and her organization!]
Jenny C. Evans is a speaker, author and on-air expert on resiliency, stress, performance, exercise physiology, nutrition and health. She is the founder and CEO of PowerHouse Performance and author of the book The Resiliency rEvolution: Your Stress Solution for Life – 60 Seconds at a Time. She is also the creator of PowerHouse Hit the Deck, the ultimate tool for combating stress and increasing fitness.
Find Jenny’s book here:
The Resiliency rEvolution: Your Stress Solution for Life — 60 Seconds at a Time
All right let’s do this. We are going live in 5…4…3…
TODD: Good morning and welcome back to Intrepid Business. I am you host Todd Schnick. Boy oh boy have I needed this conversation that we’re about to have. This is one of those chats that, boy, has applicability to so many elements of our lives. And I’m really looking forward to getting into this conversation. Say hello to my guest. Her name is Jenny Evans. She’s the author of a new book called The Resiliency rEvolution: Your Stress Solution for Life 60 Seconds at a Time. Jenny welcome to the show.
JENNY: Hi Todd. Thanks for having me.
TODD: Oh the pleasure’s mine. Thanks for carving out some valuable time. You know, as we were talking pre-show, I’m trying to figure out how best to classify this conversation we’re about to have. And it just sounds like at the end of the day it just has applicability across everything we’re doing. So we’ll go forward in that spirit. So before we get into a conversation around the book, however, do take a few quick seconds. Inform the audience a bit about you and your background.
JENNY: Yeah. So I actually started out wanting to be a psychologist. And started teaching fitness classes to help pay for school. And the more I started learning about how the body works, I just became so fascinated. Decided to change my focus to exercise physiology. And really had this realization of how connected the brain and the body really are. And that when we understand what the body does, and how it’s designed to function, we can really get our brains and bodies to change and adapt in some really amazing and significant ways. So I feel like it’s a journey that I’ve been on about how I can be a better person, both personally as well as professionally. But I love the fact that I get to share this information with other people. And it can transform their lives in some really amazing, significant ways.
TODD: Well let’s talk about the main theme here. Which is we’re all stressed. And frankly in my view, most of us really are awful at dealing with it. And it’s having profound, negative impacts on our lives. But set the table as to, I mean, did the world really need another book about how to deal with stress. And I guess the other way to phrase the questions is, is we’re always told that we need to reduce stress. And I’m not sure that is the right way to be thinking about it.
JENNY: It’s absolutely not. Because, you know, for years, I’ve been traveling the country and speaking to thousands of people who’ve been trying to manage or reduce their stress. But when you really think about it, it’s a silly conversation to be having because Todd, is your job going to ask any less of you next year?
JENNY: How about your friends, family, or loved ones?
JENNY: Okay so, reducing or minimizing stress is not possible. So my approach is completely different. So going back to this exercise physiology background, if the stress in our life is going to continue to increase, our only option is to train our bodies to recover from it more quickly and more efficiently. And to raise our threshold for it. And also a lot of the things that we do in response to trying to deal with stress, are actually making things worse physiologically. You know we’ll skip sleep to try to get more work done. We’ll skip meals, we’ll reach for sugar, caffeine, nicotine, to get us going. Alcohol to slow us back down. We’ll skip our workouts. And all of these things actually add to the stress.
TODD: Well we’re doing the wrong things to combat it, it sounds like. So yeah, this is not a book about reducing stress. This is a book about building resiliency. So what does that mean?
JENNY: Okay. So a lot of times we approach stress as something that’s just mental, or emotional, and it only happens in our heads. The truth is stress is a chemistry problem. Because even before we truly register stress, hormones are released in our body that radically change our chemistry and our physiology. And these hormones are designed to fuel the body for fighting and/or fleeing. And what fighting and fleeing have in common is that it’s a short burst of intense physical activity. And that actually burns off those stress hormones. And then releases a new set of hormones that restore balance and completely neutralize all the negative side effects that can happen from those stress hormones.
So really this whole stress response, or fight or flight, is a beautifully designed system because when we play it out all the way to the end, balance is restored. But now we are living and working in environments where we can’t punch our boss in the face. Or take off running out of that stressful meeting. We’re stuck in really sedentary environments. And so those stress hormones continue to circulate throughout the body and they have really negative consequences. They kill brain cells, they alter brain function, they make us really hungry for high fat, high sugar foods. They make us deposit more fat around the mid-section. You know, they make us snap at a co-worker, or a loved one. And so, you know, our physiology really has not changed in the past 10,000 years. But our environments have shifted radically. So you know, The Resiliency rEvolution is all about teaching people, here’s how your body is designed to function, and it’s beautiful. And when you can learn to work with it, that’s how you can very simply and easily build resiliency in ways that are really doable and that are not going to add more stress.
TODD: So, I mean, I think we all think this is an emotional state when it’s very clearly a physical one. What do you way to someone – I just conducted an interview, probably a couple weeks ago. Where the lady I was talking to, in the context of our conversation, she said what we really need to do it just lighten up. We’re taking everything far too seriously. We put so much expectation on it that’s not necessary. But I appreciate that, and I think that a lot of us could benefit from “lighting up.” But this seems to be much more of a physical thing.
JENNY: Yeah. And it’s easier said than done. I mean the reason why sometimes it’s literally not possible to lighten up, is that our brains really still have a very primitive portion to the brain. I call it the “caveman brain.” And then as we evolved, our advanced brain plopped over the top of that caveman brain. So we still have the brains of a caveman, and what happens when we’re exposed to stress, that puts us into survival mode. And then caveman brain comes on-line and it completely overrides advance brain. Which is why we will do things that are completely irrational sometimes. And we’re wondering, “Why did I make that short-sided decision at work?” or, “Why did I say that think that I later regretted?” or, “Why did I eat that massive amount of food?” Well it’s because that advanced brain doesn’t really allow control. It’s that caveman brain that’s completely driving the bus, that’s making really important business decisions. The caveman brain often times is, you know, courting your significant other, it’s raising your kids. So what I talk about in the book is, you know, how can you actually stop these negative side effects from happening in the first place. How do you stop the caveman brain from overriding the advance brain? Because I also feel like, you know, stress management, and stress reduction, this is like sending out the cleanup crew after this massive tsunami storm. Resiliency training is actually stopping this storm, or tsunami, form happening in the first place so that you’re not trying to counter act those negative side effects that happen later on. You’re really correcting your chemistry in the moment.
TODD: You talk about the importance of “play it out.” What do you mean by that?
JENNY: Yeah. Play it out is that short burst of intense physical activity that resets that stress system. And I poured over the research journal to really find out, okay, how do we get this release of things like endorphins, and cannabinoids, dopamine, that are these bliss molecules that restore balance after stress. And what I found in the research is that it happens after 30-60 seconds of intense physical activity. And if you think about it, it totally makes sense because historically, the fight or flight response did not go on for hours, weeks, years. It was very short. Either it was over with, or you were over with. And it happened literally in seconds. And so what play it out really means is, finding moments where you can mimic that fight or flight response. And in the book, I give you lots of different simple tools that you can do, you know, in your office, at home, if you’re on the road. That will give you that shot of bliss molecules that completely hit the reset button on stress.
TODD: All right I want that shot right now. Give me a couple quick tips for someone listening to this in their work environment, and their stressed about deadlines, or their boss is riding them. They just need that. What are a couple of quick things that they can do?
JENNY: Yeah, I mean something that’s really simple is, you know, to actually just shut your door, or find a space – and I always tell people, if you have your body and gravity is turned on, you are good to go. So you could do things like, you know, jumping jacks, burpees, shadowbox, pretend you have a jump rope and jump. Or a stairwell makes a perfect tool where, you know, sprint up a couple flights of stairs and come back down. So it’s not something that’s going to make you sweaty. It’s not going to take a ton of time. And, you know, I do understand that there are times in a meeting that you can’t stand up and start like, jogging in place. People would be like, “Have you lost your mind?” But, you know, those stress hormones actually have a pretty long half-life. So, you know, as soon as you have an opportunity to play it out with a short burst of physical activity, you really are going to get benefit from that.
TODD: So it’s just really being very activity. It’s just moving. It’s not just sitting at your desk and stressing and letting that linger. It’s getting up and doing a quick burst of activity, just moving around the office.
JENNY: Yeah. And the great thing about joining the Resiliency rEvolution, is that this meets you where you are. So, you know, if just simply switching from a chair on wheels to a chair that doesn’t move, so that you actually have to periodically get up and go get that piece of paper from the printer. Or, you know, move to a different part of your office. If that’s where you need to start, great. Because the last thing that I want to do is give people ideas that are actually going to create more stress. And also, when we try to change too much at once, guess what happens. Stimulates the stress response. And then we’re pushed back to survival mode, and we start going back to habits that give us comfort and security, and a lot of those are the very same habits that we might be trying to change in our lives.
TODD: Although I do think it would be cool to shadowbox in a meeting. I might actually try that. All right, Jenny Evans will return after this quick break. We’ll be right back.
TODD: All right we are back with Jenny Evans, the author of Resiliency rEvolution: Your Stress Solution for Life 60 Seconds at a Time. So Jenny you talked about nutrition, you touched on that at the top half of the show. And it’s funny you talk about the caveman because my wife and I have adopted a caveman diet into our life. We’re both doing some sort of a combination of paleo and primal. And boy, it’s had a dramatic impact on our health and how we feel. But talk more about nutrition and how critical that is. You talked about some of us don’t eat breakfast and we work through lunch and we think we’re freeing up time to get work done. We’re actually really hurting ourselves.
JENNY: We really are. There’s a big connection in that stress really effects how and what we eat. And how and what we eat can really influence how much stress we have. A lot of our just normal habits around food and eating are actually creating a lot of additional stress. A lot of people don’t know that any time you go longer than four hours without eating, that releases those stress hormones and stimulates the stress response. Which means, we’ll ultimately end up overeating on fat, on sugar. And that adds a lot of stress to the body. We’ll also deposit more fat around the mid-section which stresses our body.
So the book is really full of really simple nutrition strategies that allow lots of choice, lots of variation, things you can do in a busy schedule. Again 60 second solutions that are just going to minimize stress from a nutrition prospective. You now the examples that you talked about, like mid-afternoon, you kind of hit that energy slump. And you’re like, “Man I’ll just kind of have some sugar and some nicotine to get myself going again.” Well those two things stimulate the stress response.
So people are like, “Wow I never thought about nutrition this way before. And you’ve explained in such an entertaining and easy way. And I really feel empowered that I can make a lot of these changes.” Because they’re so simple, but they’re going to have a huge impact over the long run.
TODD: Well I have to credit my wife for this. Because she’s opened up my eyes to thinking about nutrition and what I’m putting into my body. Because most of my career I was doing exactly as you described. I was eating lousy, skipping meals, and all that. And once I changed that, I’ve never felt better. And now I’m screaming from the ramparts, trying to get everybody to buy into it. There are some people who get stressed when they think about having to prepare a big fancy meal. Talk about – I mean there are simple 60 second strategies here. You don’t have to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. I mean this can be simple right, eating right?
JENNY: Oh absolutely. I mean it has to be simple. Think about how busy you are at work, how busy you are at home, managing different schedules. And so you don’t have to do a lot of cooking. You don’t have to do a lot of food preparation. If you kind of just understand, you know, here are the basics. I need to find a lean source of protein. Because that’s going to slow the glucose response. And it’s not going to allow my blood glucose levels to spike and then crash. And both of those spikes and crash are going to add stress to my life. And then I need to find some whole grains somewhere. And I need to find some sort of fruit and/or vegetable. And there are really easy ways to do this. And in the book again, it is full of ideas for breakfast, for lunch, for snacks. Whether you travel, whether there’s foods that you do or don’t eat. This has to be infinitely doable. And I’ve been traveling and speaking for a long time, and people, it needs to be simple. Otherwise it’s really not going to happen.
TODD: And simple can still be very delicious. I mean, that’s been the greatest discovery that I’ve made through this process. You know, I’m the typical American kid who grew up hating vegetables, but now I absolutely treasure them. So it’s really exciting. I think you touched on this bit by bit over the course of our conversation. But I want to go a little bit deeper into.
You recommend that we develop these things that you call “optimal defaults.” So what exactly are those?
JENNY: Yeah. We, again, are cavemen living in this 21st to think about it, cavemen was all about eat as much as you can, while you can, and do not expend any extra physical energy. Because energy was so valuable. Well now, we live in environments where food is everywhere. And it’s really high in fat, it’s really high in sugar. I mean that’s caveman’s ultimate fantasy. We have all these labor saving devices. We barely have to expend any physical energy. So these environments have really led to a lot of health problems. But the good news is, is that we can actually create environments that will actually be better for us.
So what I talk about is creating an environment of optimal defaults where you are making small tweaks that are sort of gently nudging you, unconsciously, into behaviors that will improve your resiliency. So an example, obviously when we over eat, that places a lot of stress on the body. So moving from a 12 inch dinner plate to a 10 inch dinner plate, we will automatically, without even consciously know we’re doing it, eat 22% less food. So think about if every day, every meal, you created that optimal default, what a huge difference that’s going to make over time. So the chapter on optimal defaults is helping people to look at their work environment, their home environment, their travel environment. What little things can you tweak so that change actually becomes automatic? We don’t even think about it. It’s so easy a caveman could do it. Because, you know, self-discipline and will power doesn’t work. I mean that’s the model that we’ve been using. Let’s just educate people on what they need to do to live healthier, to live better.
Well let’s look around North America. We’re sicker, we’re more overweight, we’re sleeping a lot less. So just telling people, “You just need to consciously make change.” It doesn’t work. So I just tell people, making your conscious part of your change plan, is creating only 50% of a strategy. Because we’re very influenced by our environments. So let’s use this unconscious 50% to really make us successful. And then we can look at that conscious part of the change plan. And also understanding, you’re also using caveman brain and advance brain to try to make change. And when we, you know, say, “I’m going to eat completely different. And I’m going to exercise every single day. And I’m going to be in bed by ten o’clock every single night.” That makes caveman brain completely freak out. And caveman brain digs his heels in and says, “Uh we’re not doing that.”
You know, so when we’re thinking about what changes consciously do we want to be making, we’ve got to be strategic. And in the book I talk about, well how do you create a change strategy that is going to be doable over the long run. Where it’s not just that you do it for a couple of weeks. And then you fall off the wagon because it was too difficult to do. It was creating too much stress. So I give people tools, you’ve got to be able to do this for the rest of your life. And it needs to be easy for you to do. And when we understand how the brain works, we can use all the, you know, all the strengths that the brain has. And sort of minimize the disadvantages that our brains have when it comes to making change.
TODD: Well listening to you there, I now recognize how critically important this concept of optimal defaults is. I mean because we’re coming up on that magical day, January 1st millions of promises are made and then by January 27th enough self-discipline to really do the long-term impactful change. It’s going to require things like getting smaller plates, or, I’ve shifted to a standing desk. Which quiet naturally, obviously, makes me a little bit more mobile and move around a lot more. Those things are really, really critical.
All right we’re about out of time Jenny. I want to close with one final dialog though. Is the benefits to this? And what it enables you to do in any environment. I’ve been very fortunate that I think I’ve gotten a better handle on stress. And importantly, have understood it better so that I can make more informed decisions on activities. But I’m in a situation now where I’ve made a big change recently in my business. And it’s really exciting, but it’s stressful. But it’s an exciting stressful. I don’t know if there’s a difference between being miserably stressed, and excited stress. There is probably a better term for it than that. But the point of what you’re making here, yeah this isn’t just about weight loss, this makes you more creative. This makes you more productive. This makes you chopping at the bit to get up in the morning and get moving into the day. I mean it has all those benefits yeah?
JENNY: Yeah. So, I mean, not only are you just going to better be able to handle stress, you are going to become better at your job. You’re going to have more focus, you’re going to make better decisions, you’re going to sleep better at night. You are going to lose weight, you can improve your health, you’re going to have more energy. And you’re just about better to deal with things like, you know, deadlines, changes, the unexpected. I mean, so it really does – I always tell people, “Okay here’s the deal. I’m trying to get you to become more resilient to stress. But there’s some side effects that almost always happen.” And that is, you are going to lose body fat. Your health is going to improve. You are going to sleep better. So it’s just a win for you, it’s a win for your loved ones, it’s a win for your business. I mean, there are just so many great things that happen when you join The Resiliency rEvolution and build your resiliency. Just a lot of things in your life just fall into alignment. And yeah, it’s awesome. I’ve seen people – and the book actually, there are real people in there that, with real lives, real struggles, and talks about like the things that they were able to implement and the changes that they saw are really inspiring. Because again, it’s not these people, you know, that went, “You know I now have 9% body fat and I live a perfect life.” Real people, real problems, and how they were able to successfully build their resiliency.
TODD: Well it’s what you said at the very top of the show. Stress, and certainly stressors, are not going away. So you might not like my characterization of this, but it’s almost like you’re teaching me how to hack stress. And use it to my advantage. It’s going to happen, if I better understand my physiology, there are ways that I can leverage that to improve myself yeah?
JENNY: Completely Todd. Can I just package that? Because that is a great synopsis of what it is. It’s understanding it and using it to your advantage. And you’re totally hacking stress.
TODD: Outstanding. Well we might have just stumbled on the title of this post. All right, Jenny we are out of time. Before I let you go, how can people get in touch with you should they have questions? And more importantly, where can they get their hands on the book The Resiliency rEvolution?
JENNY: You bet. So I’m PowerHouse Performance. And the website is PH-Performance.com. There’s a link to the book there. It’s also on Amazon. It’s paperback, it’s Kindle, people can download it really quickly, really easily, and start becoming more resilient immediately.
TODD: All right. Jenny Evans, the author of The Resiliency rEvolution: Your Stress Solution for Life 60 Seconds at a Time. Jenny, it was a real pleasure to have you, and a lot of fun. Thanks for making time to join me.
JENNY: You’re welcome. Thank you Todd.
TODD: All right, that wraps this episode. On behalf of my guest, Jenny Evans, I’m Todd Schnick, we’ll see you soon on Intrepid Business.
He is a former marketing strategist, national political operative, and lobbyist.
Todd has published five books, writes a business + lifestyle column, is a distance runner, and lives in Chicago with his wife Stephanie + family.