There are countless ways to curb stress, but so many seem to require long-term commitment -- ongoing routines, schedule shifts, daily activity. For some, the idea of implementation is just an added strain. That's why when Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently revealed one of his pandemic-era techniques for keeping stress at bay, ears perked up.
It's not meditation. It's not diet. It's not journaling.
It's a collection of non-sleep deep-rest (NSDR) podcasts.
Business Insider took a deeper dive on NSDRs, a term originated by Stanford neuroscience professor Andrew Huberman. According to Huberman, NSDR involves "self-inducing a state of calm" and "directing our focus to something."
More specifically, Huberman calls out two critical components of NSDR: yoga nidra and hypnosis. The first puts you in a static physical state and prompts you to focus on a part of your body or its natural rhythms -- your breathing, for example. The second is, well, exactly what it you'd imagine -- translated by Huberman as "eliminating the surround [to achieve] a state of high focus."
Easier said than done, especially for busy C-levels who spend their day constantly in motion, juggling a million and one tasks.
The key is to pair NSDR with an activity you might already do, though after some trial and error myself, I recommend you keep it to something that is rote and requires minimal mental effort -- like washing the dishes.
For some, these activities can be Zen-like even without the help of NSDR, but if you need an extra level of calm, NSDR can actually help get you there quickly. Here's why, in my experience:
- The impact of surroundings on a harried CEO can be the number one source of stress. Requests, demands, and appeals from employees, investors, and the community are never-ending. If you can train yourself to remove those elements -- just for a few minutes -- you will be able to apply this tactic to calm your mind at any point throughout the day, even when you're not in the thick of NSDR exercises.
- The yoga element of NSDR trains you to recognize areas in your body where you carry your stress. Being mindful of this, and consciously sending signals to relax or release pent-up stress, is helpful for two reasons. First, you'll be able to feel when stress is mounting and intentionally step back before you're overwhelmed. But perhaps more important, you can stay on top of your stress continuously by "feeling" it in your body and giving it a release.
Because both of these benefits can be enjoyed at any point in the day -- and, if supported by NSDR, become second nature -- they can quickly mirror the benefit of morning or evening routines without the time-intensive hassle and schedule changes that usually go with them.
To be sure, there are countless relaxation and stress management techniques, and there is no one-size-fits-all. However, I believe the more we learn to manage our stress in the moment, the less need there will be to compartmentalize our "relaxing/unwinding" and our "doing, doing, doing." We'll be able to function in a state of calm whatever our harried schedules demand.