RESILIENCE IN CRISIS - BUILDING A BADASS ARMOR

by 
Raphael Ungar

Fantastic! You’re out of basic orientation, set your GPS and are ready to save the world! Easy tiger… before you get yourself killed by rushing into a burning building wearing your superhero cape only to get hit by falling beams, how about we start with taking the first step...

Hoarding toilet paper and hiding ‘til superheroes save you

When squirrels know that winter is coming, they start hoarding nuts. When humans know that a crisis is coming, they start hoarding toilet paper. 

You may be laughing but Stephanie Preston from the University of Michigan[1] actually found that, across species, including humans, anxiety and threats appear to increase the motivation to acquire and collect food and goods, and further, that the orbital frontal cortex and nucleus accumbens (regions commonly associated with behavioral control and reward seeking), may be involved in hoarding tendencies. 

Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh[2] also found that fear and anxiety short circuit your decision making process as they disengage neurons in your prefrontal cortex linked to decision-making which leads to reactive behavior, passivity and ultimately a tendency to just sit at home with tons of toilet paper,  waiting for a superhero (politics, virologists,..) to come and save your ass. But what if you can be your own superhero?

How to build a big badass armor

Just like a superhero needs to prepare when saving the world by fueling his car, packing his abilities and throwing his superhero cape on, you need to prepare for your journey. Fuel your tank, pack your flow tools and build resilience.

Your body is your vehicle and if it is always at the repair shop because it’s broken it won’t do much good for neither you nor anyone else. Therefore, you need to take great care of it. In our first article we already talked about the importance of your breath to match state-to-task. The fuel you use is equally important. Just like bad oil will ruin the engine of a car, bad food will make your body function poorly and vice versa, optimal food will make your body function optimally. Yet, the best fuel doesn’t help if you don’t let your engine cool down from time to time and get good quantity and quality sleep. Only then you can upgrade your car by moving your body, getting stronger, faster and fitter.

Assembling your resilience armor

1. Breath: 3 rounds of Wim Hof breathing daily in the morning

The Wim Hof breathing technique is one of the best ways to train your autonomic nervous and immune system to build resilience on all levels. Practicing daily helps to boost your immune system and develop a stronger immune response to pathogens (like the coronavirus), improve mental health and relieve stress, increase motivation, concentration and overall performance. It also helps in coping with depression and relieving numerous auto-immune diseases like fibromyalgia and MS. A guide can be found here.

2. Nutrition: Rate your food like school grades (best=1 to 5=worst) and drink min. 2.5 liters water daily

Poor nutrition has adverse effects on your health, performance and HRV. Your HRV is THE number one biomarker for performance potential and stress resilience. One of the biggest dietary studies [3] found that 50% of all cardiovascular disease (CDV) deaths may be linked to poor health. According to the World Health Organization [4] eating the right foods can increase brainpower, motivation, and overall productivity by up to 20%. The easiest and best way to judge is simply rating your food by school grades (1-5). It’s not about stressing yourself to always eat straight 1’s but on overall rating. Try and keep an average daily/weekly. If you stay below 2, fantastic! If you are above 2, you might want to adjust a bit.


Drink, drink, drink (water😉). Staying hydrated is just as important and eating right. The better hydrated you are, the easier it is for your blood to circulate and deliver oxygen and nutrients to your body. A mere lack of 5% may decrease your performance by 30% [5].

3. Sleep: Get 6-9 hours sleep, min. 1 hour deep and 1.5 hours REM sleep

Especially during times of high strain does your body consume more energy and therefore needs more quality and quantity sleep which in turn positively affects your HRV. Especially important is deep sleep,which is crucial for physical renewal, hormonal regulation, and growth. Without deep sleep, you’re more likely to get sick, feel depressed, and gain an unhealthy amount of weight. Equally important is getting enough REM sleep. Your brain processes and synthesizes memories and emotions, activity that is crucial for learning and higher-level thought during REM sleep. A lack, results in slower cognitive and social processing, problems with memory, and difficulty concentrating.

4. Movement: Do min. 20 minutes of aerobic training daily in the morning

Just move, move move! If it is going for a run, dancing with your kids, hopping on the mat for a yoga class or just doing basic squats, sit-ups and push-ups…move! All sorts of movement, especially regular aerobic and anaerobic exercise can improve your HRV[6] and help you reduce stress and perform better. You think that basic push-ups are lame and useless? A Harvard study[7] found that men who could do more than 40 consecutive push-ups were 96 percent less likely to have developed a cardiovascular problem compared to those who could do no more than 10 push-ups. So think again.   

If you want to take things even further and find out how you can make feeling your best and performing your best your new normal, make sure to scroll down, subscribe to our newsletter and get it straight into your inbox.

References:

[1] Preston, S. D., Kringelbach, M. L., & Knutson, B. (2014). The interdisciplinary science of consumption. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

[2] Park, J., Wood, J., Bondi, C., Del Arco, A., & Moghaddam, B. (2016, March 16). Anxiety Evokes Hypofrontality and Disrupts Rule-Relevant Encoding by Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex Neurons. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4792942/

[3] GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators. (2019, May 11). Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30954305

[4] Proper, K., & van Mechelen, W. (2007). Effectiveness and economic impact of worksite interventions to promote physical activity and healthy diet. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/Proper_K.pdf

[5] The Effects of Hydration on Athletic Performance. (2016, April 1). Retrieved from http://www.sportscardiologybc.org/the-effects-of-hydration-on-athletic-performance/

[6] Routledge, F. S., Campbell, T. S., McFetridge-Durdle, J. A., & Bacon, S. L. (2010). Improvements in heart rate variability with exercise therapy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2903986/

[7] Yang, J., Christophi, C. A., Farioli, A., Baur, D. M., Moffatt, S., Zollinger, T. W., & Kales, S. N. (2019, February 1). Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30768197