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  • Writer's pictureMatt Symes

The Surprising Truth About Stress from Andrew Huberman

The Lead Yourself First newsletter is a deep dive into what keeps leaders healthy and performing at their peak. Every fourth week, I'll distill one or more points to help you prioritize self-leadership and personal growth.

Man walking in nature during the early morning hours

Last week I spent two quick days in Toronto - all focused on leading myself first.

First, I tested my own VO2Max. It was a metric that I laughed at as hyper specific only a few years ago. It’s an uncomfortable test and for what purpose? Readers of Peter Attia’s Outlive, will know that it might be the single most important healthspan metric. The problem is, you really can’t get a test here in Atlantic Canada. So I arranged for one in Toronto to align with the real headline:

Andrew Huberman in His First Live Event in Canada

For those who don’t know Huberman, he is a professor at Stanford and the main star of Huberman Lab, a podcast designed to democratize knowledge on health. I’m not sure how I first came in contact with Huberman but he is part of the podcasting giants now beside Tim Ferriss, Attia, Rich Roll, and Lex Friedman. In July, Time magazine ran a front-page story How Podcaster Andrew Huberman Got America to Care About Science. This 2021 video podcast on 24 hours optimized for health fundamentally challenged the way I looked at my own health.

If you know Huberman, you know that he is adamant about a few things. Early morning light to kick start your circadian rhythm. Optimal sleep. Building muscle & endurance. And he loves to read a copious number of studies and talk about the edges of health.

Along with a fellow entrepreneur and a childhood friend who is an extremely talented businesswoman in her own right, we made our way to the show last Tuesday in Toronto.

Here Were My Top Takeaways:

When it comes to the central nervous system:

  1. We must have a way to reduce stress in real-time. So far, we know of no better way than a “physiological sigh,” two inhales through the nose and a deep exhale through the mouth to empty the lungs (See his more in depth explanation here).

  2. We must build our system to be able to handle more stress - to increase our stress threshold. That means putting yourself in places of intentional discomfort. It is why he is a big believer in the cold plunge and saunas. But they only work if they continue to be uncomfortable and you don’t like them.

  3. The ability to fall asleep at night is paramount.

When it comes to neuroplasticity:

If you want to remold the brain and reshape it, without drugs, there are two steps...

  1. Get to an ultra-alert state. You should feel friction and frustration. You are right on the edge of your abilities then. It’s uncomfortable, and that’s what it feels like.

  2. Get to a state of rest. Either sleep or non-sleep deep rest (NSDR - Yoga Nidra).

I was highly suspicious of Yoga Nidra but I started using it two years ago between meetings and it has been incredible as a quick recharge. I’ve been using this youtube link. The incredible weekly newsletter - Recommendo listed a site with 9 great free NSDRs.

If you have kids, his #1 rule for young kids was to ensure they learn an instrument. I’m grateful my partner is a classically trained musician and can bring this to our world.

Perhaps the Most Important Highlight Was This:

So long as you can get to sleep at night, stress is ultimately positive for your system.


PS - If you want to dive into practical tips for pushing through growth challenges, scaling organizations, and optimizing your process, check out the Racki & Symes podcast.


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