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  • Dr. Eric Rooker

Countdown to Success On Stress and Cognitive Intelligence

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

5 Inputs, 4 Quotes, 3 Thoughts, 2 Challenges and 1 Question (December 22, 2022)

“Helping you achieve high-performance medicine.”

Happy December,

We all realize that stress is bad for our health and general mentality. It erodes the positive thoughts you have about our profession. Leaving us as a shell of our early career selves. What many may not realize is that stress also makes us "dumber." Neurologists have isolated the pathology of this reaction and its effects in differing environments. This month's episode is about recognizing when this effect might be draining your IQ as well. Take some time to reflect upon the presented examples and compare them with your current career!

As a reminder, the journey of professional development is important to me. Teaching and seeking the advancement of our profession has been a goal of mine since I started veterinary school and OTO gives me a vehicle to continue this mission. If you wish to join me more interactively as I pursue please hit that reply button or join our Facebook Group to share your journey and growth with our community.

You never know when your ideas, stories, actions, or reflections will inspire another vet out there!

Alright, let’s get to it!

Here are 5 Inputs to Inspire, 4 Quotes to Contemplate, 3 Thoughts to Ponder, 2 Challenges to Conquer and 1 Reflection Question to help you grow this month.

5 Inputs to Inspire

I. Have you ever felt frozen in a moment of decision? At a time when there was so much weight or stress that your brain went blank? Psychology Today calls this "Brain Freeze" in their article Where Did My IQ Points Go? This article describes what happens physiologically at the moment and provides five strategies for avoiding its effects.

II. This interesting paper by Jung et al. characterizes the "Relationships among stress, emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence, and cytokines." It gives a deeper explanation of what happens neurologically during stress. Interestingly, the authors also found links between stress and inflammatory cytokines. Suggesting that the ability to control inflammation may improve IQ and emotional intelligence (EQ).

III. The average veterinary IQ is 114 points vs the average American at 98. This is not to say that veterinarians are "smarter" than the average person BUT instead suggests a causality for their increased stress. Researcher Ruth Karpinski has found links between anxiety and higher intelligence. The unfortunate reality is that the higher the IQ more information and processes individuals understand. Therefore, they process and internalize more than the average person, leading to an elevated risk for stress and anxiety.

IV. Harvard Business Review captures the effects of personal life stress on professional work-life in their article Research: How a Fight at Home Impacts Your Workday. In an interesting and modern study, the authors surveyed dual-income couples about their conflicts. They then followed these conflicts through to work and looked at their subsequent effects. There are some excellent insights for management and associates alike in this article.

V. A landmark study that is completely unnoticed in our world; Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function by Anandi Mani. This multilayered study looks at the effects of poverty on stress and IQ. The study doubles down by looking directly at these factors in Indian sugar cane farmers as well, a double whammy for large animal practitioners such as myself. I invite you to dive deeper into why veterinary debt could be stunting our professional development as well as how seasonal debt loads will affect your professional consolations with farmers!

4 Quotes to Contemplate

I. The Roman poet Horace challenges us to control our stress responses so we can take decisive action:

In times of stress, be bold and valiant.

II. Author and personal development leader Marie Forleo on how her business seeks to control stress within its ranks:

We have a practice in our company called doing a stress log. It's a simple exercise of making a written list of recurring stressors. The goal then is to work through that list and design systems and solutions to eliminate or transform the sources of stress, as best we can.

III. Author, military consultant, and stress researcher Dr. Dick Thompson on human emotions and decision-making:

All human decisions have some emotional component. That's the way the brain is wired... The more a leader understands the emotional component of decision-making, the more effective her decisions can become.

IV. Scientist Daniel Goleman, credited with bringing Emotional Intelligence research to the general public, discusses the importance of emotional control in relationships:

If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.

3 Thoughts to Ponder

I. Struggling with emotions is human. Many would argue that emotions are simply the way our subconscious brain communicates with our conscious brain. We cannot live without this "language" as our unconscious brain handles the billions of data points our conscious cannot. Therefore, it is more about "learning the language of emotion" rather than controlling it.

II. As I grow in my management skills I have begun to notice the importance of EQ. When sudden events pop up or split-second decisions need to be made I actually notice how they stress me and affect my thinking. Now the next, and perhaps most difficult step comes, learning how to harness this as motivation for the decision-making process.

III. Identifying when emotion is clouding judgment in clients is quickly becoming a great tool for consulting. Sometimes, it's not the idea that you need to sell better but rather the emotional roadblock the client has. Knowing when a problem is emotional vs monetary, vs training or even infrastructure problem seems to be the next "level" of consulting expertise.

2 Challenges

I. Buy an alarm watch and set it to go off every hour during the workday. When the watch vibrates I want you to simply ask yourself, "What emotion am I feeling?" After that ask, "Do I want to feel it?" These two simple questions can become the first steps to a healthy EQ practice.

II. Once a week ask your employees how they are feeling. Don't accept good or ok but instead ask what their emotional state actually is. Dig deeper into what might be stressing them or causing their other feelings at that time. Write down their responses and consider ways or new systems in which you can provide them relief.

1 Reflection Question

What emotion are you feeling right now?

Until next month,

Dr. Eric Rooker

Founder of Operators to Owners

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