Stressed out woman

Got a challenging problem that’s causing you stress and preventing you from working to the best of your abilities? Then take a lie down!

While lying down on the job might sound like the worst thing you could do when you have a problem, it’s really one of the very best options of all. Here’s why:

Neurochemistry and Problem-Solving
Our brains essentially put us in different states as and when we need to be in them, and they use different neurochemistry to achieve this.

When we’re stressed, our brain assumes that we’re in immediate danger, and it floods our system with stress hormones — norepinephrine, dopamine and cortisol.

These have various effects on the body from contracting our muscles and clotting our blood (so we can better survive injury) to taking blood and energy away from digestion and immune functions. However, in terms of brain function, this causes us to focus intently and to experience “tunnel vision” so we can escape from the threat we’re facing. This is very useful if you need to keep your eye on the terrain while you run from a leopard chasing you, but it’s not very helpful when facing down the kinds of problems you normally encounter in the office.

Woman relaxing on a benchCreativity and Problem-Solving
In fact, problem-solving in the modern world requires creativity. Specifically, it requires us to be able to think outside the box and make connections between disparate ideas. That’s why we are at our most creative when we’re relaxed — even when we’re close to sleep. The “hypnagogic” brain state we encounter just before we lose consciousness is responsible for many creative works and scientific breakthroughs.

This is also why studies have shown that sitting in a more supine position at work increases creative thinking. Likewise, being exposed to the colour green alone is enough to help us increase creativity because we unconsciously associate it with a natural environment.

Therefore, next time you’re faced with a problem that causes you stress, remember that your stress only makes it more difficult to find the answer. So, take a breather, relax and come back to the problem when you feel calmer!

The Journey Within: Why Stress is Terrible for Problem-Solving
Skip to content