The answer to dealing with stress is not avoiding it, not only because it is not possible, but because stressful situations are necessary. Without stressful times, tough or bad times, good times cannot exist. It is the Law of Contrasting.
However, that doesn’t mean we must seek stressors or provoke them; we must learn how to deal with stress in the healthiest way possible.
In this episode, the psychologist, clinical, forensic, and neuropsychologist Dr. Chris Friesen reveals how neuroticism and susceptibility to negative emotions and stress affect our health and fitness. He explains why lack of motivation and self-discipline show up and why we must learn to deal with anxiety instead of trying to resist it.
He delves into common misconceptions about ADHD and why so many people think they suffer from it.
Dr. Friesen goes through the Law of Contrasting, which explains why stress is unavoidable and necessary, why we must strive for satisfaction instead of happiness, how to transition from the productivity mode, and much more. Listen now!
Dr. Chris Friesen, Ph.D. is a psychologist who has always been fascinated by what makes people successful. He is a licensed clinical, forensic, and neuropsychologist but now primarily helps professional, national/Olympic, and up-and-coming elite athletes, as well as other high achievers such as professionals, entrepreneurs, executives, academics, and writers, achieve their personal and professional potential.
He is currently director of Friesen Sport & Performance Psychology, a contributor for Success Magazine, and author of ACHIEVE: Find Out Who You Are, What You Really Want, And How To Make It Happen.
Connect to Dr. Chris Friesen
Follow Chris on Twitter: @Friesenperform
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FriesenPerformance
Chris Firiesen’s Book: ACHIEVE: Find Out Who You Are, What You Really Want, And How To Make It Happen
- What are the root causes of impulsive behavior, and why do we use them to deal with uncomfortable feelings
- Why do so many people believe they have ADHD?
- What is an overstimulated brain, and how does it affect our performance and our health
- How can we access and activate our parasympathetic system through breathing
- Why is stress necessary in our lives
- How to avoid falling into the trap of the hustle culture, and why we should strive for satisfaction instead of happiness
- What are the avoidable dangers of taking sleep medications
- And much more…
254: How To Achieve Peak Mental Performance with Dr. Chris Friesen
139: Dr. Chris Friesen: 7 Behaviors Of High Achievers
506: The 3S Method: How To Reduce Stress, Lose Weight and Maintain For Life with Ted Ryce
Podcast Transcription: 512: Beating Burnout: The Secret To Solving The Stress Cycle & Achieving More In Business & Life with Dr. Chris Friesen, Ph.D.
Ted Ryce: Hey, what’s up, Chris? Thanks so much for coming back on the show. It’s been a long while.
Chris Friesen: Yeah, sure has. Thanks for having me.
Ted Ryce: Absolutely. And I already talked about your intro in the beginning of the podcast, and you’ve been on the show a few times. And I would just, first of all like to catch up with you. What’s new and exciting in your world right now?
Chris Friesen: Yeah, good question. Right now, I’m spending a lot of my time working on a new YouTube channel, where I’m basically trying to distill the stuff I tell my client. This kind of started during COVID, where people weren’t coming to the office. So we basically moved to virtual. And I realized a lot of clients wanted to continue. And I thought, you know, one way to do this, is I’m going to make some videos to go over the things I usually talk to clients about, so they can watch them. And, of course, the goal is also to bring it to a wider audience. So, making YouTube videos is now a thing I’ve been spending a lot of time on.
Ted Ryce: Cool. Yeah. And we’ll talk about this later, but if you’re interested in checking out Chris’s YouTube channel, you’ve got to go to Friesen Performance with Dr. Chris Friesen. So if you look, look up Friesen Performance on YouTube, or Chris Friesen, and that’s F-R-I-E-S-E-N, I’m sure that’ll come up. As well as we’ll have the link to your YouTube in the show notes, of course.
But those are for those of you who already know who Chris is. Now, I know some of you are probably new, because we have new listeners coming in all the time, and you’re probably, well, who is this guy? What are the goods? And I would ask you, Chris, like in this, I don’t know how you feel personally about you working with your clients. But I have two types of clients with how I work with our body transformation program.
And I help people in two basic things, I could even throw in a third one, but strategies and stress. And the people who just need strategies, they just needed the strategies, and I have clients like that, and they kill it. But then there’s the clients who are dealing more with stress, and that becomes a more in depth—it takes longer to solve.
There’s plateaus in regards to fat loss, because if you can’t handle the stress you’re under, it drives certain behaviors, usually eating and/or drinking alcohol. Now, when asked you what are some of the things that you’re finding your clients challenged by right now? And how are you helping them?
Chris Friesen: Great question. Stress is a big one, of course, like you’re saying. Motivation is a big issue for some people, getting themselves to do things they don’t feel like doing. This is what we call self-discipline, which, I like to differentiate between impulsivity, which is more of an emotional issue, which is a hard time stopping yourself from doing things you know you shouldn’t do.
So impulsivity is more emotions in the sense that we engage in impulsive behaviors, let’s say, overeating, binge watching, overspending, Amazon shopping, this kind of stuff, gambling, drug use, all these things, pornography. We do these things, because A, they reduce negative emotionality or uncomfortable feelings, and B, we have a hard time resisting doing them because it gives us uncomfortable feelings. The resisting or pushing the plate away, so to say, is difficult. And you have to be able to tolerate the distress of doing that.
So these two things, along with self-discipline, in terms of personality, they actually load on different factors. Self-discipline loads more on conscientiousness. In my book, I call that motivation and self-control. And impulsivity lands more on neuroticism, or what I call susceptibility to negative emotions and stress. And this is a big issue for a lot of people these days. That and stress. I think those are the biggest issues. And it has to do with our society, with technology and how busy we are, and things like this.
Ted Ryce: Yeah. So I think the first important distinction there, and I remember this when I was working with you, and some of our past conversations, when we…It’s important to understand that impulsivity, it falls on the neuroticism factor of our personality, which is indicative of…It’s like a different brain area. Is that true to say?
Chris Friesen: Yes, when you do research, you can look at this in a more global way, there are cross correlations between impulsivity and self-discipline. And some people call that impulsivity in general or disconstraint. But when we break it down, they do cross correlate, but they’re more correlated with their parent scale, which is neuroticism, which is basically, you take all these studies, and when you get all these traits that go together, they have to come up with a name.
So it’s called factor analysis, which is a statistical technique to figure out what things tend to go together. It’s a bunch of correlations, but lots of data. And once you figure that out, you look at, these are all these items, all these traits, what is the commonality behind this? What can we call this? And it loads more on that global tree of neuroticism, which impulsivity falls under that, whereas self-discipline is more conscientiousness, which has other traits, like how long you take to make decisions, called deliberation, how much of an achievement driver you are, how much of a sense of competence you have, and also how reliable you are, as well.
So those tend to go together. And they’re difficult for a lot of people. And I think it’s causing a huge amount of problems when it comes to fitness and health, getting themselves to go to bed early, people getting themselves to eat the right foods, stop eating the wrong foods, stop watching television, so you can go to bed. For example, watching YouTube or Netflix or whatever it may be. These are big.
And it’s interesting. Since I saw you last, I’ve always… I’m a clinical psychologist and neuro psychologist. I still hold my licensed and training. And so the number one referral source for clinical issues is adults who think they have ADHD. So that is the number one thing we see these days. I probably do three or four a week, where we do these really in depth assessments. We do brain scanning like quantitative EEGs to help confirm the diagnosis.
But a lot of the time, the vast majority of the people I see, I tell them in the end, this is not ADHD. ADHD is actually an under arousal problem. The brain is under activated, and it’s about 85% of people with ADHD have excessive slow waves in the brain. And brainwaves, by the way, are very stable. So you measure people 10 years apart, they’re basically identical. Unless you have brain trauma, or do serious meditation, or neurofeedback, or medications, or smoking too much weed, these can change your brain.
But when we see them, they’re all convinced they have ADHD, and they just were missed as kids. But we do brain scans. Plus I look at their like educational records. And I asked them to fill out their perception of how they were as a kid. These are national normed scales, and have someone who knows them well, usually a parent, rate them when they were a kid. And most of them didn’t have it as a kid.
But ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, you don’t develop it as an adult. Almost always, they have the opposite profile, their brains are over activated. And so they have this fast wave profile. Some people will diagnose ADHD in those situations. On the surface, it could look like ADHD, but really ADHD, what we think of is more of this slow wave under arousal. This is why you prescribe stimulant medications. That’s why it makes no sense.
Why would you give a hyper kid stimulant, slow release amphetamines? Why would you give that as a treatment? It’s because their brains are under stimulated, and therefore, they need to be…Basically, they can’t control their behavior. And they’re also self-stimulating by moving and doing things to help activate their brains into a more normal range. And this is why medications, which are stimulants help with ADHD.
But these adults that come in is the opposite of excessive fast. So which is basically anxiety, and neuroticism. And you can have both, of course, but most of them, that’s what it is. I say, “Look, if I tell you, you have ADHD and you go to your doctor, they’re going to prescribe a stimulant, Concerta or Ritalin, these are the first line treatments, and what will happen is, you’re going to get much worse.
Your appetite is going to drop, you’re going to basically have stomach aches. Potentially, you’re going to have a hard time sleeping, and your anxiety and irritability is going to potentially go through the roof. And so the issue is not ADHD, the issue is excessive over arousal of the brain.
In my sleep videos on YouTube, I go over one of the main causes of poor sleep, which I call physiological over activation, which is exactly the same thing, being physically over activated in the evenings. So that’s kind of a long answer. But this is something kind of new since I saw you last time.
That’s a huge part of my practice now, is adults—I do kids as well now—but adults who think they have ADHD. And we measure personality, brainwaves, psychophysiological stress profiles, and we give them really detailed information about what they can do. And what’s the real problem.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, super important, because I’ve even casually said, “Oh, yeah, probably I’m a little ADHD.” But in reality, I’ve never been tested. I’ve never been told that I have that. And there’s a very good, like, I do better when I meditate and calm myself down, and then I feel more productive, focused, etc.
Chris Friesen: Exactly.
Ted Ryce: And kind of to your point, although, anecdotally it’s like, well, I’m slowing myself down. I don’t necessarily feel better when I drink coffee—a little bit is okay, but I get overstimulated. So what I’m hearing is you really need to, if you have ever—and not you, Chris—but if you’re listening right now and you’ve ever been diagnosed with that, you might want to make sure that the person who did that wasn’t… you didn’t just say, “Yeah, I feel like a little hard to focus. Oh, yeah, you got some ADHD.”
And someone gives you a script for Ritalin. Make sure that you’re getting the proper testing, I would say, because I’ve even had clients who told me that and I just didn’t ask how they were diagnosed or whatever. But that’s some something super important. But let’s dive into the question that’s on everyone’s minds after your very thorough answer, how much weed is too much weed? I’m just kidding there. Let’s not talk about that. You’re smoking weed? I believe, anyway.
But the question I have is that what’s, in your view, or at least the story or what you’re seeing with your patients, what’s leading to this overstimulation? What are the behaviors the environment had set, you know, or if you want to break it down to people’s physiology, their genes, even? What’s causing this overstimulation that you’re saying?
Chris Friesen: Yeah, so I think there’s a number of levels to this; one is more of a surface level, is the influx of referrals, which are all self-referred. People look me up on the internet, and I get people all across the province of Ontario. We’re not allowed to technically diagnose across borders here. And I couldn’t diagnose an American, someone across the border.
But when COVID hit, and a lot of people had to work from home, all the structure was removed. And so they are basically having difficulty coping and organizing themselves. It’s taxing on our executive functions, which is our ability to plan organize, inhibit. This is more of a neuro psychological concept that’s similar to conscientiousness in the personality literature.
And so that’s one of the things, and of course, when people are…especially extroverts, when they’re taken away…or even people who are highly agreeable, and you’re not getting a lot of social contact or ability to help people. Agreeable people are more likely to want to help them be altruistic. Extraversion is more about external stimulation. And those people struggle a lot. And so therefore, anxiety comes out.
But to go a step back, all of this, like every mental health problem, except for psychopathy, psychopaths—not sociopaths, you hear this all the time. Syociopaths is the assumption that these people are learned to be psychopaths, that’s bullshit. Excuse my language, but psychopath, psychopathy, it’s highly genetic about point 6.7 out of 1.0, it’s highly to do with personality traits. And then your environment can determine basically, whether you rob people, or you’re just a corporate psychopath.
But our personalities in general are about 50 or 60% genetic. And everyone who comes in with mental health issues, is high on the personality dimension of negative effect, or neuroticism, all the same thing, or what I call susceptibility to negative emotions and stress. That is the underlying thing that I share with all people coming with anxiety problems and depression problems, pretty much, like 98% of them.
And it’s interesting. What’s happened—actually, my PhD dissertation was on this exact topic—is we’ve learned that the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is getting fatter and fatter as time goes on as they add more and more diagnoses. They’re like fine chopping, trying to carve nature at its joints, and it’s not really working.
Ted Ryce: What do you mean by that?
Chris Friesen: So basically, what they’re trying to do is diagnose more and more problems. So like, I can’t remember how many, let’s say, 40 years ago, or 20/30 years ago, there was maybe five anxiety disorders now there’s like 25. So it’s like now specific phobia and agoraphobia and generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder. In the future, there will be complex PTSD, as well, things like this. And what’s happening is, they’re trying to develop treatments, for example, medications and psychotherapies specific to each disorder.
And what we’re realizing is that all this is personality, in the sense of all these people who come in for mental health problems are high on negative emotionality. Of course, half of the population is high on--let’s call it neuroticism for now—neuroticism, myself included. And basically, the vast majority of people that are high on neuroticism, do not have diagnosable mental disorders. But it’s almost like a prerequisite to have it.
And so what’s happening is, they’re all these underlying mechanisms, which is partly genetics. And then you take another step up, for example, brain scanning, quantitative EEG, we can see excessive fast wave activity, like off the charts, two or three standard deviations, or four or five, so 98 percentile or higher, so higher than 98% of people in the general population. So lots and lots of fast wave activity, so you can see it in that sense.
We do psychophysiological stress testing and we give you these—I did this with high risk officers for one of the major police services here for about three years, and we test, in a standardized way, their stress response. Because they’d all tell me because I to check in on them every year, like the SWAT team guys would say, “I’m non-violent, I don’t have any anxiety or stress, I’m good.” And I said, “Well, let’s do some testing, and we’ll find out.” Because there is a bit of a macho persona behind this.
Ted Ryce: Yes, you can just handle it, right?
Chris Friesen: Exactly. And then we give these tests where we measure—in a standardized way, we give them these different stressors. So we’ll give them all away because people can listen to this. But basically, they’re more like cognitive stressors or loud noises, things like this that you have to do. Or if you have to do some math out loud, with the examiner in the room and correcting you every time you’re wrong, to try and elicit a stress response.
So we’re measuring their sweat response, their temperature in their fingers, their muscle tension in their forehead, and in their traps. We’re measuring heart rate variability, heart rate. We have an EEG on as well, we’re measuring their brainwaves. And we’re going to see what happens when you’re just sitting there at the beginning of the test, what happens with each of the seven or eight stressors, and what happens when you rest in between each of those stressors.
And what we see is basically difficulties regulating the stress response, but people are a little bit different. So a lot of people have the sweat response issue. So in other words, we see on graphs, and I show it to them, here you are. At the beginning of the test, you’re down here, and then the stressor happens. It is supposed to go up during a stressor, it’s normal. It means you’re making an effort, the sympathetic nervous system is activated.
And now you’re resting. We’d like it to come back down to where it was at the beginning of the test. But it’s not, it’s still up there. The next stressor, it goes up again, and then during the rest period, it is still up, and it goes up against a staircase going up. And I say, “Look, you don’t notice this, but this is going on underneath the surface, your body is not able to let go, the gas pedal is stuck.
Once you have a stressor, it’s building, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and getting more activated and not relaxing, you’re not able to let go or take your foot off the gas pedal. One way, just to jump over here, one way to do that to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest, digest, relaxation response, which are two parts of the nervous system.
One is sympathetic, which is stress and fight or flight like everyone knows, but the parasympathetic is the opposite. It’s rest, digest, the anabolic system. And one way we know to do this is that five seconds in, five seconds out breathing, and that’s called respiratory sinus arrhythmia, our heart rate will increase as we breathe in and decrease as we breathe out.
It’s been shown to reduce blood pressure, it’s been shown to increase decision making, it’s been shown to improve sleep—actually, my second latest video that just came out, is on how to do this for sleep and to produce physiological activation. And what else? Of course, PTSD, there was a meta-analysis in the journal. I think it’s Nature or Science, whichever one, the top journals in the entire world, on heart rate variability, biofeedback, which is that five seconds in, five seconds out breathing, with feedback from a computer being really helpful with depressed patients. So this is huge.
Ted Ryce: What a software would that be? Or what’s a feedback that someone could use to…? Because I hear that, I’m like, I do meditation. I do deep breathing exercises, but I would love to just test with the some type of feedback as well.
Chris Friesen: Yeah. 100%. So there’s two things. There’s a friend of mine, Dr. Jay Wiles, he used to have the Mind Hacker Radio. He used to be the co-host of Ben Greenfield’s podcast, he’s a health psychologist down and…
Ted Ryce: Don’t want to hold that against him too much.
Chris Friesen: Yeah, so in other words, he doesn’t know shit, because he’s a psychologist. I’m kidding. Or maybe you’re talking about Greenfield.
Ted Ryce: Yeah. Anyway, keep it moving.
Chris Friesen: Yeah, he’s got a new product, he is from Hanu Health, H-A-N-U. And he’s teamed up with... I forget his name now, but he’s the guy from The Oxygen Advantage.
Ted Ryce: Oh, yeah.
Chris Friesen: Not James Nester, but the other guy from…He’s either Irish or Scottish. I’m forgetting his name, Michael McIntyre. But I’m sure that’s not the right name. But he has a new device that was supposed to work on the wrist, but the latest thing, it’s going to be each a Polar H10 chest strap, I believe. But there are other devices. But the ones I recommend at this point that has not been released yet, it’s going to be released soon.
The ones that I use and recommend to my clients is Heart Math’s Inner Balance, which is usually about 150 bucks US, and they have a Bluetooth and a lightning sensor. That one is good, it’s slightly gamified, so it’s pretty useful. And it works on your phones. So that’s pretty much great.
The other option is thought technology, which is these guys are the pioneers in biofeedback, especially equipment and also neurofeedback. They’re in Montreal, and if you look back at pictures of astronauts, when they’re training, let’s say in the pools, they have their spacesuits on, and there’s pictures of them without the spacesuits, they have all these wires connected to them., and that’s thought technologies equipment.
That’s the same equipment I use, when I do biofeedback, when we do the stress testing. This cost thousands of dollars. You have to be some sort of health professional, I believe, to buy it. That’s way overkill, but they have a new product, which is a Bluetooth sensor. I briefly mentioned it in one of my videos on sleep. It’s called EVU. And it measures three things, heart rate variability, not as like an aura ring, it doesn’t measure it like this, but it measures training. So you do the breathing. And you it basically scores it from zero to 100. Or you can look the raw score. And you do the five seconds in, five seconds out breathing. And what you do is you try and get your score near 100.
But you can flip the screen and the same sensor is also measuring your sweat response, as well. And you just flip the screen again and you get temperature response. So sweat response is ultra-sensitive. So if you think of a negative thought, your sweat glands will activate on your finger within one to three seconds. Temperature can take one or two minutes to change, it’s much harder to change.
And it’s interesting because both sweat and temperature, to get them to come down, you have to take your foot off the gas pedal, you have to stop trying and just observe. So this is huge, because I talked about this in my sleep videos, because it’s super important with physiological activation that you have to let go and allow sleep to happen.
But it’s the same with peak performance. And I have a video on this, where athletes can often come to me and say, “Look, I’m feeling anxious. I have Olympic trials coming up, I want you to teach me… Hey, Doc helped me feel no anxiety.” And like I say in my video, the problem is not that you have anxiety going into the Olympic trials or at the Olympic trials. The problem is you think it’s humanly possible not to feel anxious in those scenarios.
Ted Ryce: Right.
Chris Friesen: And basically, the best way people learn is through experience. We call it experiential learning, as opposed to me just telling them. And so this is one of the main logical reasons I decided to make these videos, because I needed to show people basically what happens, because I couldn’t see people in person, so I hooked them up to a GSR, which is a Galvanic Skin Response, which is the sweat response on our fingers.
And there’s a line graph on the screen going like this…It’s live and I say, “Look, this is called biofeedback, I still like this and this line goes up, that means your stress response, your sympathetic nervous system is being activated. When it goes down, it means it’s not being activated, like your foots off the gas pedal. And I say do what you normally do, make this line go down, and invariably…
Ted Ryce: Rrrr!
Chris Friesen: Exactly, exactly. And then it’s only when I say, okay, this is the problem, I need you to stop trying, stop trying to control your stress, stop trying to control or make yourself sleep, it doesn’t work like that. Let go and allow this line to come down. And not everyone gets it at first; some people, they’re just designed to go and do.
And even using the words ‘make it go down’ or ‘try’ are the wrong words, the words you need to use are ‘allow.’ Stop trying. Allow myself to fall asleep, allow the stress to come down. And it’s usually an ‘aha’ moment when they feel this or see this. I had a guy who was a high level pool player who I worked with for a while—great guy. And he basically was trying to figure out how to be not so stressed, because the more you’re stressed, the more your muscles are tense, and pools love fine motor movement.
And basically, I did the same thing with him. And he just was blown away. He was like, “Oh my gosh, now I get what I was doing wrong. I was trying to control it by trying hard to relax, and I just had to let go. And I didn’t know how to let go. Now the system shows me, oh, I’m letting go. Oh, no, I’m trying. And now, I’m letting go.” And this is the miracle on this.
So going back, the EVU, the newest ones that came out now work on iPhones. They didn’t work on iPhones, only androids before. But the ones that they’re selling now works on iPhones. EVU from Thought Technology. I think it’s www.thoughttechnology.com. And I have no affiliate links or something for them. I just happen to use them. And the other one that’s specific to heart rate variability is HeartMath’s Inner Balance. Those are the best consumer grade ones that I’m aware of, and are easy to use that do what they’re supposed to do.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, great toys to look up. And some food for thought about how we’re dealing with our stress. You know, it’s interesting when we’re having this conversation, a couple of things: I think the first is, I think about some of my clients who… I get into arguments about stress all the time. Actually, they might cause my stress to actually go up sometimes, some of these discussions, because people…
Well, I’ll start like this, a mentor of mine who’s helping me with marketing. So he was like, Ted, people have no ideas that there’s a connection between stress and health. It’s not something people understand. Health is about exercising, it’s about food. Now people are talking about sleep. But it’s not something that people understand. And for me, health is 100% looked at through the stress perspective.
If you overstressed your body, you don’t recover from your workouts. If you over stress with exercise, it doesn’t cause adaptation…well, it does cause. It causes a degradation of your fitness, not an improvement of your fitness. It’s like all about stress and the application of it and the management of it, and how it all goes together.
And then what you’re talking about is it also brings up some of the stories I’ve had with executives. One, Damon, shout out to you if you’re listening. And hopefully, this is shedding some light on the situation. Because stress is a bad thing, that means like, “Oh, I’m so stressed. Someone cut me off in traffic, and then my tire blew out. And then I was late to a meeting and I lost the deal, and it’s all this. That’s what stress is.
But we don’t understand, like stress is anything that causes a stress response. It doesn’t matter what it is. You can be watching a viral video on Twitter, or YouTube or Instagram or whatever. And your stress is going up and it’s contributing to that stress load, that allostatic load. And just to bring it back to my client, Damon, he was like, “Man, things are going really well.” His business was expanding. And it’s a good thing. He’s not hurting financially. Things are going in the opposite direction. They’re going well, but he was like, “Man.”
He almost felt bad about saying like, you know, we have this feeling, like, people are struggling out there. Why am I stressed that my business is growing and I’m doing so well financially? But the reality is, that’s still stress, isn’t it? Can you talk a little bit about some of the misconceptions that some of your clients or some people have about stress, and how to better identify when we’re under stress. Instead of just saying, for us, it’s about the story, like, is this a bad thing? No, then it’s not stress, even though I can’t turn my mind off, and I’m having trouble sleeping at night. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Chris Friesen: Yeah, it goes two ways. Like you’re saying, some people don’t think they have any stress. All high achievers are like that. They think this isn’t stress. And then there are people who are pretty stressed. And of course, the higher you are on that personality dimension of negative emotionality or susceptibility to negative emotional stress, the more vulnerable and the more reactive you will be.
And so the other thing is, without stress, without bad times, without tough times, there are no good times. I call this the Law of Contrasting. And the Law of Contrasting is this. You know, when you work from a cellular level, all the way to a global psychological level. So this is when if you have chocolates, and then you try to drink orange juice after, what does the orange juice taste like after you have chocolate?
Ted Ryce: I don’t think I do that. I don’t drink much juice, but just from my recollection of, yeah, not good, bitter, I’m thinking.
Chris Friesen: Yeah, it will taste bitter. It won’t taste the sweetness because the sensory neurons on your tongue for sweetness are saturated. And so it’s basically relative. And I also say this works on productivity, and I work on a lot of people who have issues with this, is that you end up…
I had people coming to me over the pandemic, when the kids were in virtual school, saying, “Look, my little Johnny, he wants it down, or he’s not paying attention, or he’s throwing a fit nine o’clock when he has to sit down for a virtual school.” I said, “Well, what’s Johnny doing between the time he gets up at seven o clock and when his school starts?”
And she kind of walks me through, and, oh, yeah, he’s playing his Xbox or PS 10, or whatever it is up to now, right? So it’s like you’re feeding him ice cream and saying, “Johnny, you finish your ice cream. Now it’s time for your plain broccoli”. And he’s saying to be like, “This tastes like absolute shit.”
And so the brain works like that. And this is how you become productive during the day. You do the hardest, most boring things first in the day, and you get those out of the way. And then everything else in the afternoon or later in the week, for example, you do the more fun things. And this will maintain motivation. But going back to the anxiety example, we have to be careful because it’s all relative. So you have to feel down, stressful times in order to appreciate the calm times.
Ted Ryce: Now, is that just the philosophical thing you’re saying? Or is that like…?
Chris Friesen: No.
Ted Ryce: No. Can you talk about that a little bit then?
Chris Friesen: Yeah, philosophers, of course, are the ones that first talked about this. But we know just like I was saying, on this neurological level, this is how it works. And on a psychological level, is this contrasting. So what we need to be aware of is if you’re trying to live her life, never feeling stressed, never feeling anxious, avoiding anything that makes you uncomfortable. Well, first of all, your body will just recalibrate, your brain is going to recalibrate.
So whatever was the most stressful thing, like the mailman, or mail delivery person, they put the wrong mail in your mailbox, or you’re waiting to get something in the mail and it didn’t come. That’s going to be the most stressful thing for you that day because your life is so lacking in stress, for other stresses. So your brain just recalibrates. You prioritize or categorize, what’s the most stressful thing, and what’s the least stressful thing?
And the most stressful thing will cause a pretty good spike in the adrenaline and in the sympathetic arousal, the stress response. And so we do need to have stressful times to feel and appreciate the less stressful times. But, of course, you can just go pedal to the metal, like you’re describing this fella here. Where we start to define success, as, let’s say, income, or the size of your business, or the number of clients you have, this kind of thing.
And of course, what ends up happening is with that, comes more responsibility, more stresses, and that can make you unhappy. Lots of people come to me and say, “Look, I’m rich. I’m sure exactly like you, but I don’t feel happy.” Of course, there’s a myth that we’re going to feel happy happiness. No one should strive to be happy. You should strive to be satisfied with your life and living a life that you find meaningful.
Because happiness is a fleeting state in terms of what people think. This hedonic feeling of joy. You watch every Instagram video; people aren’t taking videos of themselves when they’re constipated. They’re taking videos of themselves when things are going really well. I’m at the beach. I’m feeling amazing. I just came back from a run. Yeah, fuck that looks great, and that is great.
But you’re not seeing the other 90% of their day, which was a bit of a grind. And so when you see that and think, “Well, that person looks happy. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, I need to be happier, because I’m not smiling and laughing and feeling like I’m on top of the world all the time. It seems like everyone else is.”
And we know this logically, we know. We’re not stupid. We know that people are only taking pictures of themselves or videoing themselves when things are going well. But it doesn’t matter experientially, emotionally, we’re still thinking, what’s wrong with me? I don’t feel as happy as I think I shouldn’t be. Because everyone else seems to be quite happy and doing so well.
My Facebook, you know, I take pictures only on good occasions. I got a new car. It’s like the car is four years now. But someone’s like, “Well, Chris is doing well.” But it’s all because of this. It’s optics. It’s not on purpose either. Nobody wants a downer. No one wants to say this is reality. This is me. You know, just trying to get out of bed. I hate this day. I don’t want to get up.
No one takes, hopefully, a video of that. But we see this and we get this warped perception of what does it mean to be happy? So I know with my career, I’ve had lots of options or opportunities to expand, get bigger take on more clients, work for certain people or groups, or organizations or teams. And for the most part, I turned it all down because I finally realized that 46, that’s not really how I define happiness.
I have a child, a 10 year old, and a wife, and house, and I want to just be stimulated. I know enough to know that if I take on that stuff, yes, sure, I’m going to look even more successful on the outside. But I’m not going to be happy. I’m using the word happy, just like I say not to. But I’m not going to be content because taking all that on, on paper, I look more successful.
But I’m actually draining myself, my stress response. I’m running around on adrenaline, and trying to keep up base to base, never been fully present. And just more money, more problems, they say, right? This is kind of the idea. So I think we’ve got to be really, really careful about what we shoot for. Like when you see people winning the gold medals. Yeah, it looks all glorious. And you see some documentary of the UFC fighters, and it still looks kind of glorious, even though it looks tough.
But it’s one thing to watch it on TV, it’s another thing to live it. It may not be the best goal for most people to do that. It’s not a normal person that becomes a UFC champion. It’s not a normal person that becomes Elon Musk. Bill Gates isn’t a normal person. There is a lot of stress and pressure and a lot of sacrifices to be that successful. And we’ve got to be careful, you have to know what you’re getting into. And I think that’s important for people to think about.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, I agree with you. I’m in the place where we’re growing our business, and it’s very easy to chase an income goal. And certainly, I don’t have any issues with wanting to make money. I think money is great. It gives me the resources to work with you or other coaches. But at the same time, I see like, okay, well, there are people who…And I’ve seen this when I was training clients back in my Miami Beach personal training days, working with very high net worth—what most people would consider at least very high net worth individuals, you know, $50 million, $100 million net worth people, Ferrari collections.
You saw that there were some who were happy, for sure. And happiness or contentment, as you say, didn’t come from necessarily the money. Maybe partly, but it was from friendships, family, other things, freedom of their time, doing what they really wanted to be doing, a sense of purpose. And the ones who just chased the dollars, I mean, they were overweight, alcoholics, sometimes drug addicts, the relationships with…
Well, in this case, it was men, their relationships with women was a mess. You know, it was transactional, let’s say. So I saw that, and I was like, hmm, well, money isn’t the thing. It certainly makes you happy. And I guess if you want to buy into the research I have, up to 70,000 USD per year. But past a certain point, you need to have the other areas handled. And if what I hear you saying and what I’m being mindful of too, it’s like, I actually had a couple of weeks recently, just a couple of weeks ago, where I was just like, “Fuck my business,” not my clients. I love coaching clients, but like the growing the business, training my employees and putting together the content strategy across platform. I’m like, “Yeah, you know what? Fuck all that.”
And I had to think like, okay, what am I doing? What am I working for? And yeah, it’s important. It’s a question everyone needs to ask themselves, because if you start chasing someone else’s idea of success, or maybe what you think might make you feel good, instead of when actually, what makes you feel good, you can end up in a place that you kind of regret to get into.
Chris Friesen: Yeah, the hustle culture, right?
Ted Ryce: Yeah.
Chris Friesen: You’ve got to be careful, right? Also, guys like you and I, we’ve passed the peak, or we’re at the peak. It depends on where our physical peak is passed. But the cognitive peak is now starting to slip, no matter what we do. Unless we become super agers. I’m trying my best to be a super ager in terms of cognitive, maintain in my brain, and I’m sure you are too. But it’s going to slip.
In th e second half of our life, we have less cognitive power, we have less physical energy, our processing speed is slower, our working memory is weaker, our memories are shittier. And that’s just reality. Our wisdom, though, can go up. And this is where a lot of people struggle, is they don’t transition from the productivity mode of your 20s and 30s. Maybe, when you get to 50 or so, this is when you should switch, because if you’re still grinding, and you’re still hustling, you’re probably going to hustle till you fucking die.
And so you need to switch to, now I’m passing on wisdom mode, teaching mode. You know, interesting, I saw Frank Zane, the bodybuilder, there was a couple of YouTube videos I was watching in the last couple of nights. I knew who he was. I didn’t really follow him. He’s before my time. But he beats, I suppose, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a few times, in a couple of competitions. And he’s all about aesthetics. And he’s about 80 years old, 79 years old, something like this now.
And it was just interesting to see him. There’s something about him that I thought was really appealing. Basically, he said the exact same thing I’m seeing right now. He’s basically converted to… first of all, physically maintenance, he’s trying not to lose. I mean, he’s not big, muscular at this point in his life, but he’s trying not to lose strength, etc. He’s trying to maintain his health—not to get any better. He’s just trying to fight against aging.
But he has moved into a passing along wisdom phase, where he’s training bodybuilders and writing books and things like this, trying to get his knowledge out there. And I think that’s important for a lot of us to know. And mentoring is another way of doing this, where you mentor people. Of course, you grow and you learn, as you mentor, but the raw cognitive power, our energy levels are not going to stay like they were when we were 25.
Like, sticking all-nighters, having no problem with that. Working 12/14 hours a day, having no issues. The reality is this stuff catches up to you. And so it’s around 35 to 45 or 35 to 50, where your body sends you the rude messages for the lifestyle of hustling. You start to get high blood pressure, even though you work out, you start to get all sorts of…You get sick easily. Your sleep sucks. All these are markers of chronic daily stress that’s been going on for a long time, with basically all gas pedal, no brake.
Ted Ryce: Interesting. Yeah. So, good things to watch out for. And it’s kind of interesting when people you know, it’s funny, Chris, when you’re saying this to so many people with the fat loss thing, it’s like, “Oh, it’s my hormones, I’ve gotten older.” It’s like, it’s none of those things. Most of the time, it’s a stress issue. They’re not sleeping as well, and more stressed, so therefore, more hedonic eating.
And usually, if you’re making those bad choices to begin with, that means you’re even eating more calories than you realize, and then you’re not moving as much. But since you don’t have an idea how many steps you’re taking, you think it’s just that, and your workout point, they may feel hard. But if we track your performance on paper, you’re not actually performing better. And that’s why it feels harder, you’re actually going backwards trying to do something that may be worked in the past, but it’s not working for you now.
And so much of it is just this psychological, like helping people get clear on what’s happening. And getting them away from some of the… it’s not excuses. It’s some of the reasons that have been promoted on social media for people. But it’s like, you’ve got to switch gears. And a lot of times, the reason they feel the way they do is because of that lifestyle that they’ve been living up until they’re in their 40s or 50s, which, I think, almost all of my clients are, it’s like that’s catching up with them. And it’s like, what do you do about it?
I like that, because one of the big things I see. And I went balls to the wall with this with YouTube. I think I’m at video 15 or 16, specifically, only on sleep, because I thought I’d make three videos on the three major…First of all, the three major causes of poor sleep, which is circadian rhythm, disruption, physiological activation and cognitive over activation, which is just can’t turn my mind off.
And I think I have about four more videos. I filmed them all, and I’m slowly just releasing them as I edit them. I think there will be 20 or so in total. Because if you want to accelerate your aging, if you want to kill your performance. I know everyone know this, if you don’t sleep well—it’s cliché at this point to say this, but it’s unbelievably true, that this is an issue. And what I tried to do with those videos is really…I’m not just talking about basic sleep hygiene.
And I’m looking at some of the research and giving that information out from what you can do…First of all, all the bad things that can happen from psychologically, from stress, cognitively, excess cortisol. Excess, cortisol is bad for your hippocampus. Hippocampus is important for memory formation, and it’s basically toxic for your hippocampus. Hippocampi, there are two of them. And the glymphatic system, so this is when your brain cleans itself overnight.
So these sorts of things are super important. And I go over all the medications we take for sleep and how they have been shown to actually be a potential cause of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as you get older, like anti-cholinergic and these medications. I don’t name name brands, but things that are used for nausea, for allergies, and sleep medications, and things like amitriptyline and other things. And I go over these how these are serious problems. You’re taking them to help you sleep. It’s given you not real sleep. It’s given you sedation. Not sleep.
Ted Ryce: Sedation, not sleep, right?
Chris Friesen: Yeah, exactly. You feel like, “Oh, I feel like I slept.” And I go over everything from alcohol, marijuana, to magnesium to ashwagandha, to blue blocking glasses, to efflux or flux, to iris—I don’t think I mentioned Iris. It’s like flux, the computer program that blocks the blue light—to breathing, like I told you earlier, five seconds, in five seconds out. And the latest video that I’ve just released in now are cognitive over activation, where people can turn their mind off, and how do you deal with that.
And the number one thing, if you want to age and perform at your best, you need to basically prioritize your sleep. And one thing I mentioned is the use of melatonin, it’s sold over the counter, like it’s fucking candy. It’s a powerful hormone. And the doses that are sold in the stores like, 3 to 5 to 10 milligrams are 10 times more than the pineal gland actually produces. The pineal gland is actually at the base of the brain, below the brain.
And if you’re going to take melatonin, and I say this—and any supplement, I would never take the same supplement every single night, because of our physiology. Our physiology becomes adaptive. Just like you get addicted to nicotine and alcohol and weed, all these things, we’ve just got a different…You still develop tolerance, which is a form of that. And what happens is, you take melatonin…because the pineal gland is the organ in the body that calcifies—I call it turn into rock—the most in the body as we age.
And I show pictures of what happened. I show a 14 year old and I think a 40 year old or a 60 year old, something like this. And it’s like normal and all white because it’s calcified. And we don’t want to accelerate that process by taking supplemental melatonin.
Ted Ryce: I s that proven or is that something you’re just concerned about? Is there data on that?
Chris Friesen: Yes and no. So it’s not 100% proven yet. But I do know that every physiological system pretty much works that way. You take testosterone…
Ted Ryce: Like negative feedback loop.
Chris Friesen: Your balls start producing testosterone. And most bodybuilders or people who have done this, they know that potentially, if they take it long enough, they’ll have to take TRT for the rest of their life, Testosterone Replacement Therapy. So there are a couple articles that suggested that they didn’t think that that was going to happen with melatonin.
But all I can say is, do you want to take that risk? That’s what I say. I’m not against melatonin. I even say in the video, on Sunday nights, I’ll take 300 micrograms, so 10 times weaker than the three milligram pills— you can get these, they are hard to find—under my tongue and sometimes I have a slow release version that I would take that will…
Basically, you only should, in my opinion, use it for setting your circadian clock because of jetlag, or because of weekends, or just maybe once or twice a week. I don’t like the idea of taking this, a hormone that our brain and our body naturally produces. Your brain will start producing it, no doubt. Does it come back? I don’t think there’s a single study that shows that if you use melatonin, 5 to 10 milligrams, or whatever the people are taking these days, for two years, every single day, how long does it take for your pineal gland to work again?
But again, it calcifies. But I will say you cannot stop the calcification, as far as we know. So what we know is save the melatonin until you’re 60 years old, when your pineal gland is a fucking rock and you don’t have a choice, and you want to try and see normally. This is a thing. Young people are taking this as if it’s nothing. I could be wrong. Like, it’s perfectly fine. And the pineal gland bounces back, but…
Ted Ryce: Right now it’s a crapshoot. Right now it’s a roll of the dice. One thing I’ll say too, about this, as someone who’s maybe overused melatonin in terms of frequency. I take about 500 milligrams. I bite the pills in half, and get the one milligram and then bite it in half and take the 500 micrograms. But it’s like, why do you need something to sleep in the first place? And for me, what I figured out was, like, in this place that I’m in right now, I’m in Brazil, and also I had this experience in Portugal.
Actually, I’ll use the Portugal example. I flew to Portugal from Miami. No, I’m sorry, actually from San Antonio, so there was a seven hour difference time difference. Big time difference for your circadian rhythm to kind of get a hold of. But I crushed my jetlag quickly. I use caffeine. I did use melatonin. But the most important thing was that when I got to Portugal, the place I’m staying had the shutters that completely blocked out light.
Chris Friesen: Oh, nice.
Ted Ryce: And I was able to fall asleep. I forced myself to stay up and fall asleep at the time in Portugal. Slept like a baby. I had felt bad because I went 24 hours without sleep to get to that point. I couldn’t sleep on the plane. But I was able to bounce back quickly because of that. And then I went back to the states, then went back to Portugal again. And then I ended up at a place that didn’t have these blinds. In fact, the days right now are super long in Portugal, 14 hours. It gets light at six and then gets dark at 9. So 12, you know, you do the math. But it’s a long time.
Chris Friesen: 15 hours.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, 16 hours of light. And yeah, man, I got sick in two days from that. Of course, was I exposed to viruses? But I wasn’t exposed to something on the way the first time. Anyway, it completely.
Chris Friesen: Of course, you are. You’re always exposed. Your body’s always fighting those things.
Ted Ryce: Exactly. And the fastest way to catch something is to have some really shitty sleep. So now, I will not stay in I place without blackout blinds, and I sleep like a baby. Don’t need melatonin. Quiet, dark and cool. And I think people sometimes don’t… And certainly, if you’re struggling with sleep right now, you’ve got to check out Chris’s videos, if you’re at all interested in what he’s saying, and taking your asleep knowledge, I mean, Chris, your wealth of information.
I don’t know why…Well, I actually do know why you’re not as popular as Huberman. It’s called marketing. You know who that is, by the way?
Chris Friesen: I do, yeah.
Ted Ryce: Yeah.
Chris Friesen: He’s a smart guy, very detailed podcast. Of course, the difference is, he’s a neuroscience researcher. We do the same things to train. To become a neuropsychologist or a clinical psychologist, you still have to do the exact same PhD.
Ted Ryce: He just doesn’t work with people, is the problem.
Chris Friesen: That’s right. You just have to spend an extra two years, and in between all that instead of partying or whatever you would do, you have to see patients and learn and do all these clinical courses. Not to say that… he’s a very smart guy. He knows a lot.
Ted Ryce: He says a lot of wrong stuff.
Chris Friesen: I think what he says is mostly accurate. He knows a lot about neurotransmitters. The issues are like, for example, serotonin, there’s like at least 12 receptors and different things that serotonin does. There are people coming out with questionnaires, like are you serotonin dominant?
Ted Ryce: Sure, I saw the Braverman Test, and there’s a bunch of test like that.
Chris Friesen: Stuff like this. Yes, it’s mostly bullshit, first of all. I mean, if it helps you to think that way, sure, right? Dopamine makes you wanting to pursue potentially pleasurable things or rewarding things. And that’s generally true, but it’s not true that if you give someone medications like Wellbutrin, that increases dopamine that you will automatically…You will see in real people, that doesn’t happen that way. It’s way more complex. Not to say what he’s saying is not complex enough.
But I’m just saying generally, we are very complex. And this is why I like my book, Achieve, the book that was all about finding out your personality and your values and your goals, and really getting to know yourself, and the stuff on my videos. And my latest wave, like really conceptualizing things, is basically trying to understand yourself, at least on three levels, which is your physiology, your psychology, and your neurology.
And understand yourself on those three levels, and then hacking your system on those three levels, if you want to call it that. This is the key to success. So when I work with clients and patients, I work almost always on those three levels. A typical normal clinical psychologist will work on the psychological level, which is what you’re trained to do. But this is why we do things like Neurofeedback. Supplements can change your neurology, right?
Your sleep; you need to attack your sleep problems, besides the three major causes, like I said, circadian rhythm, disruption, which most people have, by the way. People think it’s jetlag, it’s actually you’re not going to bed and waking up at the same time every night if you’re getting exposed to blue light and light at night and not getting exposed to bright light in the morning, preferably sunlight or a light box, your circadian rhythm is disrupted.
Physiological activation, which is like eating close the bed, exercising close the bed, or getting angry too close to bed, doing work email and feeling physiologically activated, watching scary movie too close to bed, all these things cause physiological activation, caffeine too late in the day, all these things cause cognitive over activation, which again, is you can’t stop thinking. And usually, it’s a combination of those.
This is not including clinical disorders like sleep apnea. But then looking at it again, from the psychological side, like what are the psychological strategies to deal with this? What are the neurological strategies, and what are the physiological ones? So for example, the breathing five seconds in, five seconds out, like I said, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which puts the brake on that physiological over activation.
This is why I do this every night for about 30 to 60 minutes as I’m on watching YouTube, or doing emails around 9 o’clock till 10 o’clock, I have Kardia Deep Breathing, the app, on. Kardia with a K. And I’m doing that because it’s been shown to do all these great things, like I’ve said, and so it also calms me down for sleep. So sleep is actually quite complicated, and you have to understand, not just sleep, but this is peak performance, your physiology, your psychology and your neurology, if you want to perform at your best.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, well, Chris, that was a clinic on understanding high performance and really the blocks, specifically the blocks to high performance. And a lot of us think its one thing, but it’s actually more of what you talked about today. I would love to have you back on sooner rather than later to maybe talk about like, how do we boost cognition? What are the things you know, certainly sleep and someone can go to your YouTube channel and watch those things, but maybe dig into how to boost our cognitive function, especially as we’re getting older. Like you mentioned, there’s going to be some natural decline as there is in our musculoskeletal system.
So listen, if you are blown away by Chris, which, I mean, come on, I like Huberman, but the guy says a lot of incorrect things. I can’t speak with regards to what you mentioned, Chris, but with some of the sauna stuff, there’s a lot of confounding variables there. But I know you and I know that you’re super on point with what you will say. And so if you’re looking for someone, kind of like Andrew, but it’s a little bit more on the clinical side, has worked with a lot of people and also understand all those things that you hear about on Huberman’s podcast, go check out Chris I’ve known him for years, in case this is your first time knowing him.
And you can go to www.drchrisfriesen.com, and that’s www.drchrisfriesen.com. And you can find him also on YouTube. And the links for both of those will be on the show notes for this episode. Chris, man, thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure catching up, and I’m serious, we’ve got to do this sooner rather than later, maybe even have you in…. Yeah, we’ve got to talk about that.
Chris Friesen: Sure.
Ted Ryce: It’s been a pleasure. Can’t wait to do it again.
Chris Friesen: Me too.
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