Is Your Brain Working Against You?

How to Train Your Brain to Handle Challenges & Pressures of Executive Protection Work

Our brain is constantly processing information. From making our coffee in the morning to dreaming while we sleep, our neurons are always working to figure out what to do with the information they’re receiving. Every scenario is carefully calculated within our brains which then tells us how to respond to certain stimuli. In the field of Close Protection, it’s crucial that we train our brains to respond to stimuli in a quick and calculated way so that we are able to execute our responsibilities and keep people safe.

Everyone has a story about the time that they responded to a stimuli the wrong way. When we are presented with a stressful situation – one in which our brains are not familiar with – we go into “fight-or-flight” mode. This response has developed in mammals over millions of years as a way to protect themselves from impending danger. The long and short of is that we either stay and fight in through a dangerous situation or we run away.

Now, as we’ve developed into more a more civilized society, the term “fight” doesn’t necessarily mean putting up your dukes and getting ready for combat. Often times, it means facing the problem ahead of you in whatever way you can. But unfortunately, our brain doesn’t always make the correct decision when in “fight mode” which might cause you to do something that you wouldn’t normally do under less stressful circumstances.

In the field of executive protection, these incorrect decisions can mean the difference between staying gainfully employed or not. When the stakes are so high, mistakes cannot be tolerated. Making the wrong move in a stressful situation can result in dire circumstances like someone getting hurt or cost you your reputation or even your entire career. That’s why it’s crucial to be able to maintain emotional balance and strengthen your synapsis so that your brain can learn to process information faster.

Working memoryThere are three types of memory: long-term, short-term, and working memory. Your working memory is a system in the brain that is made up of many components and it allows you to process what you see efficiently in order to make complex decisions based on the stimuli. Essentially, our working memory helps us to filter and manage information.

There are three sub-parts to working memory: verbal, visual-spatial, and central executive. Respectively, they help to manage what we hear and say, visualize, and do. The central executive working memory essentially works as the control centre of our mind and is responsible for the manipulation, processing, and recall of information that is necessary for paying attention, solving problems, and making decisions.

Working memory is our ability to process and execute both everyday (walking, talking, eating) and highly skilled tasks. There is some connection to working memory and long-term memory in the way that working memory helps us to recall and perform functions that we may have learned 20-30 years ago. At the same time, however, our working memory is always learning new information that helps us to never stop improving.

In the field of Executive Protection, your working memory must be strong and agile. We are all born with a certain level of cognitive functioning that improves as we learn and grow. That growth doesn’t necessarily have to stop when you’re an adult. Luckily, there are steps that you can take to improve your cognitive functioning, working memory, and the way you filter and manage information.

Let’s break down the idea of cognitive thinking into 9 different categories. This will enable us to develop a better understanding of limitations in enhancing cognitive skills. Through this, we can better understand how two different individuals, under the same training regime, may get completely different results based on how their brain processes information. This is because of certain unavoidable factors like age, genetics, personality differences, and life experiences shape and mould the cognitive skills we each possess.

These various cognitive skills are categorised as follows:

Sustained attention The ability to stay focused on a certain task for a sustained period of time. The limitation faced in this can be old age and personality problems.

Divided attention The ability to remember certain data or information while focusing on a different task. Some may feel uneasy in performing two different tasks simultaneously. This can be due to personality disorder and age.

Selective attention The capacity to be able to focus on a task despite distractions. Limitations on this skill are old age and personality disorders.

Reasoning and logic The ability to problem solve and form ideas. Limitations can be genetic and old age.

Long term memory Allows you to recall information stored in the past. The limitation is age and genetics.

Working memory The ability to hang on to information while using it. It is affected by old age and genetics.

Visual processing Enables you to think in the form of images. Inability to engage in this function can be attributed to lack of creativity and genetics.

Auditory processing Allows you to analyse, segment, and blend sounds. With old age and genetics, this can be limited to various degrees.

Processing speed Enables you to perform different tasks more efficiently and quickly. Ability declines with age and psychological disorders.

6 Techniques for Improving Working MemoryIf we have a healthy brain and attention span, there is nearly no limit to what we can learn. This means that if we put in the time and work that it takes to train our brain and improve working memory, there is no limit to our cognitive functioning.

In fact, studies show that working memory training can significantly improve the control that we have on our attention span and help us to be less distracted. Ignoring distractions is crucial in the field of close protection because we always have to be agile and prepared for anything. In addition, working memory training positively effects the way we filter and manage information which may help to control emotion and anxiety so that we maintain balance and calm no matter the real-world scenario we might find ourself in.

So what can do you do improve your brain functioning to perform optimally on your job as a CP? First, we have to recognize that the brain is a muscle. And just like any other muscle in your body, you can engage your brain in activities that strengthen and improve its cognitive skills. Some activities that help in strengthening brain functionality and resultantly increase cognitive function are:

  1. Exercise, both physically and mentally: You can improve your working memory by partaking in both physical and mental exercise. Physical exercise, like jogging, going to the gym, or any other physically exerting activity, has been shown to improve concentration, memory, problem solving, and attention to detail. Meanwhile, mental exercise, maybe even more powerful to really challenge your brain and help it to become stronger.

  2. Mindful meditation: A pilot study in 2013 in Harvard’s Beth Israel Medical Centre identified the positive effect of meditation on brain function and how it enhances cognitive thinking.

  3. Brain-training games: Scientists are developing a better understanding today that the individuals engaging in brain training games like Sudoku and chess show improved cognitive thinking compared to those who do not participate in such activities.

  4. Working with puzzles:  Solving puzzles and engaging in mentally challenging activities can boost the cognitive thinking of the brain and speed up its processing ability.

  5. Push your limits by taking an activity to new levels

  • Be complex – complexity forces your brain to function at a higher level. Even driving new routes without relying on GPS can sharpen your brain memory zones.

  • That is something that takes practice – just like your muscles develop “muscle memory” your brain can too. The more you practice something, the better your brain will be at automatically responding to the task. The trick, however, is to change it up before it becomes too old and too automatic.

  1. Social connections: Researchers concluded that the feeling of isolation can disrupt sleep, increase stress levels, increase blood pressure as well as depression. In a pandemic environment, it will even more important to surround yourself with social connections as these factors contribute optimal brain functionality and help to curb cognitive decline.

In the field of executive protection, our cognitive functioning levels and emotional balance must always be working efficiently. Every decision that you make when you’re protecting someone must be the best possible decision for the situation, otherwise the consequences may be dire. Putting these techniques and practices to use to improve your working memory gives you the power to better filter and manage information which is crucial in keeping others safe.

Is Your Brain Working Against You? How to Train Your Brain to Handle Challenges & Pressures of Executive Protection Work

By Luis Goncalves

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