Getting Your Brain Out of Lockdown

Lockdown is an evocative word. It brings to mind the sound of cell doors clanging shut, eliciting thoughts of unwanted confinement. Lockdown conditions do occur in prisons to keep people from getting out. Schools are locked down to keep violent strangers from entering. But lockdown can also happen in the mind.

It’s called Leadership Lockdown Syndrome (LLS) and it could happen to anyone. During LLS events, the brain sees new information as a threat. In order to protect itself, the brain locks itself down, refusing to process incoming data efficiently or correctly. Think of a malfunctioning robot in an old science fiction film. The brain simply does not compute.

LLS operates as a vicious cycle. It begins with poor sleep. A lack of rest prevents one from dealing with high stress levels correctly. Conversely, high stress can keep one from getting a good night’s sleep. The combination of these things hinders positive affect, diminishing the way one experiences positive moods and feelings. This lack of good feelings increases the stress level, making it even more difficult to obtain restful sleep.

Bad sleep affects the brain’s chemistry, specifically in the area of self-regulation. It can short circuit the emotions, making a person irritable. Incessant high stress impairs judgement and memory, reducing your effectiveness in a leadership capacity.

If these symptoms sound familiar, utilize the following tips to break the cycle.

  • Get decent sleep — Try a natural supplement like melatonin or tryptophan to relax your mind and body.
  • Reorganize — Offload information from your brain into a different system, like a spreadsheet or planner.  
  • Be patient with yourself — Allow yourself time to process new information. Set realistic deadline expectations with others.

Don’t let yourself get locked down! By following some basic self-care guidelines, you can avoid LLS and keep being an amazing leader.


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