How To Calm Your Mind (And Stop Freaking Out)

The last thing you remember is getting in the car. Then, all of a sudden, you’re parked in front of your office. Either you magically teleported with your vehicle, or you were daydreaming.


What happened? Your habitual memory kept you on auto-pilot, allowing your brain to shift into Theta, one of four brainwave states (Alpha, Beta, Theta, and Delta). Since Delta is a deep sleep state, we’ll focus on the first three today. Theta is a trance-like state that can occur in meditation or yoga. While it’s unfocused (and therefore not the safest state for driving), this restorative, relaxed state is often where people find ideas flowing.

Unfortunately, you can’t spend the entire day zoned out. You have to go to work. Now you’re in the office, talking to Andrew from accounting while debating the perils of getting a skim vanilla latte, and running over the notes for your pitch to that all-important investor.

Hello, Beta brain.

Beta is the Martha Stewart of brainwaves. We spend most of our lives in this organizational, multi-tasking state. There are three levels of Beta, and while first two have you conquering the world, Beta3 is where you can get in trouble (again, much like Martha Stewart) since it includes anxiety, excitement, fear, and other strong, reactionary emotions.

It’s also the state responsible for blanking out.  This is why many actors, TV hosts, and public speakers are known to take beta blockers like propranolol for stage fright.


During Beta3, the cerebral cortex, where memory is stored, gets “blocked,” so anxiety increases. Beta3 is not an efficient way to run the brain, as you’re unable to process new information, much less retrieve information- like your pitch. It also requires a tremendous amount of energy.

In other words, now you’re freaking out because you can’t remember anything and you’re exhausting yourself doing it.

So how do we get out of Beta?

Downshifting is a way to “unblock” so your brain can transfer the information you need. Any process that changes your perception will change your brainwaves, so while you could pop a Xanax or down a beer, I’m going to suggest a slightly more holistic approach. Sit down and do 30 seconds of deep breathing. Take a couple of breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, at least six seconds each way.

Welcome to Alpha. Not only is it the best state for giving a pitch, but it's also the best state for learning. This is you when you’re awake, relaxed, focused, and present, when your chi is in line with your chakras and your quinoa.

Boom, pitch perfect. So, next time you’re stressing out, shift out.

Beta is for boardroom, not bedroom. Shift before bed.
Alpha is the best state for learning.
Theta, while restorative, is also unfocused.
Downshifting helps you switch from Beta to Alpha.

Other Sources:, Entrepreneur Brain: Hacks and Hijacks
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving And Thriving at Home, Work, and School. John Medina, 2014.

Questions? Comments? Email me: