Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How do we sabotage ourselves basing on the circadian rhythm


There are morning people that work best in the early hours of the morning, and there are night owls, which operate at full capacity during the night. This difference is mainly due to the circadian rhythm, a natural cycle that follows the body and is repeated every 24 hours.

In fact, we work harder and better when we are attentive, with a clear mind and metabolism running at full capacity. On the contrary, we will be slower and commit more errors when the circadian rhythm is low.

Most people know these productivity cycles, albeit intuitively, and know what is the time of the day when they are most productive. In fact, it is likely that you've organized your agenda based on these fluctuations in productivity, trying to make the most of your circadian rhythm.

If you are one of those people who wake up full of energy, perhaps you've planned an early morning space to perform more complex tasks, those requiring the most from the cognitive point of view. If you are among those people who work best at night, maybe you postpone these activities at the end of the day.

It's all a matter of common sense

However, since psychology is not an exact science, the "perfect" organization based on the circadian rhythm might play you a dirty trick. For example, what if you are a morning person and you get up early to dedicate yourself to that important project but instead of it you lose valuable time on social networks?

It may seem far-fetched, but according to psychologists at the University of Indiana, we do it all the time: we are experts in using our circadian rhythm for self-sabotage.

The performance anxiety causes we self-sabotage ourselves

While analyzing the circadian rhythm of people and their work habits, these psychologists discovered something unexpected: we’re more likely to self-sabotage ourselves during the hours in which our mind is more active and fresh.

The self-sabotage includes all those activities that we practice, more or less consciously, and through which we reduce the chances of success in a particular activity. For example, if we have to go to an important job interview, but that we do not really care much we do everything to arrive late, in order to reduce our chances of getting the job.

In fact, the self-sabotage is a twisted ego mechanism by which we invent excuses that allow us to avoid those things that frighten us or we do not like, but we are willing to acknowledge. In this way, we can say that we did not succeed for another reason, and our self-esteem comes out unscathed.

According to the experiment conducted by these researchers involving 237 volunteers, we have a tendency to design the self-sabotage during the early hours of the morning, if we are early risers, or at the end of the day if we are night owls.

Why we do that?

These psychologists say that for many people the performance anxiety they feel in these hours, during which they are supposed to be more productive, is too strong, and leads them to sabotate the moments of increased productivity, allowing them to relieve stress and pressure. Later, if they make mistakes or do not advance fast enough, they can simply justify it by saying that are not the most productive hours.

How not to waste those hours?

Throughout the day, there are usually two or three hours in which we reach a peak of productivity, it is a period of time in which our brain is fresh and we are able to think quickly and clearly. At the same time, our metabolism works faster and we feel full of energy, ready to conquer the world.

If you have already identified those hours in your day, make sure you do not waste them with a self-sabotage. Free yourself from the pressure generated by the performance anxiety, just enjoy what you are doing and do it the best you can.

Also, now that you know this mechanism, you can detect it in time and use various resources, such as blocking the social networks during these hours, for example, to avoid be tempted to go in and lose precious time.

Eyink, J. et. Al. (2016) Circadian variations in claimed self-handicapping: Exploring the strategic use of stress as an excuse. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.


Keep feeding your neurons

How do we sabotage ourselves basing on the circadian rhythm
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Jennifer Delgado Suárez

Psicologist by profession and passion, dedicated to to string words together. Discover my Books


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