[00:00:06.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success with your host, Matt Bodnar.
[00:00:12.4] MB: Welcome to The Science of Success. I’m your host, Matt Bodnar. I’m an entrepreneur and investor in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m obsessed with the mindset of success and the psychology of performance. I’ve read hundreds of books, conducted countless hours of research and study, and I am going to take you on a journey into the human mind and what makes peak performers tick with the focus on always having our discussion rooted in psychological research and scientific fact, not opinion.
In this episode, we discuss how you can tap into your subconscious mind and reprogram it, the eight-step process for overcoming anxiety and conquering your fears, how to stop a panic attack in real time, how to get deeper sleep, the power of hypnosis, and much more with Justin Stenstrom.
The Science of Success continues to grow, with more than 750,000 downloads, listeners in over a hundred countries, hitting number one New & Noteworthy, and more. I get listener comments and emails all the time asking me, “Matt, how do you organize and remember all this incredible information?” A lot of our listeners are curious about how I keep track of all the incredible knowledge I get from reading hundreds of books, interviewing amazing experts, listening to awesome podcasts, and more.
Because of that, we created an epic resource just for you. A detailed guide called How to Organize and Remember Everything. You can get it completely free by texting the world “smarter” to the number 44222. Again, it’s a guide we created called How to Organize and Remember Everything. All you have to do to get it is to text the word “smarter” to the number 44222, or go to scienceofsuccess.co and put in your email.
In our previous episode, we discussed pride and why it may not be the deadly sin that it’s often cracked up to be, we dug into how research defines pride, examined the critical distinction between self-esteem and narcissism, the deep importance of being able to accept criticism, and looked at the difference between strategies of dominance and strategies of prestige with Dr. Jessica Tracy. If you want to explore this deadly sin, listen to that episode.
[0:2:17.8] MB: Today, we have another exciting guest on the show, Justin Stenstrom. Justin is a nationally acclaimed life coach, author, entrepreneur, and speaker. He’s the founder of elitemanmagazine.com, the host of the Elite Man podcast. At Elite Man, Justin focuses on helping men become better, more fulfilled versions of themselves in every aspect of their lives, from dating, to relationships, to finding success in business. Justin’s work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Lifehacker, Maxim, and many other publications. Justin, welcome to the Science of Success.
[0:02:48.1] JS: Matt, thanks so much for having me on. I’m excited.
[0:02:49.6] MB: Well, we’re very excited to have you on. For listeners who may not be familiar with you and kind of know about you, tell us a little bit about your background?
[0:02:56.7] JS: Yeah, you kind of gave the bullet point run-down sort of what I do. I help guys out on the site, Elite Man Magazine, I help them from pretty much everything under the sun, whether that’s dating, relationship advice, business advice, health, fitness, even fashion. We bring on like fashion experts and stuff to talk about men’s style.
Pretty much any manly sort of issue or topic that comes up, we try to give the best advice to guys and just kind of steer them in the right direction. This all happened for me, I mean, this is kind of my backbone of what I love doing. I’ve been in love with self-help and sort of this whole self-help world for the past 10 years, and it started with my journey of overcoming major depression, anxiety, and panic attack issues.
It took me a couple of years to get over that, but once I figured that out, the sky was the limit. I started really tackling all sorts of problems in my life, whether that was social skills, building relationships, connecting with and meeting and dating women, and different things like that, and I really started to kind of get good at those things.
From there, I began helping other people, other guys in particular, who were going through the same problems. Shortly after that, I had my first blog, and then the Elite Man Magazine concept came right after that.
[0:04:14.6] MB: Tell me a little bit about Elite Man. What is it about, and what kind of drove you to creative?
[0:04:21.4] JS: The inspiration to create it really just came from my own personal struggles, as I mentioned. Having those sort of deep-seated problems with anxiety, and getting three to four panic attacks a week, and depressed to the point where I was like suicidal. I had suicidal thoughts constantly. It came from actually a lot of pain and hardship in my life that had built up for a number of years.
Also, the point in my life, this is back when I was about 17, 18 years old. Where a lot of the time, people of that age, teenagers are having fun. They’re going out, they’re hanging out with their friends, they’re going to parties, they’re going to homecoming dances and all that stuff, and I was sitting at home every single day like going crazy because I had nothing to do, and I was totally depressed because I had literally no one to talk to.
It came with problems with my dating life, which was a huge thing. I didn’t even kiss a girl until I was like 18 years old. I didn’t hook up with a girl till like, after high school, and you know, all these problems that I had in my life, as much as it sucked at the time, as horrible as it was to live through all these experiences at the time, looking back now, it was actually a blessing in disguise. Because it was like sort of the lynch pin to putting me on this journey.
Basically, a wakeup call to say, “You know, Justin, you’ve got to figure things out, and really fix your life, and fix these problems,” and from that point forward, I’ve never looked back and just wanted to keep growing and bettering myself, and then, obviously, helping others do the same.
[0:05:48.3] MB: I think that’s a struggle that many of our listeners have dealt with, and I’ve definitely dealt with anxiety in my own life. I’d love to hear a little bit more about your struggle and how you ultimately overcame the depression and anxiety to become somebody who is healthy, and happy, and well-functioning in society.
[0:06:08.3] JS: Yeah, absolutely man. I typically have about eight steps. Sometimes I cover a little more, a little less, but eight steps that I use to conquer my fears and anxiety. If you want, I can kind of run through them quickly, and if you want to maybe touch on a couple of specific ones, we can sort of delve into them a little more in depth. Does that sound good, man?
[0:06:28.0] MB: Yeah, that sounds perfect.
[0:06:29.9] JS: Okay cool. I’ll just kind of run right through them. The first step is realize that you’re not going crazy and that there’s a lot of solutions. Not just one, but potentially millions, thousands, whatever. There’s so many different solutions out there to your problems. This can be specific for something like anxiety or fears, or anything else in general. A lot of the time, people underestimate the fact that there’s so many solutions out there, and a lot of the time they don’t realize that there actually is so many ways to figuring out what’s happening to them.
That’s step number one, is realize that you’re not going crazy, and we’re talking specifically with the anxiety here, or your fears or panic attacks, whichever. They’re kind of interchangeable. Realize you’re not going crazy, and that there is many solutions out there. That’s step number one.
Number two is, do a combination, or even just one, of these three things. The three things are meditation, yoga, and hypnosis. In particular, I like to use hypnosis as — I mean, meditation and yoga, the research on that is incredible. You can look up so many different research papers and studies on the efficacy of this things, but in particular, I like hypnosis. That’s what I use to help me overcome my panic attacks of getting them three to four times — it’s one of the biggest things I used, was self-hypnosis, actually.
Step number three is living in the present moment. I’m a big Eckhart Tolle fan. A lot of the time, people who have anxiety, who will get panic attacks, they often project themselves into the future. They worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the next week, or a couple of years from now. This builds up a lot of anxiety and stress in their minds.
Also, on the contrary, living in the past worrying about or regretting things, I should say, that you’ve done or maybe missed out on, or things that you think you should have done or should have had, that leads to a lot of depression. Living in what’s happening right now is the solution to both. You just live with what’s in front of you, what’s going on right now. It keeps you constantly aware of what’s happening and not falling into that trap of going too far in the future or thinking about the past.
Number four is kind of an obvious one, but it’s exercising. Four to five times a week is typically the standard I recommend to a lot of clients I have, and people who want to just kind of have an overall better feeling. Exercise, the research on that obviously is incredible, too. The IO chemical changes in your body, and the neurotransmitters, and the hormones, and all that stuff just get the way they’re supposed to be when you exercise frequently.
As human beings, our ancestors, for hundreds of thousands of years were constantly moving around, working throughout the day, maybe they weren’t picking up dumbbells and curling them, but they were constantly active. In our 2016, 2017 lives today, Matt, we’re so opposite of this. We’re so sedentary, sitting around, I even fall into this trap sometimes. I got to remind myself, we’re so sedentary, not doing enough to physically move around. That’s number four.
Number five is improving your sleep. Most people do best between seven to nine hours of sleep. Unfortunately, most people get nowhere near that amount on average throughout the week. It’s really important to improve your sleep. Again, this will help you with your hormone levels, your melatonin, your serotonin, some of the other neurotransmitters that can often lead to problems with anxiety. That’s number five.
Number six is improving your diet. Getting the good fats, good proteins, good carbs into your system. In particular, fats like fish oil. The studies on fish oil for depression, anxiety, I mean, that’s a game changer in and of itself, but improving your carb intake, and lowering things like starchy carbs, like your bagels, your rice, your pasta, etcetera, and then of course like good proteins, lean protein, lean steak, chicken, eggs, etcetera.
Step number seven is taking supplements when necessary. Magnesium, B complex, vitamin D, valerian root, niacin, which is one of the specific forms of B complex, these are all proven to dramatically improve your stress levels. Actually, even taking one of these, like a magnesium supplement, can by itself help you overcome anxiety problems, and I mean, that’s really powerful and also very safe. These are all really safe alternatives to say, antidepressant medication, or anti-anxiety medications.
The eighth step, and this is one of the most important steps as well, is a little technique, a three-step technique I borrowed from a book called Panic Away by a guy named, he has a pseudo name. His name was Joe Barry, but I think he goes by the name of Barry McDonagh or something like that.
It’s just like this little 30-page e-book I read about 10 years ago, and the quick little three-step process is for anyone who is getting a panic attack, you typically want to run away from it. You want to hide from it, suppress it, or ignore it. In this process, this technique, step number one, you do nothing at all. You don’t react at all. You just kind of sit back and observe what’s happening. You sit back and observe the fear, the panic symptoms you’re having. Just kind of take it all in and don’t react.
Step number two is actually welcoming the panic in. You welcome the fear in that you’re having, you have this dialogue in your head, you literally say like, “Welcome back fear,” or “Welcome back panic,” or “Welcome back tightness in my chest,” or sweaty palms, typically the sensations you’re getting when you’re having a panic attack. You start welcoming all these things back.
The third step is, you call for more of it. You literally say in your head, “Give me more of this panic. Give me more of this fear. Give me more of these panic attacks, this tightness in my chest, this shortness of breath, the sweaty palms, the shaky legs,” whatever the sensations or feelings that you’re having, you literally ask for more of it.
This is such an empowering, yet counterintuitive approach to handling a panic attack or anxiety. What happens within a few minutes, Matt, is that the panic literally just dissipates. It completely goes away within a few moments, because what you’re doing is you’re pretty much exposing the panic, sort of the irrational fears that you’re having, for what it is. And that’s what it is, it’s just totally an irrational concoction in your mind of something that you’re projecting to happen in the future.
You’re basically putting up to the light, and what happens when you put it up to the light? It goes away and it reveals itself really as nothing, FDR himself said it best, “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself,” and using this technique is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done.
Those are the eight steps kind of in a nutshell, but if you want to kind of dive in to any one of them, let me know many.
[0:12:54.4] MB: Yeah, no, I’d love to dial in to a number of these, actually. There’s so many different things I want to touch on, so we’ll just start kind of at the beginning. I’d love to hear more about hypnosis. I really haven’t heard much about that as sort of an intervention for anxiety. I’m really curious to learn about how that’s been effective for you. Also, specifically, I’d love to dig in to self-hypnosis and kind of what that is, and maybe how to practice it.
[0:13:20.1] JS: Love it man. Hypnosis is actually one of my favorite things to talk about, so I’m glad you brought that one up. I like to use this analogy, I’ll talk about hypnosis, but I want to quickly give an analogy of how it can work and why it’s effective.
Say you have this child, six, seven, eight years old or whatever. He’s going to school, he’s getting bullied, he’s getting called all kinds of mean names. He’s getting called fat, ugly, a loser, etcetera. All these just nasty things, and he’s getting picked on and bullied all the time. His environment is obviously a very negative environment. His stimulus to his brain, to his mind is very negative. All the inputs that are coming in to his brain are negative. What’s going to happen at this point?
He’s going to have negative outputs. He’s going to have a low self-esteem. He’s going to think poorly about himself, he’s going to think he’s a loser, he’s going to probably develop some sort of anxiety problem, depression problem. Obviously, the best thing would be to take this child and remove him from that negative environment and place him into a different environment.
Sometimes that doesn’t help, sometimes it helps, but other times it’s not enough, and what’s happening when he’s getting all these stimuli from his environment is it’s going directly to a subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is the part of your mind — it’s actually the most powerful part of your mind. You have your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is the most powerful part of your mind, and it controls your feelings, it controls your emotions, it controls your bodily rhythms like your heartbeat, your blood pressure, things that you can’t consciously control, that’s what your subconscious mind controls.
This child’s subconscious mind has all this negative input, as I mentioned. His output is then going to be negative as well. Like I said, he’s going to have anxiety, low self-esteem, low confidence, etcetera, and you can’t consciously control this. You can’t just say, “Johnny, eight-year old Johnny,” who is getting bullied, just snap your fingers and you know, say, “you’re going to be happy,” and you’re going to be happy all of the sudden. Or snap your fingers and you’re not going to be anxious anymore and you’re going to lose all your fears.
You can’t just consciously do that, but what you can do is use something, a technique like hypnosis or something similar to it where you can then tap in to that subconscious mind and actually reprogram it. It’s very effective for things like reprogramming your feelings, and your emotions, and you do this by getting into a very super relaxed state of mind where you’re very calm, very peaceful, and completely without worry and without stress.
For me, I was listening to a hypnosis CD by a guy — there’s so many out there, but the guy I listen to in particular was a guy named Dr. Andrew Dobson, and he had CD’s and they’re only like 25, 30 minutes usually, but I was listening to a CD, and it takes you through this sort of hypnotic induction where you’re getting into a super relaxed state of mind.
Then he takes you into trance, what they call it in the hypnosis world, where you’re just like, it’s almost like a state in between consciousness and in between sleep. If you’re fully conscious, it’s not working. If you’re sleeping, it’s not working. It’s in that in between state where you’re kind of aware of what’s happening, but you’re not really thinking about it.
You get into this state of mind, this hypnotic state of mind, and all of the sudden for the next 20, 25 minutes, the hypnotist on the CD, or whether it’s in person, too, because you could do that, is feeding you positive affirmations. These positive affirmations, like I said, aren’t just like you consciously saying like, “I want to be happy.”
It’s hitting the part of your brain, that subconscious part of your brain, of your mind, that you can’t control. It’s working, because it’s sort of reprogramming and reconditioning your mind to feel good again. It’s going to say things like, “You’re grateful for everything you have. You’re happy, you’re healthy, you have a great family,” or “You release all your problems with worry and stress,” and the anxiety that creeps up now slowly sort of drifts away from your body and your mind.
It doesn’t work right away, but over a certain period of time. Like a couple of weeks, usually about three or four weeks for it to really kick in, and these changes over time are going to be really effective. Something like hypnosis, like I said, is great for problems like anxiety, depression, it works wonders for people who want to quit smoking, lose weight, have better eating habits, all sorts of things like that. It’s very effective for them. For me, it was really effective for ending my panic attacks and also decreasing my overall stress and anxiety.
[0:17:42.7] MB: In that kind of three to four week period where you’re listening to a hypnosis CD, what’s the frequency that you’re doing that? Is it daily, is it twice a week, how often are you doing it?
[0:17:54.7] JS: Yeah, I was doing it daily, and I recommend anyone who is looking to try it, do it daily as well. They say two to three times a week you can kind of get away with, but I really suggest doing it daily. It worked for me, works for a lot of my clients who I recommend it to. Like I said, it’s really only like a 20, 25, maybe 30-minute commitment, and I think first thing in the morning. You just get up, add that to your daily routine first thing in the morning. It’s like 30 minutes, boom, and then you’re done with it. Do it every single day. You’re going to see some serious changes after about three, four weeks.
[0:18:23.6] MB: That’s really fascinating, and it reminds me a little bit of some of the ways that you can kind of reprogram limiting beliefs in your subconscious, kind of speaking and tapping directly into the subconscious and sending it communications that sort of bypass the conscious mind. That’s something that’s really fascinating, and I’m very happy that you brought it up, because like I said, I really haven’t heard much about it at all in this context, and it’s something that I think is really fascinating.
Going down the list, I’d love to dig in to sleep. Tell me about — we’ve talked a little bit in the past about on the show about blue blocking glasses, and the importance of things like that, but I’d love to hear your prescription for how to create more effective sleep. How to sleep better and how listeners can sort of practically implement some ideas to get better sleep?
[0:19:09.3] JS: Yeah, actually I recently got those blue blocking glasses. Not the Swannie’s or whatever. I had James Swanwick on my show recently as well. I didn’t buy the Swannie’s, but the other kind of cheaper one on Amazon. I kind of hate to throw James the bus because he has a great product, but the other ones I got for like, 15 bucks, and I think they’re pretty cool. I think those work really well because the science behind that, the blocking blue light thing is really cool. Like the blue light keeps you up, keeps you like more alert. If you can take that out, and a lot of us kind of do a lot of work and stuff as the night goes on, and I think if you can take that blue light out, it does sort of relax your mind. That’s one of the ways to do it. Removing artificial light as much as possible before sleep.
A couple of things that I recommend though, one is, make sure you do nothing on your bed other than having sex and going to sleep. It’s really kind of an important one, but it’s also a tough one to do, because a lot of people want to sort of do work on their bed, or they want to sit up and watch TV for hours on their bed. They want to play games, or they want to be on their cell phone.
Those are things that you sort of get into this condition, and you condition your brain and your mind and all sorts of things you do. That’s kind of just how we are as human beings. We’re always conditioning, retraining, reprograming ourselves, but you want to program your brain to have sort of the healthy, daily routine of doing something that’s going to benefit you, and to do this, you really have to cut out all the junk. You have to cut it all the other stuff you're doing.
When you go to bed, train your mind, sort of like an NLP technique like anchoring. Anchoring yourself when you go into bed to know that it’s either sex, and then you’re rolling over and going to sleep, or it’s literally, you’re just laying down and you’re going to sleep and that’s it. It’s really important to do that, because when you start to do all these other things, you're conditioning, your training, you’re anchoring your mind to not want to be asleep, or maybe to be alert when you got to bed, even, which is pretty much the worst thing you can do. That’s really like step number one for that.
The other thing is, as I mentioned too, cellphone usage and TV usage prior to bed is one of the worst things you can do. Whether that’s blue light, or whether that’s honestly just looking at things that may excite you, or entice you, or get your mind thinking, those are things that you really don’t want to do. Even reading a book. I mean, from time to time I read a book, and I think it’s actually kind of good, because it will put me to sleep if it’s like a fiction book. But if it’s something like self-help or like deep work, or like something really thought provoking, I won’t read it, because it’s going to sort of put the wheels in gear in my brain, and it’s going to get me excited. It’s going to keep me up a lot longer than I want to be.
I make sure, in particular, I cut out all cell phone usage, cut out TV usage, those are the things that are going to stimulate my brain, stimulate my mind, and get the wheels turning in my head. I make sure I cut that out about an hour and a half, two hours before I go to bed, and I set my alarm way in advance so I don’t have to worry about going back and resetting it, or looking through my phone, I pop it up, and all of the sudden I have a couple of emails on there I have to read, or a couple of texts.
The other big thing, too, is making sure your phone is on silent, and actually I recommend putting it away from your bed, so when you have that alarm and it goes off, you actually have to physically get out of bed. Which is another thing, is hitting that snooze button, and hitting it like 10 times, where you’re kind of delaying your sleep, but you’re not really sleeping good, but you're kind of just delaying it, and it’s kind of like messing it up. You get into that habit of thinking like, I slept 30 minutes longer, but it really wasn’t 30 minutes.Iit was like 30 crappy minutes that really didn’t do much for you, and only made you tired and, you know, drowsy, kind of dragging when you got up.
Putting the phone on silent, make sure you do that, I mean, that’s a big one. Kind of an obvious one, but if you’re having your phone vibrate or make sounds in the middle of the night, that’s obviously going to disturb your sleep. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t do that, but putting it on silent, putting it away from the bed, making sure you stay away from it for an hour and a half, two hours before you go to bed.
Another thing I like to do is I have blackout curtains in my room, I’m kind of a night owl, which means I stay up a little later than I should, but I do kind of make it up and I get up a little later too during the day. I’m not an early bird, I never have been, I probably never will be, as much as I want to be. I have these blackout curtains that turn my room dark, and that’s the best way we sleep is having that room as dark as possible. So I have that, I recommend that, too, for anyone who has a third shift, or someone like me who maybe stays up a little later, like one, two in the morning.
The other thing is making sure the temperature’s right. 69, 70 degrees is like perfect temperature for sleep. It’s not too hot where you’re going to be rolling around, sweating, it’s not too cold where you’re going to be shivering. 69 is probably like the ideal temp to shoot for, and then the other thing is, if you live in a noisy apartment complex or you have potentially noisy neighbors, or maybe the outside, you live next to a highway or a busy street, you want to maybe think about getting something like a white noise machine.
This is basically like a sound conditioning machine, that trains you to just hearing this sort of fan-like sound in the background and getting used to that. It takes a couple of nights, like two, three nights to get used to, but once you get used to that, all outside sounds seems to like go away. I’ve been using that for probably eight, nine years now, too. That’s done wonders for my sleep, because it’s trained me to just focus on the background sound of that white noise and really not disturb my sleep from outside sounds and, you know, my environment. Those are a few tips. I hope it helped you a little bit.
[0:24:36.2] MB: I think those are great tips, you know, I personally implemented a number those, including blackout shades, and trying to have some sort of white noise that kind of helps drown out other sound effects. I’m curious, you may not have sort of a prescription for this, but I’m curious. I don’t have any trouble falling asleep, but sometimes, I’ll wake up at like three in the morning and my mind will just be like, racing. I can’t — it takes me like 45 minutes to fall back asleep. Have you ever had that experience, and if so, do you think — would any of this strategies be effective for that, or have you found anything that is effective for that?
[0:25:08.7] JS: Yeah, that definitely does happen to me too from time to time. There’s a couple of different ways to look at it. Every once in a while, I’ll get that, and I’ll be like hungry, and that’s I think the reason I get up or something.
As much as I hate to do it, sometimes I’ll just get up and I’ll have like a little snack, just to make sure my stomach’s not talking to me, and my stomach and my insides aren’t hurting. I’ll have a little snack, and then believe it or not, this actually helps me go back to sleep. As much as, you know, all the fitness guys listening are — the personal trainers out there will say you know, never eat whatever in the middle of your sleep or at night, late at night.
I’ve done this a few times. I do it from time to time, and it actually helps me go to sleep, because it kind of just like relaxes me again and I don’t have to worry about being hungry. That’s one of the ways to look at it, or potentially having something like tea and some honey, kind of relaxing your chest, and your throat, and etcetera. Something like that, maybe chamomile tea, which is supposedly good for sleep.
The other thing though that I also do, on the contrary, and this kind of totally goes against everything I’ve said. A couple of those times where I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night and my thoughts are racing, or I have like, my brain is just kind of very active and just thinking about all sorts of things. A few of those times, I’ve actually just said, “You know what? Screw it. I’m obviously not going back to sleep, I’ve tried for half hour, an hour, whatever.”
I’m rolling around, I’ll actually just get up and I’ll do some work. I’ll get up and literally like, go off my bed, and go over in the other room, and open up my computer, and just start working. A few of the times, believe it or not, I’ve actually done some of the best work I have ever done. I don’t know if it was like, meant to be or whatever. I was woken up in that moment, and my mind had some idea in it, and I just put that to work and whatever.
I think what I ended up writing my second book, I ended up writing like three chapters in a row or something in one of those nights. A couple of the other times, actually, I did work for a little bit and then I got tired again doing work, so I went back to sleep. So you can handle it in a couple of different ways, really depending on what you want to do.
But the thing that I want to say is the couple of times I have done this, I don’t necessarily think it’s the worst thing in the world, or such a horrible thing, because once in a while you get up and your mind is racing and you have all these ideas you can’t put to sleep. Sometimes putting those things in action is maybe meant to be. Maybe you were meant to be at that moment so why not act on it?
[0:27:29.7] MB: That’s really interesting, and I think it dove tails your advice of treating your bed as a place where you condition your mind for sleep. I’ve heard the advice before, that essentially when you wake up in the middle of the night, you can’t fall back asleep after, let’s say 20 or 30 minutes, you should get up, because otherwise you’re messing with that programming and you’re treating your bed as a place that you do things other than sleep in.
But the midnight snack advice is actually fascinating, and I may try that the next time this happens to me, because what I’ve personally noticed is I have two or three days a week I will get up really early, at 5 AM, and go to the gym and train, and I will have a protein shake when I do that. So I am priming my body on some days to eat super early in the morning, and then the day when I am trying to sleep in a little bit longer, I will wake up at 5 AM and be like, “Where is my protein?” So maybe having a little midnight snack can be a solution for something like that.
[0:28:22.1] JS: Yeah, for sure man.
[0:28:23.9] MB: So that dove tails a little bit. I’d love to get a few pointers in terms of dietary interventions to deal with things that you’ve touched on. The importance of fish oil and some other supplements. I’d love to hear your thoughts about ways to improve your diet, and maybe some of the science and the research behind why these dietary interventions potentially can help with things like anxiety and depression.
[0:28:46.6] JS: Yeah, absolutely man. Typically, what you’re putting into your body, this goes back to, as well, the inputs from the mind, the subconscious mind controls all. If you have negative inputs throughout the day to your subconscious mind, your outputs are going to be negative. Going back to that example with poor Johnny getting bullied, the same thing goes with your diet. What you put into your body is exactly what you are going to have for your output.
Your inputs are going to be your outputs. The Greek philosopher Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” Literally, he knew thousands of years ago the power of food. If you put the right amounts of food, or the right types of food into your body, it will heal you. It will make you feel better. It will give you energy. It will lift up your mood in every possible way and make you optimal as a human being.
On the contrary, if you feed it junk, if you feed it garbage, if you feed it McDonald’s, if you feed it Burger King, Wendy’s, all this junk and crap out there that is so prevalent in America and some of the other more advanced countries in the world, unfortunately, what you’re going to have is a lot of crap and negative output as well.
It’s just going to bring down your mood. It’s going to mess up the neurotransmitters in your brain. Your serotonin might drop, your testosterone may drop, your cortisol will go up, the stress hormone, which dictates a lot of these things that we’re talking about here, like your anxiety levels, the fat storage in your body, even sleep, too, by the way. If you don’t get enough sleep, your cortisone levels go up, your melatonin levels get out of whack, you start to store fat, your HGH, your hormone production, your human growth hormone gets out of whack as well.
You have less of that, and so you start to store more fat, and then you store more fat and this fat creates different problems as well, and just adds up and snowballs ,and the more you eat, the more junk you’re putting into your body, the more crappy fats from that double cheeseburger at McDonalds, or the poor quality protein that burger has in it, or all the carbs from the bread, all those things that you are putting into your body just adds up and snowball effects.
It just gets worse and worse and worse. The more you do it, the worse you’re going to be. The worse your body reacts to it, then your body starts to develop all these negative habits, and starts to store fat, and store more fat, and they say it’s harder to lose fat once you start to put it on than it is to stay in shape. So it’s better to keep that off and not get into that position in the first place.
Literally, when you’re eating, you’re literally taking your body and breaking it down. From your brain, to your heart, to the rest of the organs in your body. Your liver, even your muscles, and then of course, fat around your midsection. All that stuff, it literally breaks down overtime, and the way to optimize it is to have, as I mentioned before, good fats, good protein, and good carbs. Typically, I recommend, I have a background in personal training, I like to keep it very simple, and I always recommended about 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat.
The carbs, again, these are fibrous carbs. Kale, broccoli, cabbage, and avoiding as much as possible starchy carbs. The useless carbs that your body can’t take in and actually be productive with. So avoiding the pasta, the bagel, the rice, the bread, all that stuff as much as possible. Avoiding that, you’re going to see a lot better results, and that’s carbs. Protein, again, chicken, lean steak, fish, fish is huge. I live on tuna, tuna is one of my favorite snacks.
Greek yogurts are great for you, and the fats, the fish oils of the world, the omega-3s, the olive oil, the coconut oil, all those things are incredible for your brain. Your brain is built primarily of fatty acids and fatty tissue. The more you can supply it with fatty acids, you’re basically just giving it gas in your gas tank, and of course your brain controls your entire body. I mean, we’re talking about it a lot in this episode, your brain is the primary controller of everything you feel and all your emotions.
If you can basically just give it and provide it the resources, the energy that it needs to function optimally, you’re going to be much better off. By doing that, the Omega-3s, we’re getting that balance of Omega-3, Omega-6, Omega-9. We do take Omega-6, and Omega-9 from the normal diet we have in western society. That’s why it’s good to optimize and supplement with things like Omega-3, to get the ratio back into balance.
Innately, just by itself, Omega-6, Omega-9 is not bad for you, but the fact that we have way too much of it, like way too much of anything will kill you. Even way too much water you can overdose and die from. Way too much Omega-6, Omega-9 will kill you. It will break down your body slowly overtime, and that’s what a lot of people do. So optimizing that Omega-3 and getting the ratio, the balance back to normal is typically the best way to go.
So supplementing with things like fish oil, krill oil, taking coconut oil, even having that on a spread or cooking with it is great, and doing that every day, like I said, will do wonders for your brain and your body.
[0:34:00.8] MB: One of the supplements that you mentioned was magnesium, and I have heard a number of different sources, everybody from body builders on down, talk about magnesium and why it’s an important supplement. The struggle that I’ve had is, and I don’t know if you have ever had this with taking it, but every time I’ve taken a magnesium supplement, it makes me extremely nauseous. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that experience or have any particular guidance in terms of how to overcome that.
[0:34:26.2] JS: Yeah, I haven’t had that personally. Do you know by chance what brand it was, and also what form it was?
[0:34:34.0] MB: I don’t know the brand, but I remember it was a big pill that was a dry-ish pill, if that makes sense. It wasn’t like a gel cap or anything. It was a solid, vitamin-looking pill.
[0:34:43.7] JS: I know what you mean. Typically, what I’ll recommend it, and magnesium, actually one of the things that it’s actually good for, which I thought you were going to say, is it’s good for constipation. So anyone who’s having constipation, it loosens up the bowels and you can actually go to the bathroom if you’re constipated. So it’s a really good constipation relief supplement. The nausea, though, could be anything from poor quality brand, which there’s so many out there.
If you go into your local grocery store, or even like a GNC supplement store, I always do not recommend going to. As much as they’re mainstream and popular, they typically have horrible quality supplements, some of the worst ones out there. It could have been anything from the supplement brand, or potentially it could have been the form of the magnesium. Which the worst form of magnesium, and actually, unfortunately, the most popular form of magnesium is magnesium oxide.
If I had to guess, I would say the pill you took was probably a magnesium oxide. I could be wrong on that, but I guess I think the majority of them are oxides. The form you want to take, there’s a few different ones, but the best one or one of the best ones is magnesium citrate, and this is a lot easier for your stomach to handle. It’s also a lot easier for it to go down.
A couple of brands to potentially think about getting, maybe next time for some of your listeners, the NOW brand is actually a really good quality brand. Life Extensions is a really good one, and there’s some of the other ones out there, like independent ones like Raw. Raw Foods is a good supplement brand, but there’s a few independent organic brands out there that are less mainstream than some of your GNC brands, or your Vitamin World, or Puritan’s Pride brands.
Those are the ones that are typically in the grocery store, and those are the worst ones you can take.
So it was probably either the brand or the form that you took it in. Also, another thing to keep in mind, too, is the capsule in general. Capsule or a liquid will be a lot better for you, and a lot easier and more absorbable than say, a hard, big, stuffed-up pill. Like they condense down and add all these other additives to make it hold its form. So a capsule, where it’s basically, you can open up the capsule and that’s the contents of your pill, that’s usually the best way to go. A capsule or even a liquid as opposed to a hard, big pill, and also the form or the brand. You want to stay away from those grocery store mainstream brands.
[0:37:13.8] MB: I’d love to move down the list and talk a little bit about the three-step technique you’ve talked about dealing with panic attacks. I love the advice of instead of resisting it, inviting it in, and one of the things that I found really relevant for myself in terms of dealing with anxiety or stress is the idea of, and this is a corny phrase I came up with myself, but it’s “Don’t flee it, feel it,” which is like, instead of running away from this feeling and being like, “Make it stop. I don’t want to feel like this,” just feel it and be with your body and experience it.
I’ve had a very similar kind of experience, where, when I do that, my body experiences the stressful emotion and then it just flows away. But I’d love to hear a little bit more about that technique and how you stumbled upon it.
[0:38:04.6] JS: Yeah man. So I stumbled upon it, the funny thing is that I read this little e-book, this short e-book, it was one of the first things that I came across when I was trying to figure out how to get over my panic attacks, but the approach in it was just so counterintuitive, and it seems so crazy that I just brushed it off and put it on back of the bookshelf, so to speak, I mean it’s an e-book.
For the next five or six months, I didn’t even think about it until I’d tried so many other things that didn’t work. And then one day, I’m in the middle of having a panic attack, and I was like, “You know what? There was that other thing, why not? Screw it, I’m going to try this out,” and lo and behold, it actually worked. So I stumbled upon it, like I said, and I didn’t think it was going to work. I tried it, and from that point forward, my life changed as far as facing different fears, not being scared of doing different things that I’ve been scared of in the past, and I like to always use this example.
Shortly after this, maybe about a year or so after I’ve gotten over my panic attacks, gotten over my anxiety, I started hanging out with this friend of mine. This is a real-life example of using this panic attack approach to ending any sort of fear. I was hanging around with this buddy of mine, we’re going to this roller coaster park. This Six Flags theme park in Massachusetts, where I’m from, Massachusetts, and my buddy’s name is Bobby.
I tell Bobby before we go, “I just want to go there, hang around, walk around, talk to some girls,” I’m single at the time, “and then just have fun. I’m not going to do anything, I’m not going on any rides.” I hate roller coasters. For the entirety of my life, every single time I went on a roller coaster, I got immediately sick for the next hour and a half, and was throwing up profusely, and I just absolutely hated them. I made it very clear to Bobby I was not going to go on a roller coaster. Long story short, Bobby was this daredevil type of guy. He jumps out of planes, he rides motorcycles 180 miles an hour, he goes to all the craziest roller coasters in the world, he’s just the definition of a nut case daredevil, and he has no fears at all.
So long story short, we’re at the theme park, and fast forward about 30 minutes, and besides being a complete daredevil, Bobby also happens to be incredibly persuasive. So fast forward about 30 minutes, and I find myself unfortunately sitting next to Bobby on a roller coaster. It’s not just any roller coaster, Matt, it’s the worst one there. It’s like the Bizzaro One that goes, I don’t know, 100 miles an hour and drops 300 feet after the first couple of seconds. Sitting next to Bobby, I look over at him, and he’s putting his hands up, he’s yelling, he’s swearing, he’s acting like a complete jerk.
I look over at him, I’m like, “Bobby, at least calm down man. We’re both about to die, at least save us some dignity before we both die.” He didn’t mean it to be profound or anything, but he kind of looked over at me and said, “Justin, this is how you ride them. This is what you have to do.”
Like I said, I don’t know if it was because I was sort of in this transitional period of my life and I just overcome anxiety, depression about a year before. That day I just said, you know what? I’m going to try it, and so I started doing what Bobby was doing. I put my hands up, I started yelling, I started screaming, started swearing and acting like a complete fool, and we take off in the ride. We get to the top, that first big drop, and we come flying down that first drop, and I kick my hands up, I keep yelling, keep swearing, keep screaming, and lo and behold, for the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed it.
I actually enjoyed the moment, and for the rest of the ride, the rest of the two minute ride, we’re going up and down, all sorts of loops, and upside down turns and twists. I’m yelling, I’m screaming, I’m laughing, I’m having a great time, and I get off the ride and I say, “You know Bobby, let’s go again.” We ended up going on every single ride, every single roller coaster in that park, like five times that day.
You know, for the first time in my life, I actually knew how to ride roller coasters, and it wasn’t until little afterwards that I realized what had happened, and what had happened was I faced my fears head on. I just totally exposed it for what it was, which was a concoction in my mind of all this projecting of what could potentially happen, and all these negative things that might go wrong.
I exposed it for what it was, took it on, challenged it, basically asked for more of it, and this fear completely went away. From that day forward, I knew how to ride roller coasters, how to have a good time doing it.
[0:42:33.6] MB: That’s a great story, and a great allegory for how to deal with fear more broadly. For somebody who is listening that wants to kind of concretely implement some of the things we’ve been talking about, what’s one simple piece of homework that you would give for them as kind of a place to start?
[0:42:49.0] JS: It could be really any one of the steps that we mentioned, but I think maybe the one, the easiest one to implement right now is to live in the present moment. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow. Don’t worry about worrying about the past, or regretting things you missed out on, or things you could have done, or things you wish you’d done. Just living what’s happening right now. Enjoy life for what it is. Enjoy the moment, enjoy what you have right now.
A lot of the time, even I fall for this trap sometimes. A lot of the times, we forget all the great things we have. Anyone who is listening to this podcast, you’re a lot more lucky and you should be a lot more grateful than you probably are. If you’re listening to a podcast, you’re probably not in a third world country. You probably have electricity, heat, hot water, food, shelter, you have all this basic necessities and essentials that we take for granted every single day.
Worrying about losing out on that job promotion, or worrying about a girl that didn’t text you back, or worrying about a potential business failure happening in a couple of months, or next week, or tomorrow, or regretting things you missed out on in the past. That’s all just negative self-talk and negative things that are leading to an unhappy and unfulfilled life. If you can just live in what’s happening right now and appreciate some of the things you have, you’re going to be a lot better off.
[0:44:08.7] MB: Where can people find you online?
[0:44:10.7] JS: You can check out either my website, elitemanmagazine.com, or my personal website, justinstenstrom.com.
[0:44:17.8] MB: Awesome. Well Justin, this has been a fascinating conversation, and some great really practical advice. I love the eight-step process, I love kind of digging in to a number of those different steps. We’ll include everything you talked about in the show notes, we’ll include links to your website, and links to Elite Man. I just wanted to say thank you so much, it’s been a fascinating conversation.
[0:44:35.8] JS: Matt, thanks so much for having me man. I really appreciate it.
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