At Neuropeak Pro, we get the opportunity to work with some incredible people. Many of our clients are at the top of their fields of business, sports, and politics - but more importantly, they are creative, intelligent, dynamic, and all around great people.
Dr. Royer and Tim Bergsma had the pleasure of sitting down with NHL Network host, Michelle McMahon, to talk about her journey over the last year. They discuss how she's managed the stress of changing jobs and moving cities while maintaining an incredibly high level of creativity and focus on her show.
Tim: We have Michelle McMahon with us today, a friend of Neuropeak Pro and a host at the NHL network. Michelle can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your show, and your transition over the last year?
Michelle: Yeah, my life has been a little bit of a whirlwind the last three months which you guys are very familiar with because you guys were there during the transition, but basically last year I was the fox sports reporter for an NHL team in North Carolina, the Carolina Hurricanes. I covered all the games with them and very recently, I guess three months ago, I got a job promotion here with the NHL Network. Now I host a show Monday through Friday 4-6 called NHL Now and are all over the place. We’re covering all 30 teams and we get interviews from here, there and everywhere. It’s been a fun ride and it’s been a crazy move. I went from North Carolina, to New Jersey, to a new job all in the matter of a week and a half back in October, but I’ve been here since then and so far so good.
Tim: Incredible. Dr. Royer, just tell us a little bit about broadcasting. She’s obviously in front of the camera a lot. What are the tendencies of the brain and some of the reactions that come from a stressful time in life such as a move from one part of the country to the other, and also being asked to perform verbally at a high level on camera and off camera and preparing for all that.
Dr. Royer: Well Michelle’s got kind of a double going on here. For any of us, no matter what job we do, having to relocate and having to set up a whole new environment and a new home increases stress in the brain. The brain’s an electrical device, and that electricity tends to run a lot faster when we switch up an environment. When you add to this a job change and for her, upward mobility, there’s probably an increase in pressure there. So now the brain has this other tendency to go faster. The actual job is really hard too in a situation like that where you’re forward facing with people all the time and to be able to let down and let the brain and the body recover is a tough task. So yeah, we’ve got a situation where the brain wave activity is likely running very fast making it hard to get into some of these slower stages like sleep and recovery at a high level. This is a pretty fast paced time for Michelle I would think.
T: Michelle, as you had come into the office this past summer, can you explain that experience and what took you from “yeah let’s learn a little bit this,” to “oh my goodness, I’m signing up, I want to start this right now”?
M: Yeah, well interestingly enough I went in to see what the software was. I was working with so many professional athletes so I was interested in how Neuropeak Pro helped with the brain and with performance, I was intrigued by the idea just based on my job and then, it turns out, it actually applies to me probably just as much because I have what is called Misophonia. Misophonia is a hatred of sounds, which may sound a little crazy, but I’m sure a lot of people out there have it too. When people are chomping their gum loud it drives me crazy. So as I was going through the process of understanding what the technology does and actually going through the process of breathing and connecting leads on my head, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I bet this would help calm me down in those moments where I get all fired up when somebody’s chewing really loud and it’s a stranger and I can’t yell at them like I could my family”. So that’s kind of where it clicked for me. I’m like “oh this is interesting, I could probably use that.” And the program dives in to being an overwhelmed, stressed person which I think most Americans are; there’s not a quick fix to any of these issues and I just thought it was an incredible program. Just to hear the stories of all the athletes that it has helped, I thought it would definitely apply to me too. Obviously working with you guys resulted in a huge improvement for me. Within the first couple of sessions I noticed the difference which peeked my interest initially and then it turned out that I was the one that was sold on it right away and had to start using it.
T: So Michelle, when you started training, you just hit the ground running with sessions. You absolutely were flying. Can you walk us through the process of what running a session looks like, and a bit about your commitment to getting as many sessions in as short of a time period as possible?
M: Yeah. For me, I decided to commit right away because I wanted to see results as soon as possible; it was something that had been bothering me for forever. Little did I know, I was going to experience a job change a couple months after I started the program, so I’m glad I started when I did. I committed to at least five days a week. Just like anything else right, when you’re training for a sport or something you're committed to, you are not going to see results if you don’t do it. So for me, I was committed to doing it daily if I could, Monday through Friday, but of course with the travel, that sometimes changed. We started with the breathing exercises, in which I had no idea how much it would end up helping me, and to this day, I still do them. But that’s where we started, incrementally. We began with the breathing and made sure that was done successfully. Doing the deep in and deep out instead of letting my brain freak out in those little moments when I was stressed or when I heard someone that was chewing their gum really loud. I just try to breathe instead of letting my brain react and that in itself helped a ton. We then eased our way into the brain workouts; the process where you actually connect the leads to your head which connects to a DVD to train your brain waves which also incorporates the breathing. I noticed a difference in just a couple of weeks of doing the exercises, especially the breathing. I noticed my demeanor was a lot calmer. Even my family members could tell that I wasn’t as stressed about certain events that I would be normally. I think as I progressed through the program and committed to it, it definitely helped me in more ways than just the Misophonia. There was never a guarantee that the program was going to fix anything, but I think it more so helped the everyday stress of life and the job I’m currently in. Proactively doing the program through Neuropeak Pro really helped me deal with a lot of stressful situations that were to come my way in the following months.
T: That’s incredible. Dr. Royer she talked about this breathing, we’re talking about the brain and training the brain, how does breathing fit into all of this?
D: The brain and the body are fully connected. A lot of times we like to separate those out but you have to focus on what the body is doing because the two are synced together. The respiratory system brings oxygen in; one of its main reasons for that is we need that oxygen to make energy, but a huge amount of this energy is consumed by the brain. I like to imagine it like a fuel line, and many people are breathing in a very shallow inconsistent pattern. So imagine if the fuel to an engine was not what it needed to be and it’s very inconsistent, that engine wouldn’t work well. It’s very similar to the brain. If we’re not supplying the right amount of oxygen the brain finds it very difficult to do its job well. So that’s why we like to start with breathing. We didn’t always do that, ten plus years ago we just went straight to the brain but after working with many people over the years we started realizing if we improve the oxygen right out of the shoot, the brain training would work exponentially in a positive direction because the fuel line is correct. Michelle, your story is very similar to a lot of people where they come in thinking that nothing is going to really happen until the EEG, but then they start doing the breathing and it literally transforms how they approach life. The interesting thing is the kind of stickiness of the breathing. I was assessing somebody the other day who we worked with almost four years ago down in Orlando, and he hadn’t been on the equipment since and the first thing I did was hook up the breathing belt, started his breathing and it was absolutely perfect. You would think well he could be back to where he was before, but it was like he was just training yesterday. It’s almost like learning to ride a bike or the alphabet, you learn that skill and you might not use it all the time but if I said to Michelle right now, “start doing your breathing” It’s like that tool that you can reach for and implement it instantaneously.
T: Yeah and I’ve heard you talking about how doing the breathing and heart rate variability is just like clearing all the apps on my iPhone. It just cleans it out and gives it a nice reset and you know it’s such a simple thing to do. Now my phone is working faster and it’s not lagged down by all the apps that are open, but in a life sense, all the extraneous stress that doesn’t need to be there, so that’s so good.
You were a college athlete, you worked at the Big 10 Network, you worked at the Carolina Hurricanes, you work at the NHL Network. You’ve obviously been successful wherever you go, and good at what you do otherwise you wouldn’t have kept moving in the direction that you’re moving. How do you feel like Neuropeak Pro may have even helped you get a little bit more of an edge? Maybe that one or two percent that might have you even more confident in what you’re doing?
M: Yeah for sure. I think the best way to explain that was when I first walked in, what we were talking about earlier, one of the sides of my brain was like through the roof. Dr. Royer I think told me it was like, “I could pull a thousand people off the street and maybe like 4 or even 1 would have numbers that you have.”
T: So reassuring during your assessment!
M: Yeah, so if that’s any indication of where my brain was at before I started the program then flash forward through all the series of events that I’ve been through since; not only a job change, but a complete relocation. I was only in North Carolina for a year so I had to move from there to New Jersey and I had about two days to adjust to a brand new two hour show that I was hosting. All the proceeding events after I started with Neuropeak Pro were very significant and could have been very stressful but I’m amazed at how calm I was during that entire process. There was a brief period where I didn’t even know if I was moving or not. Like there was a whole lot of behind the scenes stuff that had to happen in order for the job to actually work out. So even then that brings on stress. "Am I moving, am I not moving? Am I staying or am I going? Should I prepare for a new job so should I start studying more on all the other teams?" There were just so many variables in that entire transition process that I do believe Neuropeak Pro had a big part in. Not only the daily stress of my life but also now in a daily occurrence of the show. You have to always be thinking on your feet. There’s a gazillion different guests you could be bringing on at any different moment and if one thing goes wrong or if one person doesn’t show up and you have to switch it, then you have to be able to ad lib. You have to be able to have that creative side to listen to the 5,000 different things that are happening, including your producer in your ear, your co-host there and also your guest. It helps me mentally manage a lot of different situations and not freak out in the process. I just have to sometimes remind myself "it’s ok, just breathe." If something doesn’t go the way I thought it would in between the segments I just remind myself to take a couple of steps back and to really direct my focus on to breathing, and honestly the breathing helps so much. To just properly breathe helps your brain work better and calm down, at least for me. I think having that in my arsenal and you guys, has been so helpful for me. It’s been tremendously helpful in my success and who knows where we go from here but it could be an adventure. If any of the last couple months have been an indication of the rest of my life it will be an adventure.
T: Doc, she talked about all the craziness that’s going on right? She has a producer in her ear, she’s got the next thing that’s coming up yet on air she’s asked to be creative and funny and insightful and come up with all these new ideas and she mentioned how the breathing helps that. Can you maybe talk about how the training and the breathing take the brain from maybe a fast state, let’s say too fast, that inhibits creativity, to a place where she’s able to manage all that stress and be creative and be insightful?
D: Yeah, there’s two things going on, one is the brain. Even though we like to think it can do this, it can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. No matter what’s going on, there’s only one thing the brain can focus on. The more stressed we get, we might grab onto one thing and then it's hard to shift gears to the next. So the ability to shift in and out is dependent on how well the electricity in the brain is working. For Michelle, she can do that but not as efficiently because the electricity was running so fast that if something grabbed her attention there was a tendency for her brain to lock in on that, much like what happens with the Misophonia. We all hear these things but you, Michelle, lock in on that. On the positive side, this is a rare ability to focus at a higher level than most people can, but like anything our greatest strength can become our weakness, and so that’s what you were experiencing. We’re teaching the brain to take that strength and ability to focus but also know when to let go of it and transition to the next thing. Now that’s all an electrical activity piece in the brain. The neurotransmitters and how they fire are the electrical component. Then your brain needs to shift then you add onto that "now I need to be in a creative state," ok well, that’s also involving electricity. So the brain works off 30 plus frequencies and the top ten of those, the 20-30 hertz, are all stress related ones. Those are the ones that we need in crisis but when we stay in there too long we become anxious and panicky and obsessive. 10-20ish hertz is kind of the sweet spot in the range, in the brain wave activity. 0-10 hertz is where the body is recovering all the time. Well interestingly, creativity, which is a huge part of being successful in the arena that you’re in Michelle, falls right around the 10-12 hertz range. You cannot be up in this crisis, obsessed, kind of perfectionistic mode and be able to create new ideas. In a setting like that, everything is causing you to be in that crisis mode. Everybody talking to you and all this going on, you’re trying to get into this 10-12 hertz or this speed and that’s very difficult to do. Well what Michelle has been able to do is by brain training, decrease her baseline speed so that she sits right in the middle now. She can jump into focus super quickly if she needs to, but she can jump out of focus and go right into the creative ideas that come, not out of the reality, but back into the creative resources of the mind which allows the brain to disengage for a second to be able to get to those resources. She now can disengage when she needs to go get the creative thought and bring it back into the present. That’s when the magic starts happening and you start to do some really cool things.
T: Absolutely. So Michelle, give us your plug. You’re on the NHL Network, you said 2-4 pm?
M: 4-6 pm, NHL Now.
T: I’m seeing some clips of you suited up as a hockey goalie, I’ve seen you at the outdoor classic. It’s cool to hear Doc talk about your brain and then see you on air and the absolute creativity and the hilariousness, as well as obviously, the hockey news that your viewers get. If you haven’t watched her show you need to watch. If you’re reading this article, subscribe to the NHL Network especially 4-6 pm to watch the show.
M: It’s fun, even if you don’t like hockey we’re fairly entertaining, so we like to think anyway. It’s a fun show, it’s a little bit of a mix of everything. We like to laugh, we like to get information, and also what’s not to love about a hockey girl from Michigan?
T That’s true, thank you so much for joining us, and best of luck. We will be talking to you soon.
M: Yes absolutely, thank you guys for everything and continued success to you. I will continue to be in touch and use all the programs because it’s helped me a ton.
T: Incredible, we’ll see you Michelle!