Dr Rahul Jandial on being inspired by failure, the importance of meditation and managing stress

Virgin Radio

8 Jun 2021, 10:31

The Sunday Times bestseller, brain surgeon and neuroscientist joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about why it's ok to fail, why meditation is the key to help deal with any crisis and remembering to breathe.

Dr Rahul Jandial told Chris: "I feel like my failures are ongoing. I don't think they ever end. It's just what you do with the rubble and for me I've seen it as more of a portal to discovery that's always inspired me.

"If you work as a cancer surgeon you inevitably will face failure and it just depends on how you see it. So my patients who have stage four cancer, if I can get them a few months, a few years if that's what they choose, then if medicines and treatment and fate allow, I don't see myself as a failure.

"But there have been other cases where there was a child that was paralysed after I tried to help her and it wasn't an 'oops' moment by any means but just the complications and the outcome of the work I do. really have to look at failure as a process of growth, not a stumble that I can’t recover from."

On managing stress, he said: “This last year was a global stress but it's not always in a linear direction, I see it more as seasonal cycles of growth and then dormancy and there's winters and there's springtime so I think that leaves everybody inspired no matter where they're at in their life.

“We need a little bit of stress. There are brain cells inside our minds they won't grow unless there's a little bit of stress.... stress is about emotional regulation, turning the attention inward to figure out does this emotion earn a right to be in our lives?

"Is it stress that is real and needs to be reacted to or is it just a baseline of anxiety?

"Depending on the stressor, emotional regulation is something that cultivates so when the next stress arrives you cope with it better.”

Meditation is key, says Dr Rahul: “I think people get lost a bit with the term meditation. They can't wrap their heads around it but what you can do is pace your breathing so let's take a real easy example.

"We know hyperventilation can actually give you a panic attack. On the other side, pacing your breath three seconds in and three seconds out is a technique I use in the operating room when I run into trouble or there's a stressful situation. 

“That's the first step that anybody can go to whether you're in a tense relationship with a lover or your boss or you're worried, just slowing down your breathing making it deliberate will calm the electricity of your mind.

"We've measured this in brain surgery so that is afforded to you, it's free, but it can't be delivered when the crisis hits. It's got to be a daily habit and then it's there for you when that crisis comes.”

Life on a Knife’s Edge: A Brain Surgeon’s Reflections on Life, Loss and Survival is out now.