A focus on long-term performance
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In the workplace, and at home, simple brain hacks can reduce stress and improve your resilience. Mental health authority Chelsea Pottenger explains how – and why – your mental fitness matters.
A little bit of stress can be a good thing – but problems for individuals and workplaces arise when stress becomes chronic.
Mental health ambassador and keynote speaker, Chelsea Pottenger (pictured), said with demands from the workplace, such as requirements to do more with less time and fewer resources, it was important to exercise your mental health to keep it in peak shape.
The good news is, there are simple ways based on the latest brain science, to help you improve your mental fitness and help build a mentally well, high-performing team at work.
Ms Pottenger, an ambassador for mental health charities including R U OK? and the Gidget Foundation, works to equip professionals with “brain hacks” and tools based on brain science that contribute to peak performance, mental resilience, productivity and longevity.
A brain hack is a technique and/or technology used to affect an individual's mental state.
Ms Pottenger said too much stress at work led to feelings of being paralysed or overwhelmed, and an inability to focus.
“So how do we make sure we are lowering the stress impact so they can tap into their long-term memory, their executive functioning, so they can make good decisions, and that they turn up in a happy state?
“Companies are trying to create happy, engaged, well-connected cultures so we need to give our corporate professionals healthier coping tools rather than triple-shot lattes and a bottle of shiraz at night.”
A simple way to focus was to cut multi-tasking and distractions, Ms Pottenger said.
She said research showed that when you try to multi-task your stress and anxiety doubled, you missed information and your task took longer.
“We are really acclimated to a state of distraction being the norm. You see people in teleconferences on their email at the same time, walking and looking at their phone at the same time. But that can cause loss of productivity and can also be a sign of disrespect.
“Mindfulness is a relatively simple concept but challenging to do, because it is bringing your focus back onto your task at hand and not getting carried away with tangible distractions, such as your laptop or phone, or your thoughts.”
1. No tech in meetings
Ms Pottenger said technology in meetings could reduce productivity.
She said managers who sat in meetings with a computer flipped open to complete an email because the subject being discussed wasn’t relevant to them, or they had something more business critical, were costing their organisation.
“By missing a key piece of information, and having to be caught up on the last five minutes of conversation by the remaining 10 people in the room equals 50 minutes of lost productivity. It’s also a sign of disrespect,” she said.
2. Meeting lockouts
By simply arriving two minutes late to a meeting of 10 people, who need to wait for you, means 20 minutes lost productivity to your organisation.
3. 15-minute meetings
Conduct small talk and catch-ups outside the meeting. Set a strict agenda with priority topics. Anything that does not fit into the 15 minutes was either not as important or can be taken offline.
In recent years, mental health had become paramount across industries due to high stress and burnout levels, Ms Pottenger said.
She said organisations wanted to keep their people healthy, happy and retain their high performers.
“If you’ve got people who are coming to work mentally not well, coming to work as a physical shell and their mind is not there, have you got a productive workforce?
“But it’s not just a productivity issue, it’s also an ethical one. Happy employees go home to be a better partner, better parent and better friend. We have to take care of our people.”
The science showed there were clear advantages to exercising for mental fitness through mediation, practising gratitude and breathing techniques, she said.
1. Focus on gratitude for 30 seconds every day to impact a part of the brain called the insula and affect empathy, compassion and mental wellbeing.
2. Undertake parasympathetic breathing to decrease cortisol by 25%. Around 90 seconds of breathing will bring down stress response and get executive functioning back online for problem solving and decision making.
3. Meditation. One of the smartest things people can do to decrease stress, anxiety and improve memory.
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The opinions expressed and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Trustee. No responsibility is taken for the accuracy of any of the information supplied and you should seek advice for your circumstances.