I was on a Zoom call with a brilliant leader today, I noticed the amazing backdrop and commented on it. He was contacting me to chat through a programme for his leaders to help them cope with the level of change happening right now….from his stunning holiday destination.
He commented that he had been having loads of creative ideas of how he could drive behaviours and support his team whilst he had been away, rather than feeling worried and frustrated by all the change Covid has chucked at us all.
Why? Here’s the geek bit…
Sometimes we simply can’t “think” out a solution, our “work brain” is too maxed out dealing with the bombardment of tasks, emails, issues, stats, reports, meetings, Zoom calls etc. It’s overloaded.
So, you can’t make those things go away. Nope, it’s kind of your job, right? But, you can change how you deal with it all.
Our brains are a muscle like any other. You do 20 press ups your biceps will ache and tell you to stop and rest. When we work our “work brain” hard, it too uses up all the resource it has and needs to rest. But, when you are stressed and needing to find a solution to your slump in sales figures or employee engagement or diversify a product offering – whatever your current stress is, it’s pretty counter intuitive to slow down or stop. You push on through, you work harder, you show no weakness, you’re the leader! Sound familiar? Yep, it is for me too, both in my previous corporate MD role and sometimes still today running my own business.
But now the neuroscience has convinced me to adopt a different strategy. STOP. Give that burned out pre-frontal cortex aka “work brain” a rest. How you ask? Great question…
- Breathe. Yes really! The simplest, quickest first step is to breathe. Shut your eyes, lock out the world and breathe deeply into your belly. This calms the nervous system and tells your risk scanning brain that you are not in immediate danger.
- Step away from your desk/screen/laptop. Movement, something as simple as walking around the block activates a different area of your brain allowing your exhausted “work brain” a bit of much needed rest.
- Do something that brings you joy. I’m not talking abandoning work and tripping off to a tropical beach (although if time allows…) I’m talking sitting for 10 mins with the sun on your face, getting a steaming hot coffee and enjoying it in peace, calling someone who makes you laugh, if WFH walk the dog. These small acts of joy lower the cortisol (stress chemical) and spark dopamine (reward/feel good brain chemical) allowing you your “work brain” to refresh and reset.
When you return to your problem, your “work brain” will think clearly. I promise – it’s science not soft!
Ever wondered why you have great ideas and creative thoughts in the shower, driving to work, or walking or running?
You are doing activities that are hardwired habits. The Basal Ganglia is an area of your brain that kicks in and helps you do things that have become “auto-pilot”. It is far less energy hungry than the “work brain” or pre-frontal cortex. So, whilst your basal ganglia is busy managing activities that don’t require much conscious thought, your creative, thinking “work brain” is free to run wild, often coming up with solutions and ideas that solve that issue that you just couldn’t think your way out of.
So, when the shit hits the fan, breathe deeply, walk out and go for a shower!