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07 Sep 2017

91. EMOTIONAL WELLBEING

Each year brings a rollercoaster ride of emotions for a manager. Here we look at how factors that affect your emotional state of mind can have an impact on your physical and mental performance.

Words: Dr Dorian Dugmore

DO YOU TAKE TIME TO 'LISTEN' TO YOUR BODY?

We all show signs or symptoms when we’re feeling the pressure. For some people that might mean a rapid or irregular pulse rate, for others a rise in temperature or symptoms of an irritable bowel. Other people might notice a visual change in their appearance, such as a slight flushing or become conscious of a rise in blood pressure. What’s important is to recognise these symptoms and act on them before they lead to more serious consequences.

DO YOU TAKE REGULAR BREAKS?

In Jim Lehr’s book, The Corporate Athlete, he emphasises the brain’s need for a break every 90-to-120 minutes. This cognitive rest helps to reduce the negative effects of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline on the body.

TIP Even just getting up from your desk for a couple of minutes or leaving a coaching demonstration or meeting to take a short walk can be enough to give the brain a rest. Consciously take some deep breaths while you do it, as this helps to regulate heart rhythms and promote the beneficial chemistry of an endorphin release.

DO YOU MAKE A DELIBERATE EFFORT TO GET SOME RELEASE FROM THE PRESSURES OF THE DAY?

Relaxing in your own space at the end of the day is more important than you might think. Practices such as deep breathing and mindfulness can help to engage the vagus nerves supplying the heart, lungs and upper digestive tract. This promotes tension release and emotional balance and can help you fall asleep more easily.

TIP Any technique aimed at emptying the brain of the thoughts and stresses of the day is likely to be beneficial, including deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness and yoga. Various online tools, such as Headspace, are now available to guide you through.

ARE YOU AWARE OF HOW YOUR BODY CHEMISTRY CHANGES WITH STRESS?

Remember that when you’re constantly stressed your body chemistry can change, increasing in heart rate and blood pressure, cortisol, which reduces your immune protection, interleukin 6, causing inflammation, and a host of other physiological responses that can be detrimental to your health.

TIP The relaxation practices described above can all help you to regain some control and counter the body’s stress response. Moderate regular exercise can also help to dissipate the negative effects of stress on the body.

DO YOU EVER FEEL BURNED OUT?

If you have problems sleeping, find that you’re more aggressive, irritable and impatient, even over the tiniest things, you may be experiencing some degree of ‘burnout’. You may also feel more isolated, inward thinking and less likely to want to share your problems and challenges with others. You may feel a loss of control.

TIP Admitting that you are having problems is often the first and most important step here. When Antonio Horta Osario, group chief executive of Lloyds Bank, experienced burnout he put his hand up and asked for help. He got it and came back stronger than ever. Be aware of your body enough that you can spot the signs and never be afraid to ask for help.

DO YOU TAKE REGULAR BREAKS AND HOLIDAYS?

Push yourself too far and you will reach breaking point. It’s happened time and time again in business and sport. Both body and mind need a break to recharge the batteries, to recuperate and repair.

TIP Holidays away from the treadmill of work can work wonders, but don’t underestimate the importance of spending time with the people who are close to you – loved ones, family and friends. As the famous saying goes, “There are not too many tombstones with ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’ on them.”

DO YOU SHARE KEY CHALLENGES WITH THOSE YOU TRUST?

There are immense benefits in this because it allows you to think outside the box and helps to avoid isolated decisions, which may be wrong or rash. There is also an art in stepping back and taking time to consider the outcomes of key decisions.

TIP Most leadership experts recommend wise counsel, which means seeking the opinion of others who you trust, even if you have a strong gut feeling about a decision. This approach also has a beneficial effect on your body as it results in less angst and so less negative stress chemistry.

DO YOU FIND IT EASY TO LET GO OF TRIVIAL MATTERS AND UPSETS?

Fred Luskin’s work on forgiveness is interesting here. He found that people who hold on to small upsets and disagreements also very often hold on to the stress hormones that go with them. Letting go of a grievance or upset isn’t easy, but it has the effect of releasing the tension that goes with it, benefiting your wellbeing and particularly your heart health.

ARE YOU ALWAYS IN A RUSH?

Feeling constantly stressed to get things done and seemingly never having the time to achieve your goals usually results in frustration and can impact on your health. Raised blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, blood lipid abnormalities and digestive disorders are just a few of the potential outcomes of constantly living in the fast lane.

TIP Better planning, having the right people around you, prioritising tasks more effectively and delegating to others who are capable and who you can trust, can all help. As well as freeing up time to focus on the most important tasks in your agenda, you may also have more time for yourself – for regular exercise, stress relief practices and for eating better and more slowly.