In my earlier post, Why I Started Stress Well? I describe the shifts in our state that many of us can go through. Life events, ruminations, workload, and complex problems to solve can all add up, especially if you lose a sense of what might be changing. When this happened to me, the realisation a shift needed to occur became about focusing on learning what was happening, and how I needed to make that shift.

Once I understood things, I moved on to fixing things.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.

Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. 

Marie Sklodowska-Curie

I equally want to help others be it individuals or teams either avoid this or help them find their way through it. Subsequently, it can help organisations become better for it overall.

There Seems to Be a Problem

With the global well-being market estimated by McKinsey to be worth $1.5 trillion, in the report Feeling Good: The Future of the $1.5 Trillion Wellness Market, there is some serious interest and attention in wellbeing. Services account for approximately 30% of this. It seems I’m not the only person willing to invest in myself and take some control back!

I do often wonder, why is has this topic become such a big focus.

Could it be the pace of life? Is it the volume and consumption of data? The inability to truly focus, has us bouncing from one snippet of information to the next, creating limitations on our clarity? Does the never-ending deadline create excess weight? But isn’t the opportunity to hit “the figure” or the deadline, part of providing for your family? Is it dealing with bureaucracy, narcissism, gas lighting or those that are innocently unaware of how they act, which creates pressure? Is their performance being compromised by a lack of clarity? Is it starting a job, and then being at the end of redundancy? Is it advertising that creates the mental model of what is important like bigger houses and nicer cars, driving an “at all costs” thinking? Have our leaders and managers stopped focusing on human conversation and connection, amongst all of the above questions?

At the end of the day whatever the reason, people in organisations of all types are experiencing real challenges which are morphing into real problems.

Part of the problem I sense is – we don’t ‘recover’ like we used to. We are still going when we think we are recovering.

“one in five Australians aged 16-34 years experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress.”

National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NSMHW) 2021 ABS

Learning, Respecting Principles & Practise

When we get into a position where “things aren’t right”, understanding the principles of how our mind and body operate, sets the foundations. Helping people become aware of, and understand the principles of well-being, be it physiologically or psychologically, is the cornerstone of what I do. I’m not a neuroscientist, psychologist, or exercise physiologist. Mine is one of education and lived experience, “the before and after”, and developing an appreciation that if you want to be healthy, respect the principles of how our body, brain and people work together.

The areas I focus on, including stress, resilience, behaviours and viewing well-being from an “all of life” vantage point (using tools like the Global Leadership Wellbeing Survey), are essentially interconnected with how we are as a person. Helping individuals and teams understand this, sets the scene for them to move into creating new awareness, applying some basic practices, and improving their foundations for cognitive performance.

Areas of Focus

Becoming Aware of Leadership & Business Decisions Effecting Well-Being – and Vice Versa

Leadership Self-Assessments and Discovery Conversations

Knowing where you are, is a good place to begin when being intentional about high performance and health. That is why I personally found the Global Leadership Wellbeing Survey created by Eek & Sense, a great place to start. It allowed me to create my own picture of health and well-being. I then used to this, to figure out what I need to do to improve and move from my own Point A to Point B.

I now use this self-assessment to help others find where they are at. Even though it is an individual tool, it plays a big role in building an appreciation for well-being company-wide. It sets the scene for individuals to reconnect with the fundamentals of their work and life.

Leadership well-being is critical, given the responsibility of care, direction, behaviours and ultimately how these can affect those they are leading. It helps reclaim some attention on the basics of leadership, the human stuff, as well as your own life.

Equally as important, is the broader strategic concept of having a strong, healthy, and well-supported leadership team. This helps to ensure you all navigate the economic, logistical, technical, and nuanced complex people challenges that come with the territory. Your whole business can benefit from re-focusing, and not getting lost in the minutia of business strategy. This includes focusing on how the environment, that the executive team creates, then flows through to other humans working in the business.

If left unchecked, the indirect effects can play out in poor communication, emotional decision-making, less-than-human treatment of people, and ultimately tearing at the culture.

It will become a less-than-optimal environment for well-being!

The chances of this affecting the P&L and balance sheet can then become real.

Understanding Stress & Resilience in Relation to Environment, Performance & Wellbeing

Education on ‘what’s happening?’ and helping teams think more clearly and rationally.

Specifically, I help people and teams understand both physiological and psychological stress; how it can change your body and brain, its relationship to resilience, including what part your environment or system may be contributing, and how you could alleviate this.

Looking at how thoughts create mental stress, which creates changes in the body.  Equally how stress upon the body can create issues in cognitive performance, is where a lot of well-being issues begin. These ‘thoughts’ can include, to a large extent how people relate to each other, especially in the workplace.

The variables that cause issues and changes from one person to the next, can be complex. Perception plays a huge role in the mental game. How we perceive things can fall into a rational response bucket or a persistent emotional response bucket.

We all have varying perceptions, different understandings of resilience and therefore different stress tolerances. Having knowledge when it does go wrong, is a good starting point for self-regulation, to continue moving forward.

When ‘stress’ causes a problem for us, it pushes into our ‘resilience’ (both body and brain – to mind) and tests our ability to accept things as they are, adapt our thinking or physical approach and then revert to a new pathway.

This can become a persistent hard squeeze. The stress response does not distinguish between physical and emotional stimuli. In an ideal world, it can be an intermittent period, which helps stimulate change, and then recedes for us to then use the power of recovery. This is growth from ‘stress’.

If it is persistent, it is a problem. Sometimes this squeeze becomes too much, and we begin to break down. These concepts of stress and resilience are both metaphorical and factual. I use education, to help shape how you might respond considering both. In other words, a reminder of how we can think about things to respond, not react. The resilience element is based on the preventative based work from the team at Driven, and their supporting research.

When we put these topics together, including through the lens of leadership and how a broader environment affects people, we can start to join the dots for what might be contributing to poor well-being and how to work towards alleviating this.

Build the Breath First & Sleep Well

Physiological elements of well-being and performance.

From a physiological perspective, I also help people and teams learn about breathing. As a future topic, I’ll reflect on this further.

Obviously, without breathing, we die! However, whilst we are alive, when it’s sub-optimal, we are not living very well!

We are operating from an inefficient platform denying ourselves energy, repair, calm & emotional regulation, and the opportunity to build a key pillar of psychophysiological resilience.

Strong functional breathing can help us deal with stress, more than most people would be aware of.

I learnt this firsthand in my own journey. The first principles of breathing are now part of how I live. I can detect stress building through my breath (awareness) – so I adjust. I get more energy for cognitive functioning and physical fitness – through nasal breathing. I have a stronger recovery process – CO2 tolerance. My rational brain is more easily engaged than living in an emotional or uncertain place in the mind.

A lot of my own turnaround and the continued journey is built on breathing and sleep. Sure, it includes exercise, nutrition, and other hormetic stressors (more on these later). But breathing and sleep are the respective platforms everything else hinges on.

In summary, the intersection of stress, resilience, psychology, and physiological factors have enormous effects on leadership, relationships, human behaviour, business outcomes, life decisions and therefore how we experience life.

However, we are only as strong as your weakest link and understanding these elements could just be the link you are not aware of.

If you feel there might be challenges ahead for your business, your team, or you, drop me a call, and let’s have a chat.