In the ever-evolving landscape of the digital workplace, where screens dominate our daily existence, the need for resilience has never been more apparent. I’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges that professionals face in maintaining a healthy work-life-tech balance. In this blog, I aim to provide practical tips, strategies, and fun exercises to help you navigate the digital deluge and foster resilience in the digital workplace.

Understanding the Challenge: Digital Overload

The constant influx of emails, notifications, constant instant messaging and virtual meetings can lead to information overload, affecting our productivity and well-being. To combat this, consider implementing the following practices:

  • Set Boundaries: If you work from home, define clear boundaries for work hours and stick to them. Establish a designated workspace to create a physical separation between work and personal life. Even think about walking out the front door, around the block and coming back in and sitting at your workspace.
  • Prioritise Tasks: Use task management tools to prioritise your workload. Get a balance between focusing on high-priority tasks first, and breaking larger projects into smaller, more manageable chunks. Sometimes it is easier to manage quick tasks first thing in the morning. I find I do my admin in the morning first thing and spend the afternoon with time set aside for the larger project work. I focus better in the afternoon. When is your focus time? Are you an early bird or a night owl?
  • Digital Detox: Designate specific times for a digital detox. Turn off notifications during breaks and non-working hours to reclaim your mental space. This is particularly important when you are on leave. With email on mobile phones, it is very tempting to “Just have a quick check”.

Building Resilience Through Mindful Practices

Resilience is not just about enduring challenges; it’s about bouncing back stronger. Incorporate the following mindful practices into your routine to build resilience:

  • Mindful Breathing: Take short breaks throughout the day for mindful breathing exercises. Deep, intentional breaths can help reduce stress and improve focus.
  • Gratitude Journaling: Maintain a gratitude journal to shift your focus from challenges to positive aspects of your life. Reflect on achievements, no matter how small, to foster a positive mindset. What are your wins for the day? Focusing on the positives will help motivate you and keep you going.
  • Visual Breaks: Integrate short visual breaks into your day. Set a timer to remind yourself to look away from the screen, stretch, and refocus your eyes.
    • Try the Pomodoro technique, working in 25-minute sprints. Set a timer to remind you to take a mini break.
    • Or my personal favourite, Ultradian intervals,  90 minutes of ultra focussed work and then a decent break. At least 15 minutes.
    • Eye cupping also helps relax the eyes. It also relaxes your eyes when they feel tired.
      • Start by cupping your hands over the sockets of your closed eyes. Stare into the far back of the dark space. You will notice that the various residual hues in your vision slowly turn to black.
      • Do this simple exercise for a minimum of 30 seconds. It serves as a reset button for your vision and freshens your eyes.

I prefer the ultradian intervals as I can immerse myself in what I am doing. I find I focus better in longer timeframes. For me, the Pomodoro is too short and I lose the thread. However, if I am doing admin-type tasks then the Pomodoro is my go-to.

Digital Harmony: Tips for a Healthy Balance

  • Scheduled Screen Breaks: Plan regular screen breaks to prevent eye strain and mental fatigue. Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Utilise Productivity Tools: Leverage productivity tools to streamline tasks and reduce the time spent on digital devices. Tools like task managers, calendar apps, and project management platforms, electronic To Do Lists to help keep things straight, can enhance efficiency.
  • Create Tech-Free Zones: Designate certain areas of your home as tech-free zones. This could be your dining area or bedroom, allowing you to disconnect and unwind. My bedroom has been a tech-free zone since we moved in 2021. I am convinced I sleep better as a result.

Fun Exercises to Recharge Your Mind

  • Desk Yoga: Incorporate simple yoga stretches into your work routine. Stretch your arms, neck, and back to alleviate tension and promote physical well-being.
  • Virtual Team-Building Games: Organise virtual team-building activities to foster camaraderie. Games like online trivia or virtual escape rooms can provide a welcome break from work-related stress.
  • Laugh Break: Watch a funny video or read a joke to induce laughter. Laughter has proven benefits for reducing stress and improving mood.
  • Digital Downtime Challenge: Challenge yourself to a digital downtime day at the weekend, or whatever day you don’t work. Disconnect from all screens and engage in activities you enjoy, whether it’s reading a book, taking a nature walk, or trying a new hobby.

Embracing Digital Resilience

In the era of the digital workplace, resilience is the key to maintaining a healthy work-life-tech balance. By implementing these recommended practices and incorporating fun exercises into your routine, you can foster a resilient mindset and navigate the challenges of the digital age with confidence.

Remember, it’s not about eliminating technology from our lives but about creating a harmonious relationship with it. Embrace the power of resilience, prioritise your well-being, and find joy in balancing the digital and the analogue. Your journey to digital resilience starts now!

Wellbeing: Whose responsibility is it?

Wellbeing in the workplace is a hot topic at the moment, but do we really understand what it is all about.  On the news, they are talking about Mental Health.  So what does it mean and is there a difference? Whose responsibility is it?

Any role that is customer facing is stressful. The Service Desk Institute realise how difficult it can be for Service Desk staff to know how to cope with stress and how critical it is to have the right support in place.

I joined the Service Desk Institute 2018 conference as one of their leading breakout speakers to discuss the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.

Is Wellbeing just a management issue?

In the dictionary wellbeing is described as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”.  Mental Health is described as “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being”.  So basically it is all about a person being well.

We all have responsibility for ourselves so our Wellbeing is the responsibility of each person.  If work is stressful though is it then a management issue?  To avoid work-related stress, wellbeing initiatives should ideally originate from the boardroom, in order to bring about positive and lasting change.

Having the right support in place, should staff need it, is key.  Depending on the nature and size of the business this can vary from very small companies where everything is managed through Human Resources to having Work Place Assistance programmes in place, medical insurance, an on-site Medical team, Wellbeing Strategies and training to name but a few.  Do employees know where to find help and is it fit for purpose?

All about the team

What if one of your team members having difficulty?  If you are the team manager it is definitely part of the job description, yet often managers are too busy doing the day job to notice the early signs of something being amiss with a member of staff.

Could you offer a listening ear?  As part of a team, the culture should be to support each other.  That is what a high performing team does.  Each person is very aware of their role and how they contribute to the success of the team.  They know that each member has to be operating to the best of their ability for the whole team to be operating at their best.  They support each other.

So no, it is not just a management issue, it is everyone’s responsibility to look after themselves and to look after each other.

Call me to finding out more about how to support your employees then I would love to connect.

Here’s my calendar link to make finding time easy.

 The importance of keeping the brain limber

brain resilienceWhen I took up the piano, little did I know the wonderful side effects! It is a great way to improve brain resilience! To keep our brains resilient we need to take care of our brain’s cognitive and emotional health.  Keep your brain healthy by stimulating it with activities that challenge it.

I took up the piano a few years ago. When I did so it was just for a bit of fun and enjoyment. I had dropped it as a child because the need for daily practice was too demanding. Several decades later I decided to give it another go. I’m still terrible and practicing, but I really enjoy the experience.

I am still only at grade 3 level, but I am determined to get to a standard in 2023, where I can sit and play some of my favourite pieces. One I am determined to play is Comptine D’Un Autre Ete by Yann Tierson. It is from the film Amelie. It is also one of my husband’s favourite pieces so I will learn how to play it for him. Now that is a great way to motivate progress! Goodness, I seem to be making new year resolutions already!

Why I keep up with learning the piano

Playing piano is particularly good because of the need to multi-task – reading and playing at the same time. Plus the need to be able to coordinate the left and the right hand with the different lines of music.

It creates strong brain activity in these areas and bridges the gap between the two hemispheres of the brain, increasing activity in various areas of the brain. Increasing the connections between different areas of the brain allows messages to cross through faster and via more diverse roots, improving problem-solving abilities and increasing their creativity. Of course this goes hand in hand with increased resilience.

The best part is that you don’t have to become a master pianist to take advantage of these unique benefits. Playing regularly for just five months at a beginner level at any age can induce positive changes in the structure of the brain, increasing IQ and making it easier to master skills used not just in front of the piano but throughout everyday life.

Here are some other ways to build brain resilience.

Ways to get your brain working harder and staying sharp longer.

Play Brain Games

Challenge your brain with mental puzzles, word games, and other puzzles. Switch up the challenge every day to keep your neurons firing. Perhaps learn a new subject. Expand your knowledge by learning something new. Whether it’s a new language, history, or science topic, keeping your brain active can help you retain information.

Make sure you remember to take brain breaks. Make time for yourself and take a break from work to do something that stimulates your mind. Go for a walk, read an interesting book, or take on a challenging Sudoku puzzle. I am sure you have experienced this; you try and try to come up with a solution to a problem, but nothing comes. You take and walk and think about something else and viola – problem solved.

Try some calming brain-boosting activities before bed. Get some zzzs by trying out some relaxation techniques, like deep breathing exercises or meditation.

Do you enjoy puzzles, board games, or other activities requiring coordination? Taking part in these activities regularly can keep your brain sharp.

Read Books

Whether you’re savoring a good novel or catching up on your favorite magazine, reading can help stimulate your brain. If you are reading a good novel, as tension is built in the story, more and more areas of the brain light up with activity.

A growing body of research indicates that reading literally changes your mind. Using MRI scans researchers have confirmed that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks also get stronger and more sophisticated.

In 2009 A US study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress. The same study found that yoga and a good laugh also had the same beneficial effects.

Brain-Building Music

Listening to music that is stimulating and upbeat can help keep your brain active and learning. Find music that appeals to you and stick with it! Personally, I love to play Workout Pulse from my Amazon playlist. I use it when I am working out and when I am in the kitchen cooking.

Get Active

brain resilienceIt is a long-established fact that exercise is good for our bodies but what about brain resilience? The evidence is very clear – leading a physically active lifestyle provides benefits for overall health and wellbeing. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who are physically active throughout their lives have a lower-than-average risk of a decline in thinking skills with aging.

The same goes for ‘purposeful exercise’ – meaning exercise that involves moderate to vigorous exertion that we take deliberately. In randomised controlled trials, people who took part in purposeful exercise showed beneficial changes in brain structure and function.

So if you want to keep your mind sharp and your body healthy, make sure to incorporate physical activity into your day-to-day life, and make time for some purposeful exercise too! You will see noticeable changes in brain resilience in just 6-12 months.

Take Classes

brain resilienceClasses aren’t just a way to pass the time – they can actually help keep your brain active and sharp. If you’re interested in a new hobby or want to improve your job performance, taking classes is a great way to learn new things and keep your mind fresh. With so many options available, you’re sure to find a class that’s perfect for you.

Take Music Lessons

Not only is it fun, but also taking music lessons can keep your brain active and learning. Whether you chose something challenging where you have to coordinate both hands, whilst reading 2 lines of music or something a little more gentle is up to you. Of course, singing is equally rewarding. Another one of my favourite pastimes.

Dancing Lessons

Another great one for building brain resilience but also for building coordination. It also checks the boxes for taking new classes, learning something new, and getting active. An all-round win, win.

These tips will help you keep your brain limber so you can think clearly and problem-solve effectively for the rest of your life. I’m off to do some piano practice now.

What is a curveball?

A curveball is one of those times when everything is going well, and then all of a sudden, something unexpected happens. Not the happy kind of something either, one of those things that really knocks you off balance and was completely unexpected. This is exactly what happened to me recently. Not one but three, in quick succession, and they were both major and really threw me. Two seriously impacted my business and one was a health scare that had me in A&E.

Life can be like that though! Everything is going great and then you just have one of those months where nothing falls into place and everything feels wrong. It is called Life!

Knowing that I needed to take a step back and see what I needed to do to maintain my sanity and my business, I did just that. This is one of the keys to Real Resilience. Noticing when you are experiencing the stress response and doing something about it.

What to do when life gets difficult and stressful

Step 1

The first question I asked myself was, what do I need to do for my business and myself to stay resilient and not collapse under pressure?

Looking after my health and that of my employees is always my first priority. Making sure that I have the headspace and the personal space to think about what is happening. Then I can formulate a plan and think about what needs to be done to manage the various situations.

The first curve ball also felt quite personal, so it was really important to manage my mindset and stay positive. I did some deep breathing and got my brain and body out of panic mode.

Like most people, in stressful situations, I feel stressed when they have just happened. However, I notice my stress responses almost instantly and immediately start following the process to get back to balance.

Deep breathing sends the right signals to the brain to turn off flight or flight mode. You cannot think straight when you are in fight or flight, the body shuts down to only be able to manage essential body functions. Thinking rationally is not one of them. Such a simple step but so critical to maintaining Real Resilience.

Step 2

The next process I go through to manage whatever curveball has been thrown is a bit of root cause analysis. Basically, what I wanted to know was why these things had happened, and could I have done anything to avoid them?

For the first situation, I realised that my communication around expectations could have been more detailed. This was really good information to have. It meant that this was situation I could avoid in the future. While it did not resolve my current issue it was still a great lesson learned that would help me in the future. I am comfortable with making mistakes and learning from them, it is how we grow and develop as leaders.

For the second curveball, I understood that there really was nothing I could have done differently. It really was an unexpected situation. However I could make sure that I had all the correct processes and procedures in place to manage the situation. A quick call to my HR legal go-to person confirmed I had followed all the right steps and had all the right things in place. So the question now was, what could I do to minimise the impact on my business and not keel over with extra work myself? What was my Plan B?

Now I felt like I was in control and taking action. While I could not throw back the curve balls by having a plan and lessons learned, I still felt I was in control. This was a really important step. So often when we feel fear, anxiety, or want to resist change, it is because we feel we have zero control. That is a very uncomfortable place to be. However it can be a great place for learning and changing things around. Streamlining and coming up with new ideas. Never miss the opportunity to catch a curve ball.

While I could not avoid the situation, I could definitely take ownership of my response. Then I could make a plan and take action which put me back in control and able to move forwards.

So how could you apply this to your business or personal situations? What is keeping you up at night?

Take these simple steps.

  • Breathe.
  • Manage your mindset.
  • Carry out root cause analysis.
  • Plan alternatives,
  • Take positive action.

If you have employees resistant to change, you can also apply this process. People resist change because they’re out of their comfort zone and feel like they have no control. Talking to them, explaining things, getting them involved in the way forward. Can often resolve resistance.

Step 3

Personal health care. So after being in A&E and finding out I might have gallstones I immediately researched what I could do to manage the pain. A quick trip to my go-to acupuncturist and I feel much better. I have to go through a few more tests and will have to change my diet for a while. There is a silver lining though – weight loss. I’m sure this topic will be the subject of a future blog.

    In a nutshell no!

If you are looking for stress management techniques to stop stressful events from happening, then sorry, you are in the wrong place! The utility bills will still go up in October and the cost of living will continue to rise. So how do some people manage to take stress in their stride and others cannot? Essentially it is a matter of perception. What I consider to be stressful, you might be absolutely fine with it. And vice versa of course. A lot of the feelings of stress come from feeling out of control like life is happening to us. Feelings of insecurity, lack of options, and feeling overwhelmed are very common.

However, you will be glad to know that all of these feelings are totally normal. When you are under stress you go to our overextended place. You might find things more overwhelming than on a usual day. Or perhaps you might feel more emotional than normal. Again, all totally normal reactions. These are the warning signs to our body that you are feeling stressed. The good thing about having the warning signs is that it is our indicator of stress and now you can do something about it.

There are many signs that a person may be experiencing prolonged stress too. Some common physical signs include tense muscles, headaches, and upset stomach. A person may also experience difficulty sleeping, moodiness, and anxiety. If stress is not managed, it can lead to more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and mental health disorders. It is important to identify the signs of stress so that you can take steps to manage it.

However, let’s look at managing stress “in the moment”. That instant you experience those feelings of how you personally respond to stress.

It is how we respond to stress that is important

So you realise you are stressed. What do you do next? You can fall into a puddle of tears and be angry at the world or you can respond differently.

There are many different ways that people deal with stress. Some people try to ignore it and push through, while others may take a more proactive approach and try to find healthy coping mechanisms. Some helpful tips for dealing with stress include exercise, journaling, relaxation techniques, and spending time with supportive people.

It is important to find what works best for you when it comes to dealing with stress. For some people, exercise is a great way to release tension and clear their mind. Others may find journaling to be helpful in getting their thoughts and feelings out. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can also be very beneficial. Lastly, spending time with supportive people can help you to feel less alone and can provide a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

No matter what method you choose, it is important to be gentle with yourself and to remember that stress is a normal part of life. Try to find healthy coping mechanisms that work for you so that you can better deal with the stressors in your life.

If nothing else, a few deep breaths send signals to the brain to calm down and it will help you feel instantly better.

Mindset is also massively important for helping with stress

It has been said that the best way to achieve success is to have a positive mindset. This means believing in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals. It also means maintaining a positive attitude toward the challenges and obstacles you may face along the way.

There is a lot of truth to this statement. A positive mindset can be a powerful tool for achieving success. It can help you stay motivated and focused on your goals, and it can give you the strength to overcome any obstacles you may encounter.

If you want to achieve success, it is important to develop a positive mindset. Believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals. Stay positive and focused, and you will be able to achieve anything you set your mind to.

So actually “yes”, maybe it can help with life feeling less stressful?

Why do I conclude with the possibility that Real Resilience can stop life from being so stressful? Because if you manage your stress levels and go do something else, at that moment, it changes how you feel. The stress levels subside and you feel more able to cope. Does it change what is happening around you? No! Does it change how you feel about it? Absolutely!


Managing Ambiguity

Why is uncertainty and managing ambiguity stressful? Uncertainty is stressful because of the fact that it is the unknown. The only certainty is that life is uncertain! That’s probably a phrase that you have heard more than once, specially recently. We all know it, but do we truly believe it? Do we strive to control the uncontrollable and how can we feel in control in uncertain times?

This time we are looking specifically at managing ambiguity. You may have hard of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). While the focus of all the recent blogs is on uncertainty, ambiguity is an equally important. If something is ambiguous it means having more than one possible meaning, and therefore possibly causing confusion. The less information the we have, the more irrational and erratic our decisions become. As the uncertainty of the scenarios increased, the more our brains shift control over to the limbic system, the place where emotions, such as anxiety and fear, are generated.

How can we manage ambiguity?

When faced with uncertainty, our brain is pushing us to overreact and fall back on that limbic system. To conquer this you need to develop emotional intelligence or emotional quotion (EQ) to manage ambiguity. To improve your EQ you have to become good at making decisions in the face of uncertainty, despite our every instinct telling us not to. As we mentioned before, having a lack of, or conflicting information can force us to make poor, ill-concieved decisions, so fighting that is very important when facing abiguity.

It may seem impossible when your judgment is clouded by your emotions, however there are some proven strategies which can help you overcome this. Your first effort would be to quiet the limbic system and manage stress, and there are a few ways to do this; inner smile breath, tactical breathing and body reset. I will show you how to execute these instant stress relievers here.

Other proven strategies you can use to improve your EQ are:

  • Quiet the limbic system – manage stress
  • Admit what you don’t know and then get back to people when you do
  • Stay positive. Take a look at Uncertainty blog 3 where we talk about mindset
  • Embrace and accept what you can’t control, focus on what you can control
  • Decide on and focus on what matters
  • Let go of perfection
  • Have contingency, always have a plan B
  • Let go of the past, take the lessons forward and let go of the emotion
  • Breathe!

This blog has been all about managing ambiguity. See my other blogs about uncertainty. Just click the links below.

What is High-Intensity Interval Training – HIIT

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. It is a type of exercise that alternates between short periods of intense activity and brief periods of rest or recovery. HIIT is performed with various types of equipment or no equipment at all.

It is an effective way to burn calories and improve cardiovascular fitness. Studies have shown that HIIT can help to improve insulin sensitivity, increase VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can utilize), and reduce body fat.

It is a great option for those who are short on time, as it is a very efficient way to exercise. HIIT workouts can be as short as 10 minutes, making them perfect for busy people.

Why I started HIIT

I signed up for the Fast 800 programme last year. It introduced me to different exercise techniques, including HIIT. I loved the idea of being able to improve my cardio-vascular fitness, as well as work on reducing my visceral fat. HIIT is scientifically proven to reduce visceral fat. It can also:

  • Efficiently burn calories, HIIT burns 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise
  • Increase fat loss
  • Increase metabolism
  • Reduces blood sugar and improves insulin resistance
  • Reduces blood pressure

An absolute win-win right? That is what I figured too. As well as all that it only takes me 15 minutes twice a week. I can run, cycle, swim, or do things like squats and star jumps so I can even keep up with my training when I am not at home.

I have noticed a massive improvement in my lung capacity. Having had to run upstairs for the train the other day, and hopped on without even puffing. So it has definitely fulfilled the desire to improve my cardio-vascular fitness. I started running on the treadmill an 8kmph and now I run at 9.5kmph, so I have increased my speed too. Now I have more energy than I have had in ages. (Being diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2012 and now have no symptoms at all). Loving the endorphins and serotonin high too.  Endorphins and serotonin are important chemicals known as neurotransmitters. They affect your mood, energy levels and overall wellbeing.

HIIT builds Real Resilience

However, here is the added benefit that I did not expect. Commonly called the runners high from the endorphin and serotonin production I had already experienced to a degree. Having walked, swum, and done weight training since my teens. I found that the high lasted longer with HIIT. The really important piece was the exercise itself though.

Never having really been a runner, for some reason I decided this was the easiest way to do HIIT. On the treadmill! It started more of a lumber than a run. It very quickly pushed me out of what was comfortable and what I thought was doable.  However, with Dr. Michael Moseley’s encouraging words in my ear (listening on my phone to the recorded sessions), I pushed past my thresholds again and again. Each week the exercises pushed me further and for longer. Less walking, more running each week. Each time I listened and pushed. I believed I could do it. Each week I managed to do more.

Then one day I realised what else it had trained me to do. It got me comfortable with pushing past my comfort zone. In doing so it increased my ability to embrace change and grow my own Real Resilience. It was a particularly stressful day and I was taking it in my stride. All my plans were upended. I had to pivot and rethink my day. I was absolutely fine, I embraced change even more than normal. Because I was used to pushing out of my comfort zone I was comfortable with change.

Look out for the next blog which will be delving more into the comfort zone. Is it our friend or foe?

Why not try it for yourself?

Joining the fast 800 taught me a lot and a special thanks to Dr. Michael Mosley and the fast 800 team, for all the inspiration. Here is the link. You might want to give it a try.

The Fast 800 » By Dr Michael Mosley – The Fast 800

I am not affiliated with the programme in any way. Just a very grateful member of the community. I have learned so much about nutrition and exercise and found what works for me.