Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

Six Ways To Tame Your Stressed Out Brain

August 12, 2013

UPDATE (DEC 2013):  if the topic of managing overwhelm is of interest to you – I just launched a new book called, Ease – Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy. You can get it at most online book retailers. Read here for more!

(Originally posted at http://www.bigcheesecoaching.com)

A slighted shorter version of this article has also been published in the Globe and Mail Careers.

The Scenario:

It is late afternoon and a busy executive, whom we will call Sue, is trying to finish up a project before she leaves to get her daughter from daycare. Simultaneously she is also dealing with several other priorities on her plate. Already running late, she receives an urgent email from her boss advising of a change in direction for a proposal due the next day.  Feeling stressed, Sue feels her anxiety escalate even further. Just when she needs it most, her normally sharp ‘thinking brain’ seems to freeze up. She feels overwhelmed, frustrated and stuck not knowing how to handle the demands piling up.

Stressed Businesswoman

(Microsoft Image)

Bye Bye Thinking Capacity – Hello Brain Freeze?

Sound familiar? Many people can likely relate to this scenario. It’s normal to feel occasional bouts of overwhelm.   Most people want to do well and to feel good about their work. But when stress levels go into overdrive, judgment, prioritizing and other critical thinking skills can become compromised, further escalating stress and impacting performance – and wellbeing.

Take heart. It may not be you. It could be your brain. And with just a little neuroscience savvy and a few brain-friendly strategies you can be better equipped to handle those times of ‘crazy busy’,  boost your performance and feel calmer too.

Brain Work 101: The Higher Thinking Brain vs. the Survival Brain.

Blame your stress on the amygdala – the part of the brain that ‘detects and protects’. Formed earliest in our evolution and part of the limbic system, the amygdala is akin to being a ‘survival brain’ with a super sharp ability to scan for and react to any perception of danger. Reacting instantaneously to any hint of threat, it gets us ready for fight or flight. Eliciting what’s known as the “stress response” with the release of adrenaline and cortisol to get our heart pumping and muscles primed for….well that depends on what happens next.

Is that a lion or a crazy deadline? The amygdala doesn’t know or care. Its job is not to discern whether the threat is real or perceived; its job is simply to protect.  When we experience an emotional response related to our work or life (‘oh no, not another crazy deadline or yet another change!), it fires the alarm just as it would if there was a real physical threat.

Unfortunately since survival always trumps reflection this happens at the expense of another essential part of our brain: the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which handles higher thinking skills like critical thinking, discernment, judgment and other cognitive skills. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) works best when under moderate stress and gets suppressed when the amygdala is all fired up.  Paradoxically, we need the skills of the prefrontal cortex to deal effectively with the stressful ‘stuff’ of work and life.

Bring back the calm  

To get a grip in a stressful moment, we need strategies that put the perceived threat back into its respectful cage and deliberately bring our higher thinking abilities (via the PFC) back online.  Here are six brain-friendly strategies to help you “tame your brain” and give your higher thinking brain a better chance at doing its work.

Six Strategies to Tame Your Brain and Give Your Higher Thinking Brain a Better Chance

1) Pause

When in the midst of a stressful moment, take a moment to simply pause.  While it may feel counter-intuitive when rushed with time-sensitive workloads, a short pause provides a time buffer that can weaken the impulse and mitigate falling into the stress response.  Counting to 10 or 20, breathing deeply or taking a short break can provide that reprieve amidst a sense of urgency and chaos.  More importantly, this intentional break can give you that small but critical opening for more productive thinking and putting things in better perspective.

2) Notice and Name it.

In his book “Your Brain at Work, David Rock, President of the Neuroleadership Institute, shares a powerful yet simple strategy for bringing your higher thinking skills (via the prefrontal cortex) back on line. Simply observe and then name your emotional reaction. For instance, you might say to yourself, “I’m feeling very stressed” or “I’m frazzled”.  It’s important to notice then label the experience without feeding into the emotion. While this awareness won’t likely give you full relief this simple cognitive act engages the PFC which can diffuse the strength of the ‘amygdala attack’ — making room for a more reflective approach.  Additionally, engaging the prefrontal cortex can elicit the hormone know as Gaba (gamma-amino butyric acid ) which provides a calming effect when there is too much adrenaline in the body.

3) Organize

Our left hemisphere brains love it when we make plans and get organized. Organizing is a powerful antidote to overwhelm and can provide a calming effect when we feel chaos and fear. Write out a to-do list; revisit your priorities; create an action plan; clean up the clutter on your desk or in a file. Do anything that gives you (and your brain) a greater sense of order amidst all the pressure of a demanding workload.

4) Focus

Our brains crave focus.  But all too often we work against this by trying to multi-task. Our brains, in fact, are not built for multi-tasking attention. Instead, the brain simply toggles from one thinking task to another. This constant switching is a major energy drain and a first class ticket to frazzle. This unfocused waste of attention also compromises productivity, creativity and efficiency.  Instead, work on scheduling more focus time in your day; chunk down your priorities and focus on one task at a time. Pay attention to your habits and notice where you can reign in the multitasking beast.

 5) Visualize

While our left hemisphere of our brain craves order, the right hemisphere can help us access calm with strategies like visualizing, looking at the big picture, and reflecting on meaningful symbols and metaphors.  Try to visualize success in handling a challenge you are facing; create an image in your mind that inspires calm; identify and tune into a metaphor that symbolizes strength. The possibilities are endless. The key is to integrate your whole brain and that includes both left and right hemisphere brain strengths.

6) Connect

Interacting with people you like can boost levels of the Oxytocin hormone which can have a calming effect when stressed.  Avoid the urge to hide or go it alone. Instead seek out others whom you trust and can count on for support.

So – how do you manage work overload?

Here’s to your personal and professional wellbeing.

Eileen Chadnick

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Five Ways to Say No Without Jeopardizing Your Reputation at Work

April 27, 2012

You’re swamped. Your plate  is full. You are juggling as it is. Then your boss – or someone else at work – asks if you can take on another assignment. What do you do?

You know you should say ‘no’ to this one – but yuck…saying no is right up with your other least favorite things to do…like going to the dentist to get a cavity filled. Well, at least that’s the case for many people including a Globe and Mail reader who sent in a question to the Globe Career’s Ask an Expert Coach feature. 

New! On today’s Globe and Mail career site and in the paper edition:  Read what I wrote to this reader — “Five Ways to Say No Without Jeopardizing Your Reputation at Work”.

Sometimes saying ‘no’ is really saying yes — to being small; risking less than standard work; and more.

Reflect — what are you saying yes to when you shy away from the appropriate times to say ‘no’?

 What are your strategies, tactics, experiences with saying ‘no’ when it is appropriate?

Additional ResourcesSee my Webinar/Workshop page on this blog for a listing of Webinars (free) — including: Are you Addicted to the Yes Habit? As well, a couple more articles related to how to learn to say no from Investment Executive. See Part I and Part II (Investment Executive, March 2012).

Here’s to a TGIM Work + Life.

Eileen

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How To Develop That Dream Job Without Losing Focus on Your Day Job

April 18, 2012

Oh this one speaks to my heart – and my work-life. A Globe and Mail reader writes to Globe and Mail Careers – Ask an Expert feature  – asking how she can juggle the demands of two careers. She has a day job but also a ‘passion’ career that she would like grow. Doing both – she confesses, is ‘hard’. How to juggle both?

Read the article here – and the advice I offered to this reader.

TGIM work-life is all about passion. Waking up with optimism for the day. Going to work with a sense of ‘mojo’ because you want to, not just because you have to. But sometimes our work doesn’t quite allow for that – or it does to some extent but you want ‘more’. More fulfillment, personal expression, authenticity — or whatever your ‘more’ is. Enter the second career – and for some, managing two at once. 

Some people take on a second careers to pursue an interest, or a passion or simply transition to a new frontier. Not everyone can afford to do a hard stop on career #1 to pursue #2. For many, that ‘transition’ means having to manage two careers at once.

Not easy – but it can be rewarding. Especially if you like both. Hmmm…too much of a good thing sometime? Oh, bring on that balancing act! Learn to juggle! Learn to prioritize….and more!

Are you managing two careers? What have you learned? What ‘tricks and tips’ would be helpful to others. Please share!

To your TGIM Work-Life in all your careers!

Eileen

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Dealing with a career gap and lack of references?

November 29, 2011

In my latest “Ask a Career Coach” columns in the Globe and Mail Careers, a reader asks how to deal with a tough situation in his job search.

Shortly after graduating university, he was unable to pursue a career due to medical issues. Now years later, he is better and resuming his job search but has no recent references given the pause in his career. I offered a few tips — and things to think about beyond references.

The advice may be relevant for anyone in job-search mode. While references are important when presenting yourself as a worthy candidate – there is a whole lot more to consider as well. Equally important is a networking strategy as well as concrete ways to demonstrate you are up to date and work-ready (courses, retooling, etc). I also touch on volunteering. I have often heard of people who have landed great jobs leading to very full careers via a volunteer role.  Have a read of the article- and as always, I welcome your comments.

To a TGIM work and life!

Eileen

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Retiring Retirement….

November 23, 2011

Retiring Retirement…I like the sound of that phrase. It’s the title of an article in which I was recently interviewed for in Investment Executive. It’s very aligned with the name and philosophy of my blog: UNretiredLife (my other blog that is).  Well, as many of you may know – retiring the old notion of retirement is a topic I’ve addressed for quite some time. This year, there’s been a huge ramp up of this story as boomers have turned 65. Media, banks and many other players in the financial services industry have hop on to this new narrative of what ‘retirement’ is going to mean to boomers. A paradigm shift to say the least!

In the News! In the past couple weeks, I’ve been quoted quite extensively in various articles about boomers’ work and life in the so-called retirement years. See links below.

And, btw, if you feel you are years away from retirement and don’t need to think about this – well, think again. Planning for life (and possibly work/career) in the next stage of life takes time. I know. I started in my ’40’s — and as many of you know, I have been developing an extensive second career that could serve me well into my so-called retirement years (Big Cheese Coaching)  — and have been doing so alongside my other career in communications.  Takes work. Planning. Thinking. And more.

Anyways, don’t take it just from me – hear what others have to say:

Retiring Retirement – and how boomers can stay engaged with work and life (Investment Executive, November 2011)

Retirement Can Get Old Very Fast – if you don’t do the ‘life planning’ part of it (National Post, November 5, 2011)

Post-work Planning – how boomers can plan for life after full time work (Investment Executive, November 2011)

To a TGIM work+life in all stages!

Eileen

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How to Respond to the Salary Expectation Question?

September 15, 2011

“What are your salary expectations?”

Ooooh, that question. Yeah, it’s one of the many ways one must prepare for a job interview. Your response could make or break your chances of getting to the next level in the interview process. This is the gist of a reader’s question that was sent my way, as one of the career coach ‘ask an experts’ featured on the new Globecareers section.  Check it out – along with a few other questions I was invited to respond to:

How to Answer the Salary Expectation Question

Help – My Job is Going Nowhere!

How Can I Manage People Better?

Do you have a question you would like to send to Globecareers? You can email it directly to careerquestion@globeandmail.com. Or send me a note directly and I can either forward it or try to respond in an upcoming post here.

To your TGIMworklife!

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Making the Most of a Lost Opportunity

May 4, 2011

Ouch! Ever experience this…?  You are going for a promotion or a particular job, investing a lot of time and effort and it is looking good but in the end it doesn’t happen. Frustrating — yes? But sometimes you may end up all the better for it. In fact, a recent scenario from my coaching practice inspired my latest Mentor Minute” column in the Globe and Mail Careers just recently published.  

The Scenario:I thought I was in line for a promotion to a leadership role, and with my supervisor’s encouragement, I invested my time and money in developing my skills and took on more responsibility. My supervisor just told me the promotion is on hold due to unforeseen organizational changes and not my abilities. I am feeling frustrated and wondering if my efforts were wasted and if I should consider moving to another employer”.

The Advice: Here’s what I offered in the column as suggestions — read the article here.

In the real situation, there was more involved, with one-on-one coaching to support my client in reflecting on these and other questions specific to her situation. In the end, she ended up with substantial more clarity for a career path that will better suit her than the initial opportunity at hand. And in turn, rather than feeling defeated, she experienced a renewed sense of optimism.

Sometimes a missed opportunity can be a gift in disguise. Go figure! How about you? Where have you found the gift in a setback or loss?

Other Featured News Coverage: If you are new to this blog, you can check out some other Mentor Minute columns and various other articles I’ve written and/or been quoted in. See the “In the News” section.

To your TGIM Work-life!

Eileen Chadnick

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Step out of Judger Mindset to Give Effective Feedback

February 13, 2011

Further to my earlier posts on giving feedback, the Globe and Mail invited me to write up a Mentor Minute on this topic. Have a look if you’d like:  http://t.co/FTZy25D 

And see earlier post on my Webinar on this topic – if you missed the Webinar, you can still catch it via recording. See this page (workshops and webinars) for links to the Feedback webinar and a few others.

To feedback that fuels — and a TGIM work-life!

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The Gratitude Book Project: My Story…

January 8, 2011

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a project I am involved in called “The Gratitude Book Project.” Well, today is the day. Today is my day. On January 8th, page 10…..my 200 word Gratitude story is profiled. You can read my story here. 

Or even better: Buy the book and read 364 more stories.  

A bit of background: The book publisher, Donna Kozik,  reached out to myself and many, many others inviting us each to answer the following question: What are you grateful for? The intention was to create a book with a full year of inspirational stories that celebrate gratitude. The caveat: we only had 200 words per story. That was hard. How do I choose? I have so much to say…

Well, I chose yes. I knew I had to participate because Gratitude is one of my top strengths. It consistently shows up as #1 in my VIA Signature Strengths profile and I know that it is simply part of who I am. 

We all have the capacity to be grateful. For some of us, it comes naturally. But Gratitude can be developed and expressed by anyone.  Gratitude has been proven to be a significant factor influencing our capacity for happiness, optimism, emotional wellbeing and what I like to call personal ‘mojo’….that sense of being alive and well.  

But sometimes, particularly on those ‘not-so-good’ days, we have to remind ourselves to practice Gratitude.  It doesn’t always just come. We have to intentionally exercise our “Gratitude Muscle”. And often, all it takes is simply asking yourself a Gratitude Question:

Try it out – ask yourself: What are you grateful for? Stay in that question and ask it regularly. Everyday. 

Another Gratitude Question is this:  What are 3 good things that happened today? This is also a powerful way to focus on the things that you can be grateful for. It doesn’t mean the other stuff goes away – but it draws your attention to what’s right and good and that can make a huge difference.

How about 365 Days of Gratitude Inspiration? If you’d like a bit of inspiration along the way, pick up a copy of The Gratitude Book Project.

You can read about the solider who skipped his nightly run — and saved his life; The great vision and personal insights gained despite being blind; The everyday front porch where everlasting love was found.  And my little story on page 10: grateful for being grateful! 

On December 15th (the first day of its release), The Gratitude Book Project made it to Best Seller Status in the category of Success on Amazon. Accordingly, the publisher told me and my co-authors that we can call ourselves ‘best-selling authors’ (imagine, for only 200 words!).

Thank you for being part of my community!

Gratefully yours,

Eileen

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Setting the Stage for Career Action…

December 24, 2010

I was invited by the Globe and Mail to provide some thoughts on what will be important in 2011 for career success. I had lots of ideas but we were asked to choose one. I chose to focus on EQ (emotional intelligence/emotional quotient). Functional/job specific skills will always be important but EQ  is what will differentiate the high potentials and help keep you resilient, optimistic, balanced, focused — and more.

I was among a handful of others who were invited to contribute ideas. Everybody’s idea was bang-on right. Check out the article – it’s online at the Globe and CTV.  

In the meantime, happy, safe holidays everyone!

To your TGIMworklife!

Eileen

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