Boost Your Focus, Drive, and Micro-Resilience [discussion with former White House worker in the Economics Council of the Bill Clinton administration, Bonnie St. John* – she is also a Rhodes Scholar – economics at Oxford University; she is also a positive psychology exponent]

Boost Your Focus, Drive, and Micro-Resilience [discussion with former White House worker in the Economics Council of the Bill Clinton administration, Bonnie St. John* – she is also a Rhodes Scholar – economics at Oxford University; she is also a positive psychology exponent]

– people often think resilience is needed for big problems
– micro-resilience is focused more on smaller problems and more finite periods of time such as “this afternoon”
– it is also easier to make progress if you define the problem into smaller components
– solutions therefore are smaller too
– ask yourself: what are the small things you can do in the midst of a busy day – that can also have same day impact? That have an immediate pay-off
– macro-resilience skills are things you have to do for a while – sleep regularly, eat healthily etc.,
(& which develop into habits)
– note: both macro & micro-resilience are good pursuits
– micro-resilience has a role to play with respect to a tough day & such skills can also have cumulative positive benefits over time with respect to managing the tougher times that will invariably occur in our life
– micro-resilience skills can also support macro-resilience by ensuring you are not thrown off those longer-term goals you have set for yourself
– micro-resiliency skills include:
1) how to focus better – to go into a zone by “creating islands in a stream”
– for e.g. Rather than checking emails all the time, or only 2 or 3 times in a day, – instead carve out an hr here or there so you can get work done & then focus later
– the key here is effective, managed communication to free up time for more productive focus (where you will get more done & feel like you have more time) – she notes it is work context specific & may not be possible in all work situations – she suggests letting people know there are key periods of focus for you | she has a system for her team – text is urgent while email is answer within 2 or 3 hours | zones enable you to focus, but also place some boundaries so people cannot get you reacting at any and all times | such communication can also enable communication of mutual respect & agreement – to help each other be more productive
2) managing emotions – to reset when you feel hijacked by your emotions (from the concept of the amygdala hijack – for survival reasons)
– this “hijack” by definition is often an over-reaction
– once the hijack was relevant – for us – for our very survival, but in the modern world, this hijack can & does occur in an office – for e.g. We can today often be triggered as a result of not being invited to a meeting & wondering what that means with respect to our status, our career & what our boss thinks etc., (even though our physical safety is not threatened)
– she are argues in such situations we do not need to fight, but rather think more clearly – rather than setting off our adrenaline & cortisol
– “smells & bells” can calm you down in situations where you are getting inputs that are making you feel more threatened
– smells can calm you down [dr Joan Bazarenko – a mind, body resercher at Hrvard]
– vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon – most people have a physiological reaction & begin to calm down
– lavender, peppermint, lemon – experiment to see what works for you
– there might be an aroma you have a particular emotional connection with from your childhood/adolescence
– bell sounds can do the same [Eileen Fisher]
– Buddhist metal balls – it calms & makes you calm down [science]
– a deep diaphragmatic/belly breath can also help calm – but be sure it is not a shallow chest breath which can exacerbate the stress response
– to know you are doing it right, put your hand on your abdomen to feel it moving
3) labelling
– when an emotion is taking control of you – label it with a word/several words
– do this either out loud or in your head
– you can even ask questions to yourself to help work out what it is you are feeling:
– am I frustrated?
– Am I angry?
– am I disappointed?
– it has been shown that putting word on an emotion, helps de-escalate that emotional reaction
– by labelling it, you create some distance
– you can even re-frame – for e.g. Rather than saying i am anxious – say: I am anxious to do well.
– such anxiety is an outdated way that your body is helping you to perform
– the amygdala hijack denies you access to your brain
4) ABCD CBT reframe
– particularly useful when you are in a rut
5) reverse-y or “flip the script”
– write down a limit or obstacle you are facing
– now turn the paper over & write the opposite in the other side
[for e.g. I don’t have the money or time to get the higher degree I need | I can get the higher degree I need]
– the idea is to trick your brain – albeit briefly – to consider the possible (because we are so stuck on the obstacles because we are so convinced they are true] & allow other creative thoughts to come into your mind
– it is not just unthinking or unrealistic positivity, but is about being open-minded
– it also allows you to talk from the other side of the card when with other people
– they will be more positive & creative – & less likely to agree with the negatives you first see & say – this way you will get new ideas (& more opportunity to work around obstacles)
– optimism is seeing possibilities – what are my choices to address the challenges

1) micro-manage your metabolism^
– people typically have great water habits until they are under stress
– the brain is a higher percentage of water than the rest of the body & it particularly requires water when you are under stress
– so ask yourself: Am I drinking water when I need it the most?
– micro-manage by checking hour on hour when you need it the most

Source: The Psychology Podcast – 16 February 2017

* she had her leg amputated at the age of 5 & she became a champion skier at the age of 15
^ macro-habit for metabolism is to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day


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