Stressed out?

Notes from “Stress, Your Brain, & Productivity,” a go/learning workshop led by Porter Knight, Productivity Vermont, October 10, 2012.

The main point of the workshop was that understanding how your brain responds to stress can allow you to improve your health and increase your productivity. Apparently, LIS is sometimes not the most tranquil place to work. LISers comprised a good portion of the audience!  Here’s what we learned.

When bad things (surprise deadlines, dissatisfied customers, arguments with colleagues…) occur, here’s what happens:

  • blood leaves prefrontal cortex, and decision-making skills falter
  • brain applies a filter that encourages you to see everything in a negative light; focus of attention narrows, prevents you from “zooming out” and seeing alternatives
  • you become preoccupied and may “check out” causing you to miss important details and info
  • blood flows to the memory/emotion part of your brain, causing you to make accidental connections that are not helpful
  • compromised health due to elevated levels of adrenalin & cortisol
  • brain is chemically dumbed down, forgetfulness for example

One solution: Organization. Create a safety net so that when bad things happen, you have tools in place that help you recover.

What about that bloodflow issue? Acknowledge, then choose to act. This actually reverses the bloodflow! Say, “I’m experiencing stress. Now I choose to…Take a deep breath, use a calm voice, shake it off, spend only 10 more minutes…”  It may help to plan ahead and “write a script” of such responses to have at-the-ready.

The brain uses a lot of energy — “each decision gets harder” because you’ve used up juice.  Here’s how you can fight “brain drain”:

  • Feed it! Eat breakfast, lunch
  • Exercise helps the brain too. It feeds oxygen into the bloodstream, and oxygen carries away the brain’s “trash” (free radicals)
  • Be aware of how your brain functions — save heavy-thinking tasks for times when you’re well-nourished and well-exercised.
  • Schedule times for your intentions & recharging so they will actually happen!
  • Protect yourself by communicating your plan to others.
  • Don’t forget to evaluate your actions for effectiveness.

Solution Summary:

  • Get organized
  • Be mindful — choose/decide.
  • Schedule & protect your intentions.
  • Connect!  Smile.  Put on your friend filter so others are more likely to view you as approachable.


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