Brainwork–Understanding and Managing Anxiety and Fear

Ways to manage anxiety and fears?

You need tools or stimuli that do four things:

  1. It must be soothing-like deep breathing
  2. It must be interesting enough to your brain to prefer it to the anxiety provoking stimuli-like meditation
  3. It must hold your attention so as to quiet your mind-mental visualization
  4. The relaxation technique must have time to actually be integrated into the emotional memory response by building a habit or daily ritual-like daily exercise or mindfulness activities.

Understanding and Insights 

Although you may experience anxiety as a bodily sensation (hands shaking, hands sweating), anxiety actually comes from the part of your brain which is responsible for emotions.  You can think of your brain as being divided into four quadrants, ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ and ‘left’ and ‘right’ and this structure reflects how your brain functions.  Roughly speaking, the bottom half deals with sensation and emotion while the upper half deals with thoughts, although feelings really straddle the two. Anxiety and fear are mediated by the amygdala, which is located in the center-front of your brain, about two-thirds of the way down (near where your brain narrows into the brain stem).  The amygdala is where sensory inputs from the environment are initially processed. It also has connections to long-term memory which helps with threat detection. Your brain is a ‘bottom-up’ system which means that feelings tend to drive thinking and ideas rather than the other way around. It is possible to control feelings with thoughts, but usually only temporarily.  The left side and right side deal with many different functions, but for the purposes of this app you only need to know that the left hemisphere is responsible for narrow focused attention, which anxious people are more prone to.

Although anxiety seems to start with something “out-there”, as we can see, anxiety is very much “in-here” … in your brain. So this is a good place to start if you want to learn how to tame anxiety.  Just as your brain can be trained to produce anxiety, through too much stress, it can also be trained to not feel anxiety. Your brain’s capacity to for re-wiring is known as neuro-plasticity. For a long time it was thought that your brain couldn’t change, but this has now been found to be incorrect, which is great news.  Changing the anxiety response means working WITH your brain in terms of how it processes information.  Since your brain is a bottom-up system,  the most effective way to neutralize anxiety is to stimulate the lower, sensing part.  This is why many people find sounds such as waves on a beach or rain on a roof soothing – they are appealing directly to this lower region of the brain. Unfortunately, such stimuli are only temporarily effective  because they are not sufficiently interesting to permanently alter the brain activity associated with anxiety.

Challenge- Next time you feel anxious what are you going to do to decrease and manage your fears and anxiety? 

 

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Creating Love in the Workplace

LOVE in the Workplace

When I envision what goes into a loving and caring workplace, I think about more than just the other employees, location, facilities and technology. My ideal workplace is built on that “can do” attitude and is strengthened by the relationships we build with individuals and teams inside and outside our organizations. In order to accomplish this, leadership and teams must be:

  • Safe – a great workplace makes safety a foundational commitment for employees and the customers they serve.
  • Engaged – people are excited about their work, proud of their organization and eager to make their work environment better. They feel valued for doing meaningful work. They trust their leaders, and their leaders trust and empower them.
  • Diverse – a true team that is diverse, inclusive and reflective of the customers it serves. Diversity, in all of its many dimensions, makes workplaces stronger, including diversity of thought and experience.
  • Empowered – every employee is challenged to contribute to his or her full potential. They are encouraged to contribute and speak up when something needs fixing or improving.
  • Aligned – employees are committed to the organization’s core values and behaviors. They work together to win.
  • Committed – people are focused on excellence. They lead by example and know that integrity, openness, flexibility, accountability and results are expected and rewarded.
  • Opportunity for personal Growth and Development
  • Challenging and Respectful
  • Collaboration and cooperation are cornerstones of building trust and producing results
  • Giving your best effort whenever and wherever it is needed

The above characteristics make for a loving workplace which creates an exciting and challenging work environment – and that in turn gives us the freedom – to pursue the art of love and possibility.  And that’s exactly what successful organizations are doing around the world in leading the transformation of in the workplace from inequality, command and control and frustration or boredom to an Open, Agile, Loving, Caring, Engaged  and Accepting culture from bottom to top of an organization. The mantra is that everyone matters and needs to be respected.

 

 

Power of Self-Coaching: Start today to Change Your Life through Mental Rehearsal

 

Overview: The purpose of self-coaching is to bring a sense of direction and inner peace to the participant – a state of being mentally and spiritually calm, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. This state can be measured and brings the following results according to the research. To summarize, participants were more self-sufficient and self-reliant, they sounded more upbeat and flexible, felt healthy, relaxed and more enthusiastic after successful self-coaching.

Mental Rehearsal Self-coaching process and structure

Many folks are not motivated to make the effort to become more self-aware. So they just set their life map on automatic and float through life accepting what ever comes their way.

Formula for Change Self-awareness and Action = overcoming inner obstacles for personal growth and development.

Goal Focused Method for Personal Growth and Change

G-oal –Focus on what you want to accomplish. Make your goal specific and measurable  

O bstacles—Barriers to accomplishing goal. E.g. Fear of failure, low believe in self (SA)

O utput—Effort and energy needed to overcome obstacle. Deliberate practice and effort

D—Development Plan– IF…Then  Behavioral Method for Changing habits and triggers

Plan eg. If fearful then name it, face it and act 

Start with a clear and focused mind.

Self-Coaching uses an imagery or mental rehearsal  technique that involves free thoughts. You should be relaxed, focused, and willing to clear your mind. Identify a meaningful wish. This is meant to help you select a personal, academic, or professional desire—one wish that is dear to you. It should be challenging but feasible. It can be a wish you want to come true in a day, a month, or longer. Once you have a wish, summarize it in 3 to 6 words to make it memorable. Identify and imagine the best outcome. This part of the process enables you to connect your mind and feelings to the best result of fulfilling your wish. Be willing to think about the best result. Really see and feel what it’s like to accomplish it! Once you are ready, make sure to hold the outcome in your mind and imagine it. Identify the obstacle within you that is holding you back. Imagine it. Sometimes, our feelings, thoughts, or actions prevent us from fulfilling our wishes. Identifying your internal obstacle raises your awareness about what is preventing you from achieving your wish. You may have to dig deeper to find your real obstacle. Once you identify your internal obstacle, hold it in your mind, and imagine it. See and feel yourself experiencing the obstacle. Create an “if [obstacle], then I will [effective action]” plan. You can overcome your obstacle. First, identify one effective action you can take to overcome it. Then you will need to create a plan, but not any kind of plan. A WOOP plan has a specific formula: “If [obstacle], then I will [effective action].” This formula ensures that your plan is directly linked to the obstacle. Once you create a plan, you should repeat it aloud and imagine it. Reflect on the process. You may need to make adjustments to some or all sections of your WOOP. To do so, ask yourself: “Is this wish meaningful? Is this the real obstacle? Is this action effective? Did I really see and feel it, and feel engaged in the WOOP process? Once you find answers, WOOP again. Give it a try! Wish: What is an important wish that you want to accomplish in the next _________ [time period]? Your wish should be challenging but feasible. Write your response in 3 to 6 words. Outcome: What will be the best result from accomplishing your wish? How will you feel? Obstacle: What is the main obstacle inside you that might prevent you from accomplishing your wish? Plan: Select an effective action to tackle the obstacle.

Tool for change implementation:

 If _________________________________________________, then I will ___________________________________________. Hold it in your mind. Take a moment to really imagine it. Hold it in your mind. Take a moment to really imagine it. Bringing WOOP

Sources and Reference Literature on Mental Contrasting Process

Duckworth, A. L., Grant, H., Loew, B., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2011). Self- regulation strategies improve self-discipline in adolescents: Benefits of mental contrasting and implementation intentions.

Educational Psychology, 31, 17-26. doi:10.1080/01443410 .2010.506003. Duckworth, A. L., Kirby, T. A., Gollwitzer, A., & Oettingen, G. (2013). From fantasy to action: Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) improves academic performance in children.

Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 745-753. doi: 10.1177/1948550613476307. Gawrilow, C., Morgenroth, K., Schultz, R., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2013). Mental contrasting with implementation intentions enhances self-regulation of goal pursuit in schoolchildren at risk for ADHD. Motivation and Emotion, 37, 134-145.

Oettingen, G. (2012). Future thought and behavior change. European Review of Social Psychology, 23, 1-63. doi:10.1080/10463283.2011.643698

Oettingen, G., & Schwö rer, B. (2013). Mind wandering via mental contrasting as a tool for behavior change. Frontiers in Psychology,4:562. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00562 .

Self-Coaching Challenge–Change how you react and see things !

Self-Coaching Challenge: Determine what you need to get started on understanding the power of personal change. Identify what negative habits or actions interfere with your personal growth? With a more positive outlook how could your day to day life improve? What needs to change for you to become a more effective person?

Motivation Trigger--Emperor Marcus Aurelius, one of the most important Stoic philosopher’s once wrote,

If you are stressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your perception and reaction to it ; and this you have the power to change and revoke at any moment.”

 

 

Proven Tips for Making Presentations that Connect

Delivering Presentations that Make Unique Connections

Mark W. Hardwick, Ph.D.

 

Lecturing remains one of the more popular methods to transmit information and ideas by teachers, trainers and speakers.  As students and audience participants we are quite familiar with the approach.  Lectures can be informative, boring and overwhelming depending on the compelling nature of the message and the presenter’s style and clarity of message.  The lecture method usually is one-way communication and allows for little or none audience participation. The result is audience misunderstanding, loss of information and poor retention.

 

Research reported by Ralph Nichols, distinguished communication professor at the University of Minnesota, reports that listening is a learned skill.  His research findings indicate that most people forget fifty percent of what is said in the first two minutes, and twenty-five percent after eight minutes, and can retain the rest of the information only for about a month.  To retain more information participants need to use active listening skills, try to anticipate where the presenters’ lecture is going and get an opportunity to interact with the material.  In addition a study conducted by the U.S. Department of HEW, showed that we retain only 10-25% of what we hear after a thirty –day period. The lower the interaction the lower the retention. Given this information what are the reasons that so many presenters still prefer the lecture method?  And how can we improve the effectiveness of lectures?

 

Some presenters prefer one-way communication methods, such as lecturing, because they can transmit large amounts of information to audiences in a short period of time. Presenters find lectures efficient because the flow of information can be directed and controlled with greater precision.

 

On the other hand, from the receivers’ point of view they experience one-way communication as being “talked at” rather than being “communicated with”. Listeners find it difficult to figure out where the speaker is going and to focus attention unless they are provided a roadmap for the lecture. The audience has little or no opportunity to get involved or provide feedback on the messages being communicated.

 

The question becomes how do we capture listeners’ attention and provide methods and tools to help them understand the presenter’s lecture?  We must develop techniques and messages that are perceived as involving participants and providing opportunities for interaction.

 

How do you do this as a lecturer?  By creatively modifying your approach to pay more attention to how adults listen, learn, and absorb new information and ideas.  At the end of the day, a presenter must focus on the needs of the audience rather than on what they want to present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Approaches and Techniques for Winning Presentations in a New Age:

 

  1. Structuring presentation—Effective presenters provide roadmaps for their speech. They design and present lectures that are well-organized and easy to follow.  There’s an “attention grabber” for the opening, a preview of what is ahead and three or four chunks of information that make-up the body of the presentation, and a closing that summarizes important content, information and key messages. Exceptional closings let participants know where they have been and “wave the flag” and passionately call for action.

 

  1. Repetition and restatement of critical information and the significant overriding message for the presentation. Effective lectures use multiple and clear examples to illustrate the critical information.  They keep the learning goal “top of the mind” and provide clear and concise information.  Effective presenters always try to see their message from the audience point of view.  A technique, which helps, is to ask—What is in it for the audience to pay attention and how can they use this information back home to make their worklife more fulfilling and satisfying?

 

  1. Make the presentation appear to be interactive, engaging and a conversation not a one-way monologue.
    • Provide individual reflection/think time, encourage pairing-up with another participants to exchange ideas and then share perceptions with larger audience
    • Ask rhetorical questions
    • Survey the audience with powerful trigger questions
    • Provide a partial outline of the lecture to help align audience thinking and tracking the presentation
    • Feed forward structuring message; for example, these three points are critical
    • Stimulus prompts; these are three important diagnostic factors for determining risks of heart attack_______, ________ and ________.

 

  1. Use the make me feel important (MMFI) rule to find unique ways to connect with the audience. Create a psychological safe climate by building closeness and openness of participants. You do this by using people’s names, nodding your head, looking people in the eye with one thought rather than scanning the room.  Use natural gestures, which are experienced as inviting; for example open hands rather than pointing a finger.

 

 

  1. Use analogies to express your message and create understanding. The human brain is use to dealing with visual images and tying new ideas to information already known. The dictionary defines analogy “as a likeness in one or more ways between things otherwise unlike.”  The analogy is one of the most powerful communication techniques and yet it is the least used form of evidence for speakers. One of the main reasons for it’s under use is that the development of an analogy takes imagination and creativity by the presenter to tie the analogy to the main goal of the presentation and to listener’s interests and needs. For example: Exercising every day is as hard as saving money, but it pays off in the long run.

                   

 

 

                   

  1. Statistical and factual evidence. In a technical presentation statistics are the most frequently used form of evidence.  Unfortunately, numbers and facts can over load the listener’s ability to process and retain information.  When using graphs and visual support explain each bit of information and build the slide one idea at a time.  To strengthen credibility, state whom conducted the research and their credentials.

 

  1. Story Telling. Your experience or others experience related by means of a story is a form of evidence because it gives the listener tangible evidence and illustrates the viewpoint of the speaker.  The communicator’s personal self-disclosure and involvement through stories brings the evidence to life; first-person life. Story telling helps make your presentation believable and conveys your human side.

 

  1. Examples make the information concrete and tangible. Examples can take ideas from the theoretical to the practical.  Because of the massive misquotes and misuse of statistics, even examples have become automatically suspect by many listeners.

 

  1. Communicate in common and understood language. Often presenters out of habit, comfort and sometimes to demonstrate their expertise use professional jargon and lose the audience.  Do not assume that listeners understand complex technical language.  If you need to use technical language, provide definitions or a glossary handout to facilitate communication.  In order to facilitate impact and effectiveness of presentations it is important to keep your language clear, concise and compelling.  Remember your goal is to connect with the audience and impart information and ideas listeners can use to their benefit.

 

Summary

It is important to remember that the single overriding goal of a presentation is to provide meaningful content in an entertaining and engaging way so that participants focus their attention, understand material and are receptive to implementing new ideas back on the job.  The whole preparation, presentation and content of a lecture must therefore be directed not to the speaker but to the audience needs and wants.  I encourage you to try some of the above interventions so that your lectures may be perceived as more of a two-way communication by using more interactive exchanges, experiential exercises and stories that will make your presentations more memorable and your message relevant.

 

 

Over Coming Self-Criticism–Try PERMA Process

Reducing self-criticism— Learn to appreciate Positive Emotions and accept Emotional ups and downs by learning to take emotional timeouts.  Remember feelings are meant to be experienced but not to drive who you are. Accept and manage you feelings they put color and meaning in to ordinary life experiences. Don’t block or ignore feelings they can be signposts for finding purpose and fulfillment in life.

PERMA is an acronym for a model of well-being put forth by a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman. According to Seligman, PERMA makes up five important building blocks of well-being and happiness:

  • Positive emotions – feeling good
  • Engagement – being completely absorbed in activities
  • Relationships – being authentically connected to others
  • Meaning – purposeful existence
  • Achievement – a sense of accomplishment and success success

Digging Deep on PERMA–What does it mean?

What do each of these mean in practical terms, and how can we recognize them in children? Moreover, how can parents help cultivate and strengthen these five key building blocks in their children? To answer these questions, let’s take a look at PERMA in more detail.

Positive Emotions

Positive emotions are among the many components that make up happiness and well-being, and one of the more obvious layers of happiness. Let’s begin by distinguishing between pleasure and enjoyment. While pleasure relates to satisfying bodily needs like hunger, thirst, or taking a long sleep after a tough day, enjoyment comes from intellectual stimulation and creativity. We see enjoyment in action when we observe children screaming with delight as they run and skip in the mud, or build snowmen and throw snowballs at each other. Enjoyment also involves being intellectually challenged and standing up to it. When 10-year old Jack was able to put a jigsaw puzzle together, which requires concentration and careful figuring out, smiles of contentment and enjoyment spread over his beaming face.

Positive emotions are good for children because they stretch the imagination. When children do something they enjoy or find interesting, they are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges, and spontaneously search for more creative solutions and opportunities. Positive emotions can also help undo negative ones; reminding Laura about the wonderful time she had at the beach yesterday is likely to offset her stress from a challenging day at school, for example. Generally, children are likely to do more of the activities they find stimulating and that bring enjoyment, and the effects last longer than those that generate short-lived pleasure.

Engagement

Everyone has had the experience of becoming so absorbed in work or in reading a book that they completely lose sense of time or forget an appointment. We’ve also seen children becoming so involved in play that it’s not easy to get their attention, or to get them to stop. Achieving this state of flow or total engagement is natural, especially when people are involved in activities they love and are good at, such as dancing, playing sport, or pursuing creative activities and hobbies.

Although engagement in enjoyable activities comes relatively easy to most children, it is still important to provide opportunities for children to take part in activities that offer them experiences of engagement or flow. Such opportunities might involve putting together jigsaw puzzles, drawing and coloring, playing with toys, or practicing ballet or a musical instrument. The fact that such activities stretch the child’s intellectual and emotional limits and endurance, as well as require concentration and effort, is important. So, next time 5-year old Simon is completely absorbed with his train set, think twice before interrupting him. This level of engagement is healthy and productive to nurturing happiness.

Since modeling the desired behavior one wants from others is more convincing than talking about it, it’s also advisable that children see their parents engage in enjoyable but challenging activities. When children see the contentment it gives parents, they are more likely to persist and search deeper for creative solutions to challenges, be it on the sports field or when practicing novel musical notes, for example.

Relationships

Happiness and psychological health are inextricably linked with close, meaningful, and intimate relationships. Fleeting social relationships with strangers as well as longstanding ones with peers, siblings, parents, extended family, and friends are all sources of positive emotions and support. According to research, one important function of social networks is that they can spread happiness, cheer and laughter like wild fire.

Encourage children to form friendships and to show willingness to be a friend who can be trusted and relied on. Children are at times more comfortable with sharing aspects about their lives and feelings with trusted peers rather than adults. This is necessary and ought to be respected by adults, since we tend to measure our successes and general quality of life in comparison to peers rather then the older or younger generations. Parents that have a circle of stable friends are good role models for encouraging children to form relationships of support with others.

Meaning

True happiness, according to the psychologist Rollo May, comes from creating and having meaning in life, rather than from the pursuit of pleasure and material wealth. Loving someone and being loved is a meaningful phenomenon, for example, because such acts inspire people to live for, and take care of, someone other than the self. Living a meaningful life is, in essence, related to attaching oneself to something larger than oneself. It instills the sense that there is a larger purpose to life, and being a part of it confers meaning. Having such connections with something bigger is also an effective barrier against depression. Research shows, for example, that religious or spiritual people generally have more meaningful lives because they believe in and worship something greater than themselves.

Taking children with you to help distribute presents or food parcels at the local shelter,  offering assistance at soup kitchens for homeless people, or volunteering to help clean the park are some examples of taking part in activities that go beyond merely living for oneself. These bring fulfillment and meaning that enhance well-being. Parents who dedicate themselves with passion and action to something larger than their own lives are teaching their children the value of a meaningful existence.

Achievement

Having explicit goals in life, even small ones like reading for an hour everyday, and making efforts to achieve them are important to well-being and happiness. Achievement helps to build self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment.  It also strengthens self-belief.  Parents that actively set and try to achieve goals, such as daily exercise, for example, tend to have children who develop similar attitudes.

The mere effort one puts into reaching a specific goal in itself harbors satisfaction. Even if your teenager James didn’t reach the school’s football A-team, it’s good to point out that trying through diligent practice is something to feel good about. Notice the smallest achievements of your child – like tying his shoe laces by himself –  and let him know how proud you are. The more this happens, the stronger a child’s self-belief becomes, which in turn spurs children to want to try harder, and keep on achieving. Such self- belief helps to build resilience in the face of challenges. Importantly, setting goals and putting in the necessary efforts to achieve them are just as important as actually reaching them; it is OK not to succeed the first time.

How do I use this in my life?

Look at well-being in a new light. Visiting a friend that is seriously ill in hospital is not a time for celebrations, generally speaking, and most of us would not equate the experience with happiness. However, the time you spend with that friend can strengthen a meaningful relationship.  This in turn may deepen your overall sense of well-being. Remember,  well-being is not a unitary phenomenon or experience, solely having to do with feeling good. Well-being has depth.

The awareness of PERMA can help you increase your well-being by focusing on combinations of feeling good, living meaningfully, establishing supportive and friendly relationships, accomplishing goals, and being fully engaged with life.  Further nurturing these experiences can help you go beyond “surviving” to really “thriving” in life.

Quote and Reflection : To Change Your Life Perspective, Change Your Brain

 Daily Quote:

“Among other things, neuroplasticity means that emotions such as happiness and compassion can be cultivated in much the same way that a person can learn through repetition to play golf and basketball or master a musical instrument, and that such practice changes the activity and physical aspects of specific brain areas.”
― Andrew WeilSpontaneous Healing

Reflection: What are you doing on a daily basis to stretch and grow your brain?