Management Skills Blog

Monday 24th April 2017

Today I started my three week timeline of activities. First, I took my dogs for a walk in the morning to start my day off outdoors and in the beautiful sunshine. When i came home, I took the resiliency quiz online and saved/recorded my results to reflect on at the end of these three weeks when i take it again. I scored a total of 44/80 in the quiz which tests your level of resiliency in the workplace by asking questions based on your confidence, social support, adaptability and purposefulness in the workplace. The results didn’t really surprise me, as i know i am not overly resilient in the workplace — and many areas need improvement! I scored the highest for adaptability with a score of 15/20, which is true as i know i am very flexible and am able to adapt to change in the workplace with barely any problems at all. The area with the lowest score was confidence with a score of 8/20. Over the course of the next three weeks, I hope to increase my levels of confidence in the workplace as I know it is an area of severe weakness for me. The quiz was a good start to assessing my current level of resilience in the workplace and gives me things to improve on in the next few weeks!

In the afternoon I did half an hour of mindful colouring in to relax my brain and just calm down. I have always found colouring in very important to my mental health, as it soothes me and allows me to focus on something I enjoy doing for a period of time. Before bed I reflected on 5 good things that happened in the day which included:

1. Enjoying the sunshine when walking the dogs

2. Mindful colouring in

3. Getting cuddles from the 3 year old I nanny

4. Chatting to my mum over dinner

5. Finishing a uni assignment

Over the next few weeks I hope to reflect on how these activities help my to improve my level of resiliency in the workplace. I aim to write in this blog a few times a week to track my progress and record the findings of my activities :)

Thursday 27th April 2017

I listened to a TED talk on the practice of mindfulness and took down a few useful notes that I got out of the 18 minute talk. I found the TED talk very informative, and provided a good basis to understanding mindfulness and how it can affect so many parts of your life — including managing stress and building resilience in the work place.

TED talk — practice of mindfulness:

  • Diana Winston discusses her first mindfulness experience in South-East Asia 20–25 years ago
  • Initially, very difficult until a shift happened in her body & mind
  • Long meditation retreats — something changed inside of her, changed to someone who had more compassion, self-awareness, peace and ease
  • Mindfulness being brought into many different fields — law, finance, etc.
  • This practice = so simple, something everyone can and should do
  • Over the last decade gone from 100 studies to about 1000 studies on mindfulness
  • Boost immune system, impact stress related conditions & emotional wellbeing
  • Study done with cell phones — 2500 people all across the world, sent a message to see what their mind was on à if people’s mind was on what they were doing it recorded more happiness than if it was wandering
  • Helpful for people with mental health issues
  • Studied long-term meditators, looked at their brains, compared them to people in the same age range à found that the meditators brains did not thin out in a couple of places (insular cortex) à after 8 weeks of meditation practice of just 27 minutes a day, they found brain changes in areas relating to decision making, flexible thinking
  • Connected to self awareness and compassion
  • Mindfulness = paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity and a willingness to be with what is
  • Normally our minds just fluctuate between thinking about the past and the future, and that is where stress lies
  • Children = so connected and so present, we all start off like that
  • Goes on to do a mindfulness exercise and talks audience through the steps à relaxing the body, feeling your feet on the ground, relaxing your jaw etc.
  • Experience = racing minds, difficult to pay attention to breathing
  • Takes a lot of work but it is worth it

The ABC article ‘resilience in the workplace’ provided a good basis to understanding what resilience is and how its importance both inside and outside a workplace. Here are a few notes I took on the article:

  • Resilience = the ability to bounce back in the face of challenges or some sort of trauma
  • Building resilience is one way we can all reduce our stress at work and contribute to a more mentally healthy workplace (Dr. Sam Harvey — psychiatrist from Black Dog)
  • Resilient people = flexible, adaptable, learn from experience, optimistic and ask for help when they need it
  • Workplaces can help employees enhance their resilience by à providing resilience training programs, coaching and mentoring and providing physical activity programs
  • People can enhance their own resilience by à building resilient thinking, focusing on lifestyle factors (doing things outside of work, exercise etc.) and building solid support networks
  • Solid support networks are important inside and outside the workplace
  • Isolation and lack of supportive relationships denies us positive emotions (same in a workplace)

Monday 1st May 2017

The TED talk ‘making stress your friend’ provided me with a much deeper understanding of how to think about stress in order to make sure it doesn’t affect my life in a negative way, both in the workplace and outside of the workplace. Kelly spoke about how choosing to connect with others under stress actually builds resilience, which was a really interesting point to hear.

TED Talk — how to make stress your friend:

  • Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive
  • Tracked 30 000 adults in the US for 8 years à started by asking people how much stress one has experienced in the last year? And do you believe if stress is harmful for your health?
  • Then used public health records to see who died
  • People who experience a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% increase risk of dying à only true for people who believed stress was harmful for your health
  • People who experienced a lot of stress but thought it was not harmful to your health were the least likely to die
  • When you can change how you think about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress
  • Interpret signals such as sweat, heart pounding, etc. as anxiety or negative response to stress
  • However, what if we believed this was helpful and making us energized?
  • Breathing faster, could it be more oxygen going to our brain?
  • When people in the study did this and thought differently about their symptoms of stress à blood vessels stayed relaxed, looked a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage
  • New science of stress = how you think about stress matters
  • Her goal as a health psychologist has changed à she now wants people to understand stress, and think of it differently
  • Stress makes you social — releases oxytocin, actually a stress hormone
  • Motivates you to seek support
  • Oxytocin strengthens your heart — enhanced by social contact and support
  • 1000 adults tracked in US ages 34–93, how much stress experienced in the last year? And how much time have you spent helping out friends, neighbours etc.?
  • Then used public records to find out who died
  • Every major stressful life experience (financial, family crisis) increased the risk of dying by 30%
  • BUT not true for everyone à people who spent time caring for others, showed absolutely no stress related increase of dying
  • Choosing to connect with others under stress creates resilience
  • Chasing meaning = better for your help than avoiding discomfort

Since listening to the TED Talk on mindfulness, I have been doing 20 minutes of meditation before bed time and trying to practice being present and turning off my brain before going to sleep. Although mindfulness itself is difficult, and the first 10 minutes are very hard to get in touch with my body and my mind, once i turn all my thoughts off — I feel very at ease and a lot more relaxed than I have throughout the day. Additionally, I find that I wake up less tired — which i believe is an added bonus!!

‘9 ways to improve your resilience at work’ article:

  • Resilience at work = defining characteristic of employees who deal well with the stresses and strains of the modern workplace
  • Resilience is not a passive quality, but an active process
  • Ability to cope well with pressure, adversity and uncertainty relies on developing behaviours, thoughts and actions
  • Anyone can learn these habits & create strategies to help increase resilience and hardiness
  • To build resilience at work à 9 ways
  • Cherish social support & interaction and treat problems as a learning process
  • Avoid making drama out of a crisis & celebrate successes
  • Develop realistic life goals for guidance (small steps are enough)
  • Take positive action & nurture a positive view of yourself
  • Keep a realistic perspective and practice optimism
  • Mindfulness & meditation helps to connect with yourself and restore a sense of purpose
  • Identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience at work

Doing activities such as mindful colouring in, meditation and also reading for half an hour before bad has helped me relax my body and shut out the rushing thoughts going through my brain. I think in order to build up resilience, you have to be relaxed and focus on things that make you happy — which is what I have been trying to do.

Thursday 4th May 2017

TED Talk — All it takes is 10 mindful minutes à Andy Puddicombe

  • When is the last time we did absolutely nothing?
  • Mind = most valuable and precious resource
  • Rely on it to be considerate, emotionally stable
  • The mind lets us be focused, creative, spontaneous
  • We are so distracted that we are no longer present in the world in which we live
  • When he was 20 years old — serious things flipped his life upside down
  • Andy had difficult emotions he didn’t know how to cope with — very stressful time
  • He became a monk and started studying meditation
  • It gave him a greater appreciation and understanding of the present moment
  • Not being distracted, overwhelmed, instead learning how to be in the here and now and be present
  • Present moment = so underrated
  • Research paper at Harvard — our minds are lost in thought almost 47% of the time
  • Also concluded that this constant mind wondering = constant source of unhappiness
  • Meditation = stepping back, seeing the thought clearly and coming and going with a relaxed, focused mind
  • Normally get distracted in mindfulness
  • Leads us to being anxious about feeling anxious
  • Meditation offers the opportunity to step back and get a different perspective, see that things aren’t always how they appear
  • We cant change the things that happen in life, but we can change the way we experience them
  • All we need is to take 10 minutes out of the day to familiarize ourselves with the present moment and focus on the clarity of life

When doing the resilience quiz for the second time yesterday, I scored a result of 51/80, which is an improvement from the 44/80 I scored on the first day I started the implementation of my timeline of activities. I received the same score for adaptability, 15/20 which was my highest score but I did increase in the confidence questions to 11/20 from 8/20 in the first week. Seeing this result was very encouraging as I know I do lack confidence in many areas and it is an area that I need to improve on. I look forward to re-doing the quiz at the end of the three weeks and seeing if that has improved any more, or if it was just how i was feeling on the day.

The mindful colouring in that I have been doing every couple of days has been really helping me just focus on a particular thing (that being colouring in). I find it very therapeutic and it really does help me just disconnect from the world for a bit.

Friday 5th May 2017

The article resilience at work provided techniques to deal with stress and increasing your resilience in and outside of the workplace. They used a case study where they applied the techniques to a particular workplace that was experiencing a period of change, and recorded positive results.

Resilience at work article:

  • “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
  • Article aims to share some techniques on how to increase resilience and transform the way you choose to use your energy and time at work & home
  • Resilience = ability to work at optimum performance no matter what is going on around us
  • Good example of resilience = Olympic games when athletes perform personal bests in the face of great pressure and competition
  • By role modeling resilience we can promote a healthy and positive work environment
  • The challenge of constant change in the workplace = ambiguity & pressure
  • Key to having high resilience à managing our emotional state because how we are feeling dictates our physical, mental and spiritual state
  • When we are sad/angry it makes it hard to have a logical approach to a problem
  • When we are feeling positive emotion we are in a place that allows us to work at our personal best
  • This is when we become the most resilience à positive emotional state
  • ‘Personal best’ = where we are exhibiting high quantity of energy and positive emotion
  • ‘Regeneration’ = where you experience a low quantity of energy but high positive emotion
  • ‘Anxious’ mode = expand a high quantity of energy but experience negative emotional state
  • ‘Break down’ = low quantity of energy and a negative emotional state
  • Lots of people are spending time in the anxious zone à has long term negative implications for your health and wellbeing
  • Four strategic themes to increasing resilience = feeling, doing, thinking & being
  • Being resilient = essential quality in today’s workplace
  • High levels of resilience = people who have high levels of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing
  • By identifying your strengths and weaknesses in the four areas, individuals can adopt strategies to increase their ability to cope in times of difficulty & change

I have been doing yoga at the gym once a week and it has really been helping with my emotional state. I think there is such a link between feeling healthy and happy and being resilient — and i can really see that through doing things like this for myself.

Monday 8th May 2017

Over the weekend I took it relatively easy and just focused on doing social activities and things that would make me feel good such as playing soccer and taking the dogs for a walk. I enjoyed the few days off reading articles and watching TED talks, but noticed that i was still enjoying going for walks and spending time with friends and family. I have found over the past few weeks that it is very important to make time for things that make you feel positive emotion such as spending time with family, friends and being outdoors.

Pico Iyer’s TED talk shows the importance of shutting down and staying still in order to fully reach your potential in work and in life.

TED talk — ‘the art of stillness’:

  • Pico Iyer = lifelong traveller
  • He became a travel writer — job & joy became one
  • He found that going nowhere was as exciting as going to Tibet or Cuba
  • Sit still long enough to recall where your truest happiness lies, sometimes making a living and making a life points in different directions
  • It’s not our experience that makes our lives, it’s what we do with it
  • Same event can create very different responses
  • If you want to change your life, first change your mind
  • Sociologists have found that Americans are working fewer hours than 50 years ago but feel as though they are working more
  • Often its exactly the people who have mostly enabled us to get anywhere, who are intent on going nowhere
  • Science has shown meditation has led to emotional intelligence & happiness
  • At 29 years old he gave up his life in NYC and moved to Kyoto Japan
  • Very different life — he never has to look at his cell phone, rarely has to check the time
  • One of the beauties of travel = it allows you to bring stillness into the motion and the commotion in the world
  • Many of us have the sensation that we are standing about 2 inches away from a huge screen that is changing every second (screen = our lives)
  • It is only by stepping back, staying still and looking at the screen that we can capture the larger picture
  • Nothing is more luxurious than paying attention
  • Nothing is more urgent than sitting still

Thursday 11th May 2017

I found the TED talk by Sam Goldstein ‘the power of resilience’ very empowering and informative and it just really resonated with me. As a nanny working and interacting with young children everyday, it reminded me of the impact we have in shaping who they are and who they become as people. Building resilience from a young age is so important and sometimes adults, caretakers and teachers forget and lose sight of this.

TED talk — ‘the power of resilience’:

  • 15 years ago Sam Goldstein had an experience with a child that changed his mindset
  • Clinical director of a neuropsychology clinic in Salt Lake City
  • They see about 300 children each year\
  • Met with a tween — child who is old enough to think they know everything, but not old enough to be responsible for anything they think they know
  • Sam Goldstein asked the boy what has to happen to make it a good day
  • He responded that a good day is one where nothing bad happens
  • The teen continued to tell him what makes a bad day — arguments with his mum, meeting parents expectations, sibling relationships, problems at school etc. à he ended by saying that if none of that happens it would be a good day
  • Goldstein asked if staying in bed all day would be a good day — he responded that his mum would never let him do that
  • His mindset about the world was being shaped to avoid challenges and mistakes
  • From that day forward — he started a journey to ask what really makes a difference in who we become and how we turn out in life
  • He then discovered the science of resilience
  • Three areas that make a difference à things within us, things within the immediate family, and things within the extended environment
  • Biology does not have to be destiny à experience trumps genetics over time
  • Children’s relationships with educators, family etc. will shape who they become
  • He shifted away from studying children who had problems and how to fix them to studying those with problems who found a path into adult life
  • A path that was happy, successful and functional
  • In every risk group à there are those who overcome and manage that adversity, and go on to live happy and functional lives
  • There’s a unitary set of these qualities in how we come to think and how we feel and how we interact with others that insulates and protects all of us
  • Another boy he was seeing à he asked him if he could be anyone for a day who would it be
  • The boy responded with “my dad” and said you just have to know my dad, he really loves me
  • From our hearts to their minds à there is more connection between our hearts and minds than any other organs in the body
  • The power of resilience is irrefutable
  • If we are to prepare children for careers that we are yet to imagine & jobs that are yet to be defined, we have to do things differently
  • It is ordinary magic à appreciation that the day in and day out interactions we have with children (home, playgrounds, classrooms) is a powerful force in shaping the way they come to think & feel and ultimately behave and believe about themselves
  • We must understand and embrace these ordinary qualities of resilience to make a positive difference
  • We must understand the power of resilience in shaping the lives of children
  • The mindset we all need but in particular children = bring on the challenges and adversity

Saturday 13th May 2017

Watching the TED talk cultivating resilience gave a much greater insight into the components of resilience from a psychological point of view.

TED Talk — ‘cultivating resilience’:

  • How do we bounce back?
  • “If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces”
  • Resilience = shifting the mind frame
  • Definition within psychology à positive outcomes despite the high-risk status & competence in the face of stress
  • Resilience is something that can be taught
  • We can all do it better
  • Made up of multiple components (SAVES): social connection, attitude, values, emotions and silliness
  • Have resilient role models
  • Importance of social connection: oxytocin, support, we need to find someone who can help us and connect us in ways we can deal with all life’s challenges
  • “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude” — William James
  • No matter what the circumstance, tomorrow could bring something different
  • The three P’s of attitude: permanence, pervasiveness, personalization
  • When we are resilient we shift our minds to positive things and watch the positive things grow
  • Not letting the negative stuff encroach on the positive
  • What matters is what life expects from us à pursue what matters
  • When something comes up that is undesirable we think it is wrong and we have to change it
  • Creative hopelessness, accept what is
  • Teach somebody to drop the rope, these feelings are part of our experiences
  • “We are all here on this earth to help others; What on earth the others are here for I don’t know”
  • Not taking ourselves too seriously

Sunday 14th May 2017

I have finished my three week implementation of the activities on my timeline! Yay! Today I finished off by completing the resilience quiz again, however I found I recorded similar results to the one I did in the middle of the three weeks, but still improved by two points! Upon reflection, I think that these past three weeks have really benefitted me and taught me a lot about resilience and how important it is to attain. Having a higher level of resilience can ultimately improve your lifestyle, allowing you to live a happier and healthier life and improving your mental state and level of emotional wellbeing. I found the TED talks incredibly interesting and probably learnt the most out of them as they were really informative and involved professionals in the field giving an insight into their research and life experiences surrounding resilience and mindfulness. Ultimately, I have found that mindfulness and resilience have a very strong relationship, and it has taught me how important it is to try and include some type of mindfulness in your daily or weekly routine.

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