From surviving to thriving

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From surviving to thriving


Resilience and mental health is something I’m massively passionate about and I could probably talk to you for about two days about that subject, but I have 10 minutes. So, I had to really think very carefully about what to do.

Mental health awareness week every year has a theme. This year the theme is moving from surviving to thriving. So, I thought we’d focus on that for 10 minutes and see what that means to us. Here’s my first image for you. Is this surviving or is this thriving?

Surviving, yeah, absolutely. Does it look familiar, is this how your brains feel sometimes perhaps?

Yeah? That’s how my brain feels sometimes as well. What this says to me is actually the way that we’re working isn’t really working very well for us. So, I don’t know about you, but I find myself sometimes working longer and longer hours to try and achieve more and actually when I look back it I think, how productive was I during those hours? The reality is that actually probably not that productive, I just put in extra hours, it didn’t really achieve very much.

So, today what I want to talk to you about is the concept of managing your energy instead of your time. Some of you might have come across it already. We’re going to dip into it, we’re literally in 10 minutes we’re going to dip a toe into it. I’m going to give you some thoughts and some ideas around how you could do something different in order to manage your energy differently in order to be more resilient, more productive, more effective in your day-to-day life.

So, think of yourselves as a battery. You probably notice that there are times when your battery feels quite full, you feel quite energetic, you feel quite on top of things, ready and raring to go. You may also notice that there are days – and this is Friday afternoon, an interesting time to be talking about this – there are days and times when perhaps your battery doesn’t feel quite so charged. Yeah? Oh, people are going: “Yes, we recognise that Sarah”. Okay, so now tell me a little bit about your mobile phone battery. How low do you let that battery go before you plug it in?…

Who here would feel anxious if they only had 1% left on their battery? Yeah, okay. So, what other percentages? Where’s your limit?


Yeah, 20%, starting to feel the anxiety around not having any battery. What about your personal battery? How low do you let that go before you plug yourself in?

Completely flat. Completely flat. Yeah, way over. Okay, so it may help you to know there are four areas on which we can create and use energy in our day-to-day lives. They are physical, emotional, mental, and purposeful. What we’re going to do is just literally have a little look at each one of those and talk about some of the things that you might do to support yourself in terms of recharging that part of you.

Let’s start with physical. It’s probably the easiest one to spot is your physical energy levels. What type of things do you do that help you to recharge or to maintain, sustain?

Nap? Eat lots of sugar? Okay, but what’s the problem with eating lots of sugar?

[You crash]

Absolutely. That’s survival technique is that. What we’re interested in is how you thrive in a physical way.

Exercise, yeah, absolutely. Most of us know that if we do some exercise, actually we end up feeling a bit better after that, a bit more energised from it. Okay? We had sleep came through there. Anything else? Sleeping and exercise.

Hydration, fantastic. I look around, a few beer bottles around the place. This is fine. But not all day. So yeah, making sure that you’ve got enough hydration. Here you go, let’s have a look. Food, making sure that you’re eating the right sort of things on a reasonably regular basis. If you miss breakfast, chances are you’re going to have a big energy slump at some point in the morning. If you’re eating lots of sugar, chances are you’re going to notice a big energy slump. So just thinking about how you maintain that.

Getting enough sleep, sometimes is challenging. Yes, it’s possible to survive and I look at new mum back in the workplace, it’s possible to survive on three hours’ sleep.

Absolutely. But then, again, we’re talking about survival, not thriving. Aiming for seven hours would be a lovely thing to do. Drinking, so again, hydration. Movements, thinking about exercise and thinking about it, doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. It could be a 10 minute walk around the block, just to reenergise, just to recharge your battery. This whole idea of recharging, how many of you notice, or how many of you set off in the morning, you get here in the morning and you set off on a kind of marathon approach to the day, just keep going and going and going and going and you get to the end of the day exhausted and go home? Yeah, some of you do that.

Okay, so maybe thinking about approaching your day a little bit differently, thinking about changing that into a number of different sprints? So, you work in a focused way for maybe 60-90 minutes. You notice perhaps at that point you’re getting a bit fidgety, you’re losing your focus, take a short break, come back to it. It’s a much more productive way of going about things and you won’t feel quite so flat at the end of the day. So that’s a fairly straightforward one, we know all that stuff, don’t we? We know if we don’t do that stuff we feel tired, if we do that stuff we feel a bit better.

Let’s have a look at the other pieces. I’ve grouped together mental and emotional, partly because of the time scales involved, but also partly because your mental and emotional energy are quite interconnected. The way we think impacts the way that we feel. Try this out for me. What do you tell yourself when you mess something up in front of other people?

Okay, any advance on that? Rather than what you just said, what do you tell yourself about that situation right there? You give yourself a hard time?

Oh yeah, people must think I’m a right idiot, yeah? That sort of thing, yeah? What about when you’re doing something for the first time and you’re finding it difficult?

Oh, I’m rubbish at this. I can’t do it at all, yeah? Okay. What about you’re called into meeting with the boss and you don’t know why. Oh-oh.

Just becomes the norm after a while, right? Okay, so have a little think for a moment. When you’re saying those things to yourself and that’s your mental process in those situations, what are the emotions that are attached to that?

Negative. Yeah, so things like perhaps anger, frustration, anxiety. And if we’re thinking about energy, are those emotions that give you energy or are those emotions that drain you of energy?

Yeah, absolutely. So, spending too much time in that kind of space isn’t very helpful for us. Now, think about it a little bit differently. If your friend was experiencing those situations, what would you say to them?

Don’t worry about it, yeah? It’s the first time you’ve done it, it takes time to learn. Yeah, anything else supportive and kind you would say?

Yeah, it’s probably fine.

It’ll probably be okay. So, what emotions would you want to be creating in your friend by saying those things to them?

Reassurance, yeah?

Some perspective, yeah, absolutely. Anything else?

Positive energy, yeah. So, are those sort of emotions things that therefore give you energy as opposed to draining you of energy? Yeah, absolutely. So, you see what I’m saying about your mental processing affects your emotional experiences, yeah? We are way kinder to other people than we ever are to ourselves. I’m sure you know that. Yeah, much, much tougher on ourselves than anybody else. Give ourselves a much harder time. My message here, if the first message was “be healthy”, this message is “be kind”. Be kind to yourself, stop giving yourself such a hard time.

This is certainly my experience of some days. On the left-hand side, yeah? How many of us spend our days and our time thinking about what’s happening tomorrow, what happened yesterday, what’s happening in the office when I’m out of the office?

So, it’s mind overflowing? Okay, so I’m lucky enough to have a dog in my life and I think to myself, you know what? This is us, we go for a walk and I’m thinking: “Ah, God, when I get back I’ve got that call to make and I’ve got this to happen and the car needs an MOT and eh, eh, eh,” all this noise going on in my head. And she’s just walking thinking: “The sun is shining and this is a nice day”. She is not worrying about whether I’m going to give her breakfast, whether we’re going out again later, whether we’re going…she’s not thinking about any of that stuff. She’s just there in the moment.

How does this help us from a work perspective? Any ideas?

Be more dog, yeah, absolutely. That’s absolutely my message here, be more dog. We spend a lot of time not very focused, we spend a lot of time thinking about all the stuff and being distracted by all the white noise. We’ll be in meetings and we won’t remember what anybody said because we were thinking about something else. So, this is about focus, it’s about paying attention. You would perhaps have heard a lot about mindfulness, there’s a lot out there. In really simple terms, it’s just about paying attention to what’s going on for you and what’s going on around you and you can do that at any point in time. You don’t have to sit in a dark room in lotus position to be mindful. You can do it on a walk, you can do it at your desk, you can do it in a meeting, you can do it on your commute.

Just take a moment, one minute, just to sit quietly, to not get your phone out, to not connect with the outside world and just to connect with who you are. You’ll be amazed how much difference that makes to your mental capacity.

Last one, purposeful. So, this takes us to a little different level I suppose. How many people here have set themselves a goal, perhaps outside of work, or a challenge, something that you’ve really worked towards?

Running a marathon? Yeah, absolutely. Any others? Maybe doing some…saving money, maybe some charity, a half marathon.

One step at a time, Travis, one step at a time. I might walk a marathon later this year and see how that goes. So, what does this concept of purposefulness give us do you think in terms of energy? What is it that having a goal helps us with, do you think?

Focuses your mind, gives you drive. Aligns you.

So, for some people it might be motivating, yeah, it might keep them going. So, there’s something about having a goal, having a challenge that creates commitment, perseverance and determination in us. When we’re talking about resilience, those are really useful things to be able to tap into.

So, okay, just to wrap up then, so four key areas and four key messages for you really. Be healthy, be kind to yourself, be purposeful and be more dog. There you go. Okay, thanks so much everybody.