Drink Like a Lady Podcast

Season 3 Episode 7: 7 Ways to Optimize Stress for Top Performance

June 11, 2021 Joya Dass, Kathie DeChirico-Stuart Season 3 Episode 7
Drink Like a Lady Podcast
Season 3 Episode 7: 7 Ways to Optimize Stress for Top Performance
Show Notes Transcript

In Season 3 Episode 7 of the The Drink Like a Lady Podcast, we talk about  
7 tips to optimize stress for top performance.

  1. KNOW WHAT STRESS IS
  • stress is a hormonal jolt of adrenaline and cortisol brought on by our nervous system to deal with actual or perceived threats.
  • The calm that ensues after stress allows us to tap into our decision-making brain
  • Chronic stress is the pathway to burnout. 
  • Our stress-response capabilities expand when they get “practice.”

 2. KNOW YOUR STRESS TRIGGERS AND OTHERS' STRESS TRIGGERS

  1. Know yourself as to your stress triggers,
  2. Become aware of stress triggers for others on your team

What this did immediately was energize me for those tough conversations with others who also needed to be “redirected” into different responsibilities- more in line with what their less stressful and superfluous responsibilities.

3. HOW TO BECOME FAMILIAR WITH YOUR STRESS TRIGGERS

Ask yourself some key questions.

  1. During your work week, how often do you feel well rested?
  2. How often do you feel totally engrossed in your work or in a state of flow? How long do these periods last? And what time of day or night do they occur?
  3. What are the biggest sources of stress in your life?
  4. How do you cope with stress? Do your coping mechanisms energize you or deplete you?
  5. How often do you recognize your stress in the moment vs knowing that you are through that stressful period of time?

Locating and describing your stress is a process of discovery and the more you learn the better you will live through your own stress response.

 4. HOW TO RECOVER FROM STRESS

Create Conditions for Rest and Recovery

  1. Block time for deep work
  2. Reduce distractions
  3. Take a break from videoconferencing
  4. Learn to say no.
  5. How much of your life are you enjoying? Laughing.

5. HOW TO BUILD IN RECOVERY

Before the pandemic, we had built-in pauses- our commute, the wait in the elevator, business trips on an airplane, time to briefly chat with others as our workday unfolded. All of these (and more) offered cognitive recovery. Now we must plan them consciously. Here are some tips for creating those recovery periods AFTER the pandemic.

  1. Take micro breaks during the day
  2. Make sure that sleep is a priority
  3. Exercise regularly
  4. Eat better and drink lots of water
  5. Socialize outside of work

Use the time immediately after a stressful situation to reflect and consider the behaviors for recovery that work…and those that don’t. Other choices to minimize stress are to stick to a predefined work schedule and create “end of day” rituals that make sure that you especially know when it is time to “turn off” and reenergize – creating space for you to be able to optimize future stress related situations.

6. HELP OTHERS MANAGE STRESS

  1. Observe teams and individuals and their own stress cues.
  2. Are the norms that have been created in your teams and company- are they conducive to minimizing stressful situations OR allowing for periods of recovery, learning recaps, and energizing for the next task at hand.
  3. Meetings…do they energize your teams or are they just another time sucker?
  4. Be clear about work times and expectations – respecting those of others. (Understand that no one can be in “crisis mode” every day.)

Since we spend more time virtually, it is important to look for signs of burnout and critical loss of productivity.

Arrange agenda-free, one-on-one catchups with people to stay tuned in. Watch your high performers for burnout as they usually are the first to add more work to their already pile of obligations.

7. CONSIDER EXTERNAL SUPPORT (A COACH)


Joya:

Hello! Hello! This is Episode Seven, Season Three of the Drink Like a Lady Podcast that is designed to get you, as a female leader, a seat at the bar and a seat in the boardroom. And as always, I'm joined by my co-host, Kathie DeChirico-Stuart who is a business strategist, Kathie, how you doing today?

Kathie:

I am good today. I am very good. Thank you.

Joya:

You know, today is an interesting topic because we're talking about stress and stress is traditionally, always had a negative connotation, but we are actually going to talk about ways that you can harness stress and use it to optimize not only your performance, but your team's performance.

Kathie:

What is interesting is when I started to read about this, when people say I'm stressed, I'm stressed, they push, they literally almost with their body pushed back on it. And when I started to read about it, I thought, you know, there are times when you are called to a challenge, that's a stress trigger. Um, and you feel energized by it. And the difference between the energy of the negative and the positive is what we're going to discuss.

Joya:

And truly as human beings, we were primed to react and have either a fight or flight response. So back in the day, when we lived in the wild and we had to pray , we needed stress nor to keep us from getting eaten or getting killed. It's we haven't come that far. Even those, those threats aren't real to us anymore. We're not going to get jumped on by a lion today, know that our body still uses that cortisol to be able to deal with what is either actual or perceived stress or threat.

Kathie:

And that's true, but you know, what happens is we're still , um, physical beings. So we immediately, our body goes into that stress mode. So it responds and it starts from the bottom of the neck in terms of our brain. And then it goes up into whether or not we're able to use the highest point of , uh , thinking and decision .

Joya:

So for those who are tuning in, you know, we're talking about the seven ways for you to really harness and use stress to optimize you and your team's performance. So in this first tip, we're really just figuring out what the triggers are for stress. So one fact that it's an actual chemical reaction that happens at the stem of your, of your, of your brain, but there's also the, after the stress, after the release of the chemical, which allows us to actually tap into a specific part of our brain. And what is that, Kathie?

Kathie:

That is the prefrontal cortex, which is where you make the best decisions. If you're at an even balanced , um, level of energy in your body, your brain will actually make the best decisions. And that is why we're talking about this. Today's because we want to make sure that we're able to make our own decisions that are, that are very well-rounded and balanced, as well as working with our teams to make sure they're doing the same.

Joya:

Now we've just been through a pandemic. So chronic stress has been a consistent factor. And last week we talked about burnout. What are the triggers for chronic stress?

Kathie:

Chronic stress really is. Um , what we're talking about is when it is ongoing and we're not actually taking the time to recover from any of that. And , um, you know, my store will go and go into a little bit of my own story. You need to know what your stress triggers are. And what I find is for me, I find that what happens is I think when I'm in a stressful mode, I got to keep going. And that happened recently. And , uh, I have a very interesting story about that.

Joya:

One other thing before we get into your story is that when you are in this mode of stress/response, stress/response, your nervous, system's actually getting a lot of practice adjusting to that normal, isn't

Kathie:

It? It is. And you know, one of the things through that's why experiencers are so critical for leadership and understanding it, if we can get through stress components and stress situations, and we can recover appropriately, we can actually, it builds up our stress levels. What happens is when we do not take the time to recover and circle back and ruminate over what occurred and what we did and what we learned from it, we actually then start to go into what we call burnout.

Joya:

Yeah. And we talked a lot about that. And then in, sorry, Episode Six of Drink Like a Lady. So you were at the hairdresser and it was, it was her that called you out.

Kathie:

It wasn't actually my hairdresser. It was the assistant who always works on me. Her name is Terry she's phenomenal. And I walked in and she looked at me and she immediately knew something was wrong. And I got ready and she says, you've hit a wall. And I said, what? And she goes, you hit a wall. Now. I knew it subconsciously, but what happened was because I am "Okay, we'll do, I'm going to make it happen. I've been through this, I'm the leader. I kept going." Um , when I finished my, my appointment, I walked out and I got in the car and I went, you hit a wall. You , someone else had to tell you, you hit a wall when actually I knew it. So like I said so consciously, but it didn't stop because I had to lead others. COVID all right . We have a lot of openings going on in our organizations right now. And people are looking for decision making. There's a lot of decision-making fatigue that is going on. And that's when I hit the wall because of every, all the decisions I needed to make.

Joya:

But the takeaway was that it actually, once that stress trigger was recognized, someone called you out. You were able to galvanize and have those tough conversations that needed to happen so that you wouldn't remain in the state.

Kathie:

I did, you know, the , the point was I was having a tough time having tough conversations, which I , I always say, you know, this, my thing is we're going to sit down and have a tough conversation. It's as tough for me. Um, but when she said that to me, I realized that by knowing that I hit the wall and taking time for recovery and taking time for myself to prepare differently, I was able to have much better conversations with other individuals.

Joya:

So number one is just to generally know what the triggers are for stress. But number two is to know your stress triggers as well as other people's stress triggers. So let's talk about that for a second. What is it that's not happening in the workplace to be able to allow this to happen?

Kathie:

Well, I think, you know, individuals have to start asking key questions. Are you engrossed in your work? Or , or you , I call it skimming, are you skimming over it? And I find sometimes depending, mostly at the end of the day with all the decision-makings we have, and , and the complexity of the decision-making everything's changing. So instantaneous, you don't you now , um, that you don't, you don't get in the flow like you used, all right . You are , um, you're, you know, you've got to look at what are some of the other stresses in life, and people want you to take away their stresses. So they give them to you. That is a key one. I just had that happen. And I will tell you, I, like, the red flags went up instantly. Um , how do you cope with stress? What do you do? You know, lots of times we've talked about this last week. People, what they're doing is they're doing more drugs or they're doing sedatives for anxiety where they're drinking more and actually you should be getting outside and walking and having social conversations on. Um , and are you recognizing stress in the moment or you're letting it go and then pulling back? Breathing very important to breathe and breathe it all in.

Joya:

That's for yourself. Now, how do you recognize what the stress triggers are for other people? It might seem pretty obvious, but how do you kind of know, and then react accordingly?

Kathie:

You know, I, as a leader and a lot of people look at this they'll take a look at others and they'll instantly know they're in stress. So being that consultative, supportive leader, you know, I try to take away that stress for them, but what's important is to actually bring them in and start having those conversations with them. What do you need? Do you need time off? Here's the other thing, you know, do you need time off? Are they not taking time off? And I've done that for years with individuals , um, are, and have it. One-on-one, don't have it as a group, you know, listen to them and don't even talk about business sometimes. You know, that's really important because we're human beings. Let's, let's go back to what really nurtures us.

Joya:

So number three is to how to become familiar with your stress triggers? And I'm just making a little banner here. So folks can follow along and write them down. But , um, if , if you were to become familiar with the next reaction has to be getting curious and you need to ask yourself a series of questions. So number one is during your work week, how often do you feel well-rested?

Kathie:

Yeah, it's important that , you know, the sleep , um, is critical. I'm a great sleeper once I'm done for the day and it could be late in the night , uh, you know, I'm done, you know, my husband says I go to sleep faster than anyone he's ever seen in his whole life. It's. We need to recuperate that, that restful period. And I, a friend of mine just talked about how this actually avoids dementia in the long run. Yo

Joya:

Yes, Matthew Walker wrote a book called "Why We Sleep," and he talks about the fact that sleep is such an important piece of fending off dementia, but I don't want to go down that rabbit hole right now, but I will say that I'm in front of my membership all week long. And I'm hearing from a lot of people that they're not sleeping and the stress that their body is sustaining right now means that they're not sleeping. So some of the other suggestions that came is like building a ritual around shutting your body down, which means all your devices are gone. It means that you actually maybe have lavender or a diffuser with lavender. Just something that demarcates to your body, that it's time to shut down.

Kathie:

You know, what I do is I have a TV in my bedroom. I like to, it depends on what I watch. I don't, my husband watches murders, and I said , great, we're watching murders right before we go to sleep. That's not a good thing. Um, but for me, there are times when I get into bed and I read reading is a recovery, lax , relaxing place for me, I love to read whether it's just two or three pages from a spiritual book or it's, you know, finishing up a novel that I've started where something is more important. Like, you know , um , the premonition, which I talked about, but that for me is, yeah, it's like getting ready. It's slowing down your body and slowing down your thought process.

Joya:

So a couple of questions to ask yourself to become familiar with their stress triggers. It sounds like. How often do you feel? Well rested Kathy is a great sleeper. So she feels well rested all the time. How often do you feel totally engrossed in your work or feel like you're in a state of flow, actually be able to write that down. What are the biggest sources of stress in your life? I know the biggest stressors for me on the weeks that I do TV is am I going to wake up on time? And I know that that's like bearing down on me, on my shoulders at all times. How do you cope with stress? Do your coping mechanisms energize you or deplete you? And how often do you recognize your stress in the moment or know that you're actually going through a stressful period?

Kathie:

And that and that's really critical. I mean, your body will tell you, are you stiffening up? You know, are you not feeling, you know, what I do also is I shift a lot. I shift my , um, where my legs are and they say to do that when you're in stressful periods of time, let's say you're in a meeting or conversation as well. The other thing I've done is I've actually put this, I love weights. I love to do weights. I've left a set of weights right here, outside of my office. And when I'm feeling like I need to be energized, I do a set of series of weights, and it's really made a difference. Um , in terms of taking away some of that energy that's being clogged up.

Joya:

Well, what is that really? It's a tool like it's knowing what your stress triggers are and then having the tools to be able to get that out of your body. I personally like to write things down because I feel like that physically gets it out of my body .

Kathie:

Oh , that's a good thought.

Joya:

All right. Number four is how to recover from stress. It sounds like we're talking about that too, but what are the conditions, Kathie, that we create for rest and recovery, which in New York, I feel like the attitude is like, well, I'll sleep when I die, but that really doesn't do any favors?

Kathie:

You definitely will sleep when you die. Um, but that's not what we're looking for. Really. You want to find time and , um, calendars. Calendar in time for deep , um , work that needs a focus. And I'm doing that more and more because individuals are leaning on me . You'll find that if you're a great leader, people want to be around great leaders and they want to lean on you, but you also need to restore yourself , um, get rid of distractions. You know what, whether that's, you know, the telephone or whether or not, you know , closing your door sometimes.

Joya:

And putting, say , "do not disturb" on your computer.

Kathie:

Exactly. Exactly. The other thing is , um, take a break from video conferencing. That actually is very stressful now because that's all we do and there's not, you can't get a hug or someone touches you. I know that I had to go up to the organizational , um, corporate offices and I kept touching people on their shoulders, like I used to do. And it was so warming to me. Um, my coach, back when I was getting my MBA, she said, you have got to learn how to say no, because it means yes, no for them, yes. For you. That's , that's a key one as well. Um, and what are you enjoying? Are you laughing? Are you having fun? Very important.

Joya:

And I have a rule and I often am very, quite vocal about this, but I, after six o'clock on Friday. Um , and until about Sunday at noon, I don't do any kind of work. I don't respond to work emails, and I make that known because I just need that like complete detachment from work. Cause I'm going 110 miles an hour during the week. And so for me, I think that like that is built in time for me to enjoy. And I usually have something planned , um, Laura Vanderkam is an author I've interviewed a couple of times in front of Ladydrinks. She's like, rather than let the weekend just wash over, you have something planned like one anchor activity. So you have something to look forward to. And so I've become the master of at least having one thing planned , if not two , to have that to look forward to.

Kathie:

I , let me just jump here. You and I are friends on Facebook and I have to tell you when I see him doing something and I'm sitting doing work, I'm thinking she's got it together. I got to figure out and follow up with what she's doing .

Joya:

Well. I have an Excel sheet. And I'm happy to share that with you. Number five is how to build in recovery. And you know, that sounds again, it seems really, oh yeah, build in recovery. Everyone should know that, but truly, I don't think people actually know this. And so what does that mean to build in recovery? What are those steps to doing that?

Kathie:

Like, like I just said what I do and I feel like physically I'm being , um, I've got the weight on my shoulders and there are times when I do. And that's a lot of decision making . Now . Each of us have nowadays , um, take micro, micro breaks, take time out. I go on , I pick up the weights, I do the weights. Um, I may walk around , um, you know, I , I work out of my home right now most of the time. Um, and that's watering the flowers, you know, keeping the flowers beautiful as well. Um, make sure that sleep is a priority. I have an app now that literally at 9:15, you hear , and it goes off, right. And my husband was going, what is that? And I go time to go to sleep. And he laughs because he's a late night or , um, but that reminds me how important sleep is. So finding those tools that don't distract you, but actually enable you , um , exercise, you know, learn to exercise and understand that it's so good for our stress mechanisms as well. Um, eat better. You know, we eat a lot of organic foods. We had a lot of vegetables, clean meats. We call them as well. And um, I'm not a big snacker. So I'm very lucky , uh , as well, and lots of water we walk or we have cases of water here and socialize. Socializing now is going to become very, very important. We're now going back in, there's even talk about how people have are, are challenged by the fact that they're stressed out, that they have to start socializing again. Women are going, what do I wear ? Someone said, I have to go out and buy new clothes because they're so tired of the clothes they have , um , hearing

Joya:

I was actually listening to Bloomberg. I listen to Bloomberg radio out of habit because I still follow the financial markets. And , um, they were saying that people are expressing anxiety about seeing loved ones. Again, anxiety about freshmen going into college because they've been kids have been isolated for the past year. And then the other piece is that people are just anxious about returning to the office. And what's the etiquette. Do you shake hands? Do you shake hands? Do you give them a hug? Do you not hug? So there's a lot of anxiety around that, but I think that, you know, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, but socializing is something that people have said again and again, they miss. And so that's one way to kind of build in that recovery from stress.

Kathie:

Yeah. And don't be stressed about it. I mean, the other day I walked up to a gentleman and I said, we shake? And he goes, yes. And I was okay with it. And it was fine. And if they don't it, it's not personal.

Joya:

I like that. I mean, basically you're saying, get curious if you're unsure, get curious, ask questions and that's the best way to use it. All right. Tip number six is helping other people manage stress cause you and I, and Kathie all know people in our lives that are stressed, that they don't know how to manage it. So what are some of the things you recommend?

Kathie:

Some of the , you know , take a look and find out whether or not you see the individuals are exhibiting behaviors that are unusual for them, maybe pre COVID pre pandemic as well. And , um, just watch them. I think that's the whole thing is observation is very key because not only does it impact themselves, it impacts their teams, it impacts their family. So once again, that's important to be able to observe that , um, are the norms at work? Have you created norms where it's work, work, work, work, work, and there's no fun involved? Even on zoom, you know, go straight to work, go straight to work. Um, you know, make sure that if you can lead that and you can make some cultural changes that you'd be the spearhead for that that's, that's critical now is so key . It is so key meetings. Um, do they energize individuals or do they bring you down? You know, what can you do? I have to do a meeting and it was the same conversational 0.5, meet five meetings in a row. All right. It was very boring, et cetera. But what I did was I do , uh , I did welcome back from , um, you.

Joya:

Welcome Back, Kotter?

Kathie:

Welcome Back Kotter. Okay. I'm going to start. And they were like, they had fun and they were saving with it. Right. And then we were able to get through it. Um, let me think of , um, ah , here we are again, or, or something like that. And it's a way to just bring levity, you know, and then make sure that you have an agenda. I always believe in meeting agendas because what it does is you don't waste time on things that are not important or you can defray them for another time. Um, work, work times and expectations, you know , you know, you could send out an email. I get up sometimes in the middle. I do get up by the way, because I go to sleep early, but I do get up in the middle of the night because something's weighing on me. And if I can't go back to sleep right away, I get up, I do it . I go back to bed. I may do three or four emails, but I don't send them. I send them in the morning, but at least I head it off. Um, or if you send it first thing in the morning, you might simply say just, you know, don't no need to answer that right away. You can answer it at your own time.

Joya:

Yeah. But I think that, you know, we had a speaker that came through on managing creatives and managing creative teams. And he's like, if you can outline, if you can lay out what the risks are, if you can lay out where the bumper guards are, this is when you failed . This is when you've succeeded, then people know how to get creative within those timeframes. And so if you have latitude to be able to meet that deadline, but you choose to work between nine and 11 at night, I choose to work between nine 11 in the morning. You know, just getting clear that what is acceptable, what's not acceptable gives you that space to be creative rather than the authoritative way of ruling and leading, as you had mentioned before.

Kathie:

Exactly.

Joya:

And then finally , um , get a coach. If you feel that you really can't do it yourself, there's no harm in asking for help. And you actually have a story around this . Yeah.

Kathie:

I had gotten into a , um, a project management company that in construction and that's a high stress , uh , type of business to begin with. And , um, they had just come out of , um, several major projects. There were some key individuals where I could tell instantly. And when I did my confidential internal surveys, they were in high stress mode and they had been for a long period of time. When that happens, you can tell the interaction is not working. So , um, I immediately went to the board. It goes, I sat on the board at that time and I said, look, I want money to bring in professional coaches. I would , didn't want to do it because honestly, I mean, I could do it, but I'm the end result of it. I wanted them to see that investing in themselves, the company investing them meant a lot two of the three individuals actually just, they , they wrap their head around it. They really understood afterwards how they needed to do stress and to understand they did not have to live the company. The third one decided, Nope, I got to keep doing it this way. And she remained very stressed. Um, during that whole period of time there, it was just not good for her health or anyone else's. Um, but here's the key that I say, if someone gives you the opportunity to pay for your coach and or you have the ability they based on, you know , the bonus systems as such or to do a coach, do it because it'll last a lifetime. That coaching won't be for the moment it'll be forever. And you get to make the final decision on what you want to do with that.

Joya:

And know that that person is coming in and is taking a very objective view of the situation you're in. I often say I'm too close to it. I don't see the waters in which I swim. It's nice to have a third party look at it and say, well, this is what I see needs to be fixed. This is what I see needs to stay.

Kathie:

Yup . Yup . I call it being , um, uh , being blind to what you what's around you. And we all have blind spots in our life and it's better when someone else can help us uncover those.

Joya:

Kathy , what are we going to be talking about next week? We really covered the bases on what it means to optimize stress for you and your team. But what do we move into next week for Episode Eight?

Kathie:

We're going to talk about how, when we're in a stressful situation and there are many stressful situations , um, uh, I just had a situation where another one, I mean, that's where my decision making component is at high speed where we couldn't get some , um, supplies. And of course it was needed for part of our facilities. What occurred here is that I had to remain calm. I had to remain rational and give everyone direction and where we're going to talk about how do we re do that and be optimistic, even optimistic. Even when we , we think we're in somewhat of a crisis, I always believe if we could put men on the moon moon, we can do anything. So we're going to talk about that, how to become an optimistic, even in the wake of a crisis.

Joya:

I read Bob Iger's book, "Ride of a Lifetime," and I would argue that that was his super power . That's really what elevated him up the ranks to becoming President and CEO of Disney is because he was able to remain calm and optimistic in very stressful situations in the newsroom is always a stressful situation. So I look forward to that conversation, Kathie, if anyone wants to work with you, how do they get in touch with you?

Kathie:

You? You can call me 609-933-7600 or email me at [email protected]

Joya:

And you can always get ahold of me [email protected] or you can hit me up on social media @JoyaDass on pretty much every news, every channel, including Twitter and Instagram, Kathie, I'll see you next week.

Kathie:

Week. Very good. Enjoy have a good one.