Is being on all the time good for your mental health or do you need boundaries to protect you? With the lines between work life and home life being completely blurred due to smartphones, this is something you need to consider if you want to preserve your energy!
The results from my recent poll about being contacted out of hours or on weekends via social media revealed that there is a lack of awareness around the blurred lines of modern living and the impact they are having on our biochemistry.
Your body does NOT know the difference between a saber-toothed tiger chasing you or a smart phone notification. It goes into Fight or Flight in the same way. Which means it is producing chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline which ramp up your nervous system. And that is a problem.
Cortisol is meant to follow your natural circadian rhythm – which peaks at the start of the day and it is designed to taper at the end of the day in order for your melatonin (sleep hormone and major antioxidant) to rise. However, if you’re receiving notifications and alerts and being exposed to blue light, you’re drastically impacting your body’s ability to recover.
The fact that we’ve switched to 24 hour beings rather than our biologically coded diurnal beings is causing us more harm than good.
You’re impacting your ability to rest, to reset your metabolism and your immunity, and that eventually has a knock-on effect on your energy and mood – making you more likely to become ill, and less resilient.
With mental health awareness featuring prominently throughout May, this topic is now front of mind for many people and organizations. Indeed, in my banking days, my line manager was insistent that we needed to teach employees to be more resilient. I realized however that he, like so many other leaders, were unaware that resilience was more than thinking yourself into a position of power or positivity. There are a myriad of factors that contribute to performing at a high level, so let’s break it down.
This phrase Mental Toughness originated 30 years ago in the elite sports psychology world by Performance Psychologist Dr Jim Loehr who defined Mental Toughness as “the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent regardless of competitive circumstances.”
What does this have to do with the workplace and employees? While it may not seem obvious, you’re paid to compete in the workplace. You’re assessed on your performance mid-year and annually. That means you’ve got to bring your A-game daily, weekly and monthly. And that requires more than just the ability to think positively!
Stop for a moment and consider, What’s your number one asset for performing well?
Your body. Which carries your brain. Your biology needs to work for your psychology to work! If you’re constantly on all the time, you may be feeling on top of things in the short term, but long-term, you’re creating damage across a number of areas! I’ll briefly touch on a couple and explain the science behind it.
When you’re producing cortisol all the time – whether that’s from a psychological stress or an environmental one, such as being on your devices and being on all the time – you’re actually depleting your sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, as well as your anti-aging hormone, DHEA.
If that isn’t a reason to create boundaries and quarantine screen time, I don’t know what is!
Then there’s of course your immunity. Take it from someone who’s spent the greater part of her corporate life feeling low energy, or constantly battling a cold / flu / migraine, it’s difficult to show up thinking sharp if you’re physically feeling under the weather or in pain. The more cortisol and adrenaline you produce, the more you weaken the mucosal barrier within your gut, which by the way is where up to 80% of your immune system is made!
Remember, cortisol isn’t only produced because of psychological stress. The environmental stress from being on all the time, and the blue screen light, is having the same effect on your body – it’s breaking it down. Because that’s what cortisol does. It breaks the body down!
So how can we fix this?
Here’s the thing. The ways to do this may seem counterintuitive. I liken workplace performance to being an elite athlete. However, the main difference between an elite athlete and you, a corporate athlete, is that the elite athlete spends their time training and recovering!
Yes, this is part of their strategy for smashing their professional goals.
Think of your body as a rubber band. You can be stretched and maintain your resiliency, only if you’re allowed to spring back into shape, that is, the pressure is taken off.
The women who come to me in my practice are not big fans of recovering! They push hard in all aspects of their lives. Work. Family. Relationships. Hobbies (do those still exist?). And they’re looked down on if they don’t, because the modern world doesn’t really prioritize Rest and Recovery as a strategy for success. Being on all the time is glorified. Hustle culture is celebrated. Being Busy is a Badge of Honor. But it isn’t serving us – mentally or physiologically.
In order to be a successful corporate athlete, i.e. to have the endurance, flexibility, focus and mental acuity required to be successful – the 3Bs can form a firm foundation for high performance!
- Breaks (preferably outside!)
- Breathing or Breathwork.
These are stress reduction strategies that are all completely free and accessible to everyone, and they can really restore energy, because they give you space to think, space to organize meals and focus, space to just be. It’s this space that can actually be the most impactful for creativity, problem-solving and decision-making.
And those are just the psychological benefits.
Biochemically, it’s a great place to be in for toning the immune system, for getting better sleep which is extremely healing and restorative, or for improving the digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food, which we need to fuel our bodies for energy!
To maximize your performance and to stay in the game, your mindset needs to become like that of the elite athlete and look at how everything around you is either building you up or breaking you down, and then take steps to improve on that, with an emphasis on recovery!
The framework that I use for optimizing performance is D.R.E.S.S. – Diet, Rest, Exercise, Stress Reduction and Specific Supplements. And it can be applied like this:
Diet: Eating foods rich in protein and fat, as these support your brain in terms of focus and energy, and avoiding foods that are processed or that you’re intolerant or sensitive to.
Rest: Sleeping for 7-8 hours between the hours of 10pm and 6am
Exercise: Getting in 10,000 steps a day, without necessarily having to exercise at the gym for an hour, but just looking at building more movement, and without having to do this late in the day – as this will wreck your rest and recovery time.
Stress Reduction: Building in breaks using something like the Pomodoro method, where for every 90 minutes of work, you get up and move for 15 minutes – or customize it however works best for you!
Supplements: B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, K2, Vitamin E and Magnesium and Potassium can all be hugely beneficial if you find it difficult to stay focused, stay healthy or relax when you’re meant to. I could go on about this, and in fact, I may in my next post. Particularly about the importance of B Vitamins, which become seriously depleted when we eat sugary, starchy foods (also a stress!) or are under a lot of psychological or environmental stress! As much as we might want to deny the fact that we are in fact biological organisms, we need light, clean water, wholesome nourishing food, and we need love. The side effects of the latter, people are actually supplementing with!
Because Oxytocin, which is produced following loving human physical contact, counteracts Cortisol. This isn’t just me saying this, although I do have my own data to confirm the validity of this.
While visiting Trinidad at Christmas with my big fat West Indian Family, my Heart Rate Variability (HRV) on my Oura Ring, actually shot up to over 110 for the week that I was visiting.
Well for a start, I wasn’t watching a lot of TV in the evenings – so no blue light.
Secondly, I was actively spending time hanging out with my cousins, grandmother, siblings and my dad. There were lots of hugs, lots of laughs, lots of not being interrupted-by-phone time human connection. Prior to that trip my HRV was in the 20s! My own data is a testament to the power of the human connection and its ability to regulate cortisol levels!
Yet, another reason to ditch your smartphone on evenings and weekends and connect with the people you love! I’ll leave you with this thought, inspired by none other than Zig Ziglar, if you make a million dollars but lose your health, are you actually a success?
If you want more energy, a reprieve from hustle culture, and to tap into what real success actually looks like, then I’m here to help you.
Feel free to book time on my calendar and we’ll identify your mental-emotional, and even your physical-biochemical barriers to success are, and create a roadmap for you to get to where you want to be, with radiance and vitality!
If you’d like to meet, schedule time directly in my Calendar here