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Peak Mind Pro: Mindfulness at Work

If there was a magic pill that made you sharper, more effective, more creative, and more socially skilled while simultaneously improving the quality of your decisions and reducing the number of mistakes you made – with side effects of lower stress and more happiness – would you take it?

Absolutely! 

And you’d probably give it to everyone on your team or in your organization as well.

While this magic pill doesn’t exist yet, mindfulness does all of those things. 

Mindfulness is your competitive edge

Many people these days have heard of mindfulness and how beneficial it can be, but they’ve dismissed it due, in large part, to misunderstanding what it actually is.

Set aside any preconceived notions of sitting cross-legged on a pillow with your eyes closed and mind going blank. Instead, think of mindfulness as heightened focus and awareness. This combo is your competitive edge. 

In action, mindfulness at work means being fully aware of what is happening, both inside of you and around you, and being able to direct and sustain your focused attention where you need it.

 

Awareness

How much time do you spend on autopilot or lost in your head? If you’re anything like the average person, it’s at least 47% of the time. That means that you are not fully present and focused on what you are doing roughly half of the time. That also means that you’re likely missing out on lots of vital information. Imagine how much more effective you could be if you raised that number even a little bit.

Focus

Being able to direct and control your attention – focusing on what is important while filtering out distractions – allows you to perform at a higher level while exerting less energy. Multitasking is a myth. When we divide our attention, we are actually shifting back and forth from one task to the other, albeit sometimes very quickly. That shifting eats up our limited resource of attention and actually requires more energy and effort resulting in more mental fatigue and stress and less quality work. 

The Solution

Mindfulness – being aware and focused – is a core element of psychological strength. As with all core elements, it is a skill that can be developed if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to do so. 

Tips to Try

While setting aside time most days for a formal mindful meditation practice (e.g., with an app like 10% Happier, Calm, or Headspace) can be tremendously beneficial, this just isn’t feasible for many people for a number of reasons. At Peak Mind, we are fans of finding effective ways to build mindfulness into the cracks of a busy, modern lifestyle. Try these tips out for a couple of weeks and see what a difference it can make.

1. Help you and your team have more effective meetings by starting with a little mindfulness. Ask everyone to set aside their phone, tablet, or laptop and spend the first 2 minutes of the meeting in silence thinking about the goals for the meeting. This will allow everyone to show up both physically and mentally, to become aware and focused on the task at hand. You will likely notice that meetings become more efficient.

2. Encourage employees (and model this behavior by doing it yourself) to carve out dedicated work times in which they focus solely on one important task or project. This means making these time blocks as distraction-free as possible by turning off notifications.

3. Build in mini-mindfulness breaks. Set a timer to go off hourly (or at least periodically). When the timer goes off, notice what you are doing and where your mind is. Were you focused on what you’re doing? Try to follow one full breath. This means resting your attention on your breath and trying to stay with it from the start of the inhale, to the pause at the top, and all the way through the exhale. Then, ask yourself, what do I want to focus on right now? 

If you are interested in learning more ways to help you and your team develop this vital skill, email us at info@peakmindpsychology.com

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn
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Why Your Organization Needs Peak Mind

Peak Mind provides unique trainings and resources that all employees need. Different than traditional leadership programs and EAPs, Peak Mind harnesses the power of psychology to help your employees and team become psychologically strong and resilient in all facets of life. 

Hear from social-cognitive psychologist and Peak Mind co-founder Dr. April Seifert about what makes Peak Mind unique. She explains why focusing on building psychological strength is so important for organizations and how employees can benefit from learning these powerful tools.  

Traditional leadership programs teach important skills, but their effectiveness will be truncated if those skills are not built upon a strong psychological foundation. Peak Mind provides that foundation.  

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Why Thriving Skills are so Important

Psychological strength allows people to thrive in all areas of life – at work and at home. Developing strong thriving skills is important for navigating challenges and adversity and having a positive life experience. 

In this short video, Peak Mind co-founder and psychologist Dr. April Seifert explains why thriving and psychological strength skills are so important for everyone.  

Stress at home follows us to work, and we bring work stress home with us. Having a strong foundation of psychological strength prepares you to weather life’s storms and perform better in all areas of life.  

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The Reason Why People Don’t Want to Return to the Office

COVID caused major disruptions in everyone’s lives. As we adjust to living in a post-pandemic world, many employees are resisting the idea of returning to the office. It’s not the office itself that’s the problem. It’s what it represents.

COVID abruptly and dramatically altered our worlds. As we learned to work from home, among other changes, we also began to re-evaluate our lifestyles. While the pandemic certainly brought about many unbelievably difficult challenges, it also caused us to reflect on our lifestyles, which were stressful and unfulfilling for many. It showed us that we do not necessarily have to live and work the way we were before. 

And that insight was freeing to a lot of people. 

As we adjust to life and work in a post-pandemic world, that means returning to the office for many workers. Employers have been surprised at the resistance that many employees feel about returning to in-person work. Dr. April Seifert, Peak Mind co-founder and social cognitive psychologist, explains why so many people are resistant to the idea of going back to the office full-time.  

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The One Thing You Should Know About Your Mind

Here’s the one, foundational thing that this psychologist wishes everyone knew about how their minds work. 

Licensed clinical psychologist and Peak Mind co-founder Dr. Ashley Smith shares the one foundational thing she wishes everyone knew. Stomachs growl, hearts beat, and minds think. Understanding that thoughts are just productions of your mind and not necessarily meaningful or truthful is important. Furthermore, learning about the glitches in our thinking and the ways in which our thoughts become distorted or twisted is important. With this knowledge, we can set our thoughts aside while we pursue our strengths, goals, and values.  

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How to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings

Do you have negative thoughts or feelings? Do you want to get rid of them? Here’s the secret for dealing with negative thoughts and feelings from a psychologist. 

Everyone has negative thoughts and feelings. Whether it’s worries, self-criticism, or rumination or emotions like anxiety, sadness, or anger, we don’t like having certain thoughts or experiencing certain feelings. And we try a lot of things to get rid of them. Unfortunately, a lot of the things we do to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings only makes them worse.  

In this short video, licensed psychologist and Peak Mind co-founder, Dr. Ashley, shares the secret for dealing with negative thoughts and feelings.  

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Peak Mind Pro: The Power of Active Listening

Think back to a situation at work that did not go well. Perhaps it was an interaction with a colleague, a poor decision, or a costly mistake. What factors contributed to that situation? 

Have you considered listening as a factor? If everyone involved had truly been listening – to each other, to the information being conveyed, to the company’s goals or needs – would the outcome have been any different? 

Why We Don’t Listen

Listening is, arguably, the most important communication skill and is a cornerstone of most business activities, regardless of industry. Unfortunately, most people aren’t naturally great at listening. We get caught up in multitasking, so our attention is divided, all but ensuring we miss out on some critical aspects of the message. Or we jump to conclusions or interpretations that might be inaccurate, then react on the basis of misinformation. Alternatively, we might focus on our response, how to convey our points or press our agenda forward, bypassing the fundamental step of understanding. Ultimately, we want to speak, to be heard, and we often gloss over this crucial first step of effective communication: listening. 

That’s too bad because being an effective listener gives you a competitive edge, regardless of your organizational role.

Active Listening

So what does it mean to be a great listener?  It isn’t necessarily an innate talent. Rather, being a great listener means that you have mastered the skill of active listening, which essentially includes 3 main active listening techniques:

1. Pay attention. 

Multitasking or splitting attention is a myth. Trying to do so will result in you missing out on a significant chunk of information being conveyed verbally or non-verbally. 

2. Convey that you are listening.

Demonstrate that you are fully engaged by using body language, nodding, making small verbalizations (e.g., “Uh, huh,” “I see”), responsive facial expressions, or asking open ended questions for elaboration.

3. Focus on comprehending the message as intended.

Listen with the intent to understand, not respond. This also means suspending judgments initially. Clarify your understanding to ensure accuracy before you move on to responding. 

The Benefits of Effective & Active Listening

The benefits of active listening are multifaceted. At a minimum, being a good listener means that you will capture and retain more of the crucial information, which can increase productivity and facilitate better performance on projects. It also means that you will have more accurate and robust information to consider when making decisions, potentially improving the quality and outcomes of those decisions. Thus ultimately making your conversation partner feel heard and building trust with them. 

In addition, active listening skills strengthen relationships. By paying full attention to another person and ensuring that you are understanding their message as intended, you are communicating several key messages such as “I value you and what you have to say” and that “you can trust me to understand and cooperate with you.” Practicing active listening helps with problem solving. In contrast, consider times when you’ve tried to talk to someone who was distracted by their phone or email or something else, nodded mindlessly, or cut in to respond without actually understanding what you were saying. You likely felt frustrated, dismissed, or devalued in some way. 

Effective and active listening can help cut down on miscommunication and the conflict or subpar performance that can follow. Furthermore, it enhances your influence and ability to persuade or negotiate. The most persuasive people and successful negotiators start by truly seeing the other’s perspective, then guiding them to a new one. Understanding that perspective starts with listening.

Taken all together, active listening is a soft skill that can have a substantial impact on your performance across the board.

Tips to Try

Active listening is a skill that needs to be practiced in order to master it. Implement these helpful strategies and notice what impact doing so has on you, your teams, and your organization.

Pay Full Attention:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Put down your phone.
  • If you must use a device to take notes, tell the other person. Say something like, “I want to be sure I capture the important points, so I’m going to take some notes.” Spelling it out directly lets them know that you are still fully engaged, not somewhere else mentally. 

Fact Check:

  • Before you respond with your opinion, ideas, or retorts, make sure you have an accurate understanding. 
  • Paraphrase their take home points. Rather than verbatim stating what they just said, rephrase it in your own words. Start with a phrase like, “Let me make sure I’m understanding correctly. Are you saying…?” or “What I’m hearing you say is…”
  • If you notice that you start to get upset by something you are hearing, this is a powerful signal that you need to fact check. It is quite possible that there is a bit of miscommunication happening, and strong emotions cloud our ability to think logically, process new information, and make effective decisions. 
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
– Roy T. Bennett
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Peak Mind Pro: Enhancing Relationships

Strong relationships are a key aspect of well-being, for individuals as well as workplaces. While lots of attention gets paid to critical relationship skills like conflict resolution and boundary setting, we see surprisingly few conversations about the other end of the spectrum. Developing skills that actively enhance relationships is equally as important. 

It turns out that how you acknowledge and celebrate victories matters. In fact, it’s more predictive of strong relationships than how you handle conflict (according to research from UC Santa Barbara). While some people seem to naturally bask in others’ glory, this doesn’t always come easily, especially in the workplace. Fortunately, these are skills that can be learned. 

When it comes to responding to good news, positive psychology research tells us to consider two dimensions: active v. passive and constructive v. destructive. 

Active v. Passive

This factor relates to your degree of involvement in your response. Active responses are more engaged and robust, including animated facial expressions and detailed verbal content. Passive responses, on the other hand, are more, well, passive. They are characterized by neutrality, distraction, and disinterest. You might assume that an active response is preferable because it strengthens your relationship more, and you’d be correct, with a big caveat.

Constructive v. Destructive

That caveat lies with our second dimension, which captures whether the response adds to or detracts from the relationship health. Constructive responses add to – think of them as positive. In contrast, destructive responses tear down the relationship; they are negative.

Putting It Together

Taken together, the way you respond when coworkers, bosses, subordinates, partners, friends, family, or your kids share good news can fall into one of four categories:

Active Constructive – You are fully engaged and interested. You acknowledge the victory and expand by asking questions. This is what we’re shooting for. Active constructive responses are like making deposits in the relationship bank account, building strength, and promoting goodwill and collaboration.

Passive Constructive – While you acknowledge the victory, you do so in a generic way, typically in a neutral tone or while distracted. This is better than the alternatives below but leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to strengthening the relationship. 

Active Destructive – You give an active, involved response…that is negative, finding some way, perhaps inadvertently, to tarnish the victory. This response is damaging to the relationship.

Passive Destructive – You pretty much ignore the good news altogether. This response is also quite damaging.

Tips to Try

There is a lot more to relationships than date nights. Consider times in the recent past when someone at work and someone in your personal life shared the good news. How did you respond? If your response didn’t fall into the active constructive category, you should work to improve the way you are looking at it. What might you have said or done differently to enhance the relationship? What can you do to improve your relationship? 

Reflecting on your interactions after the fact and taking the time to revise your initial responses to be more active and constructive can help you cement this skill. 

Helpful Hints

  • Make eye contact.
  • Put down your phone.
  • Be specific. A generic “good job” is nowhere near as powerful as a specific “You did a really great job navigating the demands of this project.”
  • If praise feels inauthentic for you, try appreciation instead. “I like how you formatted that report” or “Thank you for your attention to detail. That really made a difference in the outcome here.”
  • Ask a follow-up question. Questions convey curiosity and interest. This can also open up pathways to bond over the long term. 

Communication Styles

Celebrating victories is one important aspect of building healthy relationship skills, but there is so much more to learn! In our next Quarterly Psych Strength Workshop Series installment (April 2022), we’ll be focusing on communication styles and how to use that information to level up your interactions and enhance your relationships further. If you’re interested in learning more about how your team can participate in this powerful learning experience, email us at info@peakmindpsychology.com or click the link below.


Peak Mind is proud to be a featured speaker at the first Humanity At Work conference hosted by A Deeper Way. This 3 day event will be held in Minneapolis in May, and virtual tickets are available as well. 

“Celebrate the success of others. High tide floats all ships.”
– Susan Elizabeth Phillips
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Peak Mind Pro: Design Your Workspace

Many people spend 40 – 50 hours per week at work. That’s 80 – 100 THOUSAND hours over a career. If you’re not engaged or functioning at your peak, or if you’re on the brink of exhaustion and burn out, you’re having a suboptimal life experience. 

The answer isn’t necessarily to make a drastic change like quitting your job. It may just be as as simple as: design your workspace.

Contrary to New Year’s resolution conventions, broad, sweeping changes aren’t actually effective for most humans. That’s because big changes shock our system, which is stressful. And we tend to revert to the mean, or fall back on old habits, pretty quickly when we’re under stress. Fortunately, there’s a more effective, albeit often counterintuitive, way to make meaningful lasting changes: experimentation.

Through the lens of life design, which is a special blend of psychology and design thinking applied to your life, experimentation means identifying a friction point (a challenging situation, habit, or interpersonal pattern) and designing small changes to test out. As you implement each small experiment, you gain valuable data in the form of experience, and you use that information to iterate – to revise, revamp, and move forward with the next small step. 

You are the architect of your life experience. You are either living by design or by default. You have more control over your daily experience than you might think, regardless of who you report to or your job responsibilities. While you realistically may not be able to change or impact some of your friction points, there are almost certainly some things you can experiment with. Design your workspace with your needs in mind.

Tips to Try 

Your day-to-day experience is significantly impacted by your physical space and the rhythms and habits of your day. Are yours working for you or against you? Your work area should feel as good as home. So much time spent in work environments that your office design should feel as familiar as your living room. 

Choose some of these strategies to test out for a few weeks. Be sure to gather some data over time to see what kind of impact your experiments have.

Design your workspace

*This is especially important if you work from home.

  • Have a designated spot for work. Eat or take breaks in a different place. 
  • Get natural light if possible.
  • Remove distractions. Don’t rely on willpower. Put distractions away. Out of sight is out of mind. 

Create boundaries in your day

*This is especially important to avoid work bleeding into home/family/leisure time.

  • Set a firm beginning and end time for work
  • Set an auto-responder outside of those times and don’t check email. You’ll have more success if you can’t see notifications on your phone; they’re hard to ignore.
  • Perform a ’transition activity’ (something that takes the place of a commute & tells your mind you’re done for the day). If you have a commute, use it as a time to transition by singing along with your favorite music or listening to a podcast, not ruminating about work.
  • Keep a good planner like The Self Journal.

Combat Zoom fatigue 

  • Hide your own face from the meeting (here’s how). Doing so will cut down on distraction and self-criticism.
  • Set expectations with your team about when they can turn video off.
  • No matter at the office or at home, design your workspace to work in accordance to your schedule.
  • Change meetings to 45 minutes to leave time to get up and move in between.

Make time for self-care

*The quality of your work and your relationships will improve if you’re taking care of yourself. Think of it like this, high performance cars need regular servicing and maintenance to run optimally. So do you!

  • Schedule your basic needs (lunch, movement, rest) and breaks into your calendar and treat them like appointments.
  • Block time in your calendar for active work so that you can have uninterrupted time to focus on important tasks. This will keep others from scheduling your time away from you.
  • Have a big bottle of water near you. You’ll drink more if you don’t have to exert effort to get a glass of water, and your brain will work better if you’re well-hydrated.
  • Build brief movement breaks into your day. Even 5 minutes of yoga (example), dancing to 1 song, or pacing while you’re on phone calls can help.
“How you spend your days is how you spend your life. You’re never stuck.”
– Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Design Your Work Life

Why design your workspace without designing your work life? The strategies above are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to designing your work experience. On January 18th during our live Quarterly Psych Strength Building workshop, we’ll be diving deeper into both psychology and life design to help you find more fulfillment at and outside of work without having to change your actual job responsibilities. There are still some spots available. If you can’t make it to live event, you can still get access to the replay and downloadable workbook. Get your ticket here:

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Peak Mind Pro: Navigate Stress without Being Stressed Out

Back-to-school is always a stressful time for working parents. This year, however, makes previous ones look like a breeze. Set against the back drop of an ongoing pandemic, seemingly constant transitions in the workplace, and heavy world events, it’s important for employees to navigate stress more than ever.

In fact, a recent Gallop survey paints this picture vividly with data. Nearly half of employees experience a lot of worry daily and over half have a lot of daily stress. Rates of both are higher compared to last year, and the rates are highest for employees in the U.S. and Canada. 

This is troubling news because chronic stress is associated with all sorts of negative effects on your physical and mental health, like increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and even death. 

Chronic stress impacts employee work performance, too. There’s not an off switch to flip to leave the stress load at home. Instead, poorly managed stress shows up at work in the form of presenteeism, disengagement (80% of employees are disengaged at work these days. 80%!), poor concentration, low efficiency, low creativity, difficulty prioritizing, and difficulty problem-solving and decision-making. 

Bottom line: Chronic, poorly controlled stress affects your organization’s bottom line.  

We don’t have to tell you about the damaging effects of stress. We have talked about that countless times on Peak Mind. Instead, we are here to give you tools – outside of the standard deep breathing and paying attention – to help you reduce stress and stressful situation. 

Stress, which is our body and brain’s reaction to any demand for our time, attention, and energy, is unavoidable. Fortunately, human beings are actually designed to handle a very high stress load…for a short period of time. The problems arise when the stress never ends, which is pretty much the case in our modern world. It’s important that we take steps at work and in our personal lives to create environments and routines that protect us against stress. Even basics like getting adequate sleep, hydrating and eating, moving as well as resting throughout the day, and periods without technology can make a drastic difference.  

There is a silver lining here. While stress is unavoidable, it isn’t all bad. When managed well, stress can actually be good for you. Stress can focus attention and provide the energy and motivation necessary to do well on a task. Under the right circumstances, stress can have a positive impact on your heart, making it more resilient. It can make you, as a person, more resilient as well. The challenge is turning bad stress (distress) into good stress (eustress).

Two of the biggest factors that help transform stress are: 

  1.  Believing that your efforts are worth it. 
  2.  Believing that you are capable of handling the task demands. 

 How can you help your team or organization tap into those mindset? 

Tools to Try

High stress can lead to overwhelm and difficulty prioritizing tasks and directing energy. That’s because high stress and anxiety bring with it a sense of urgency, making everything feel like it must be done right this second. The Priority Matrix is a helpful tool to sort tasks and develop a game plan. Use this tool on your own or with your team.

  • Urgent tasks have an impending deadline or are time sensitive. 
  • Important tasks matter. They provide value and make a significant impact toward meaningful goals.  

 

Psychological Strength

At Peak Mind, we’re dedicated to helping individuals and organizations thrive. We do this by teaching skills to build psychological strength, which encompasses solid stress management skills along with resiliency and mental toughness. 

Are you interested in learning what psychological strength is, how it operates in day-to-day life, and how you (and your team) can start to build it? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter below. 

Additional Resources

Our podcast vault contains a wealth of information to help in nearly every situation, including managing stress. These two episodes may be of particular interest to you.

Episode 267: How to Support Yourself Through Transitions

Episode 212: What to Do When You’re Stretched Too Thin

Ready to help your team build psychological strength?

Ready to support your team to help them manage stress and perform at their peak? Check out our ASCEND program! 

“It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it.”
 – Hans Selye