This talk by Daniel Radecki covers some of the core concepts of neuroscience, stress, psychological safety, and how to best increase your resilience.
Core brain principles (Neuroscience)
- Your brain is wired for safety. It is always looking for perceived threats to keep you safe.
- The brain can be roughly broken down into 2 parts:
- The amygdala, which is old, emotional, focused on threats, instinctive, impulsive, no-conscious.
- The prefrontal cortex, which is newer (as far as brain evolution goes) executive, rational, controlled, and conscious
- The prefrontal cortex acts like a braking system for the amygdala. And much like any other braking system it has its limits and it can fail altogether when overwhelmed.
It used to be that stress was generated by external impulses (OMG that tiger is going to eat me) but now we also have internally generated stress (OMG I don’t know what I am doing with my life.).
So, what are the effects of stress on the brain?
For the prefrontal cortex it lowers your focus, creativity and control.
For the amygdala it strengthens impulsivity, bias, negativity, and emotions.
Is mentioned briefly mostly to highlight its importance how the brain is affected if we don’t have it. He mentions the Google study named Project Aristotle. Summarizing it quickly, they were looking for what was the most important factor in high performing teams and it was determined that it was psychological safety. In other words, the sense that it is safe to take risks and make mistakes without risking your career is the key to having high performing teams.
So, how can we build psychological safety?
Using the acronym SAFETY.
Security, autonomy, fairness, esteem, trust, and you. Interestingly enough for those David Rock fans out there is a clear reminiscence of the SCARF model (Status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness). Here is a short summary of the acronym:
Security: is all about certainty. How sure do you feel about the situation you are in? Do you know if things are going to be consistent?
Autonomy: in other words control. We need to feel like we can do something about things in our life especially if something is stressing us out. If we do not have this then we can fall in the Victim Mentality which leaves us feeling helpless and miserable.
Fairness: this has been widely researched and it is the need for things to be fair. There is a well-known video of an experiment done by Frans de Waal featuring capuchin monkeys where you can see that even these small furry animals get irate when they are not treated fairly. Turns out we are not any different, when we see unfairness we get triggered too.
Esteem: is all about how we feel people see us, how we see ourselves and how we think we compare to others. So, for example if we feel like our accomplishments are not valued, this generates stress. We need to feel appreciated.
Trust: reminds me of the Relatedness letter of the SCARF model. It speaks not only of the need to belong to something but also how you choose to include or reject what seems alien to you. This can happen because of people’s appearance (the really metal dude with the tattoos looks scary!) or the way they behave (look at him head banging I would never do that!) or other factors.
You: this was not covered in the conference.
More tips on how to increase resilience
- Become aware of what triggers you. So, for example, if I know that I have a high Trust need I need to watch myself in situations where Trust is an issue. Like, working with someone I don’t know is hard because I don’t trust them yet.
- Train your brain to live in the present moment and the reason you want to do this is so your prefrontal cortex can take a break from keeping an eye on things. And what is one way of learning how to do this? Meditation or mindfulness training.
- Exercise: it helps your body to clear out metaboloids that have built up in the brain as well as restoring the brain’s natural chemical balance which allows it to heal itself.
- Sleep so that your brain can have a break from constantly receiving new info and it can sort through the day’s info and decide what is important (and it has to keep) and what it can discard.
- Emotional regulation: practice the ability to put a positive spin to how you assess situations. So for example, instead of thinking that your coworker is a lazy person who never turns things anything in on time consider that maybe they have a valid reason for their behavior. They might be delayed because they were sick or their spouse is in the hospital. This allows you to give situations a chance instead of jumping to negative assumptions.
- The power of mindset: the idea is that things are as you interpret them to be. I first read about this in Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage. Essentially, you create an idea of how something is going to go (This meeting is going to be a huge waste of time) and then your brain interprets it that way. You basically rob yourself of the opportunity to see things in a different light. So, the idea is for you to actively focus on visualizing stress in a positive light so your brain is primed to see it positively.
Your brain is always on the lookout for danger. This threat can be related to your sense of security, autonomy, fairness, esteem, and trust. If you feel threatened you feel stressed. Stress is bad (duh). In order to lower stress try becoming aware of what triggers you; being mindful; exercising; getting REM sleep; putting a positive spin to how you assess situations; and visualizing stress as something positive.
 Not sure about the spelling.