Last week I attended a talk about Wellbeing with Dr. Briffa (author of A Great Day at the Office) hosted by Deloitte.

The talk focused on 8 things you can do before 8am, but the key takeaway for me was that all of these things can be focused on at any time of day, to help wellbeing and manage stress levels.

Stress is something that many people experience every day and the true source of stress is the very fact that it can be uncontrollable. External factors that are unpredictable and uncontrollable are bound to occur, and our own beliefs and how we respond to something are the key to whether we feel stress and how we manage it. 

Here is a simple example to illustrate this: a train being delayed is a fact. But the feeling of being late for work is the stressor and that is due to our beliefs surrounding how it feels to be late for work and the consequences. 

Scenario 1: Train is delayed by fifteen minutes. The person is in no rush, and arriving fifteen minutes later than anticipated does not make them feel anything. They do not feel stress.

Scenario 2: Train is delayed by fifteen minutes. The person has a meeting scheduled and is going to arrive late. They feel stressed about this. 

A fact is neither 'good' nor 'bad'. A fact is a noun, and good and bad are adjectives used to describe it, based on our emotions and beliefs towards it. It is our thinking and our beliefs that determine the emotion around it. The same event may for one person result in negative feelings and for another person a positive outlook.

Other stressors that might occur in the morning include children, workload and deadlines, and colleagues or working environments. People do bring their whole selves to work, and as a manager it is worth taking the time to understand a person's environment. By helping a person to prevent stress, they will likely be more productive at work.   

Here is a summary of the 8 things discussed:

1. Breakfast 

If you don't eat breakfast, then you prolong your fast since dinner the previous day. This means your body must go into fat reserves and this depletes your body of energy from fat to do what you need to do. The type of food you eat at breakfast is important too.

2. Fluid Thinking (aka Water)

A headache is a very late sign of dehydration, try to prevent getting to this stage by drinking enough water regularly. It's worth remembering that a healthy amount of water depends on many things including body size, activity and environment. On the topic of tea and coffee, caffeine is a stimulant and affects people in different ways. It's wise to be aware of your intake.

3. Exercise the brain

Exercising the body also means exercising the brain and it's important to increase the blood flow to the brain. Try not to set targets that cannot be consistently met. Remember that long term consistency trumps short term intensity. 

4. See the light

Sunlight stimulates serotonin levels in our brain, the happy hormone. This makes us more alert and increases our mental performance. Seratonin then converts to melatonin in the evening to help us sleep. So seeing sunlight is important. This can be difficult in the winter. So, consider taking a walk at lunch time instead of just eating 'al desko'. 

5. Take a Shower

A cold shower raises the metabolism, and this increases dopamine which is the hormone to stimulate reward and motivation. This then stimulates the production of noradrenaline which helps the brain to function.

6a. Getting the job done

There is a difference between being busy and productive. It's not how much you do, but what you do. Ask yourself what the three things are that you have to do that day and prioritise. 

6b. Prioritise prioritisation

Make sure you prioritise first thing in the morning, to enable you to get what you need done.

7a. Sticking to the Task

Multitasking much as it might seem efficient, is not. Single tasking will frequently mean you are more efficient. Consider what you can do to avoid distractions. For example, schedule tasks, set times for tasks such as email, or consider turning off email and instant messaging notifications for an amount of time, to allow you to focus. Putting your phone into flight mode can also help. Of course it's important to manage this properly and expectations around you. 

7b. When and where do you do your best work?

This is a personal preference and as an employer is worth addressing with everyone individually, in order to get a balanced approach. Companies pay for office space so that teams can interact in person and therefore working at home every day might not be practical. But understanding people's preferences and striking a balance is key.

8. Mind Control and cultivating a resourceful mindset

Since stress is determined by an individual's beliefs, it makes sense that it's possible to consider addressing and understanding these beliefs in order to control responses. 

It's useful sometimes to get some distance when facing a challenge, and seek some perspective. Think what advice you would give someone else in a similar situation and consider that there might be help out there.

In terms of cultivating a resourceful mindset, it's worth considering in the morning 'what is good in your life?', 'what would you miss if it were gone?', 'what would you want if you didn't already have it?'.  This helps to see the positives. An App called 'Five Minute Journal' is useful for this to keep track.

And finally, do you find it difficult to say "no"? Consider this. When you are saying "yes" to one thing, you are automatically saying "no" to other things, albeit unconsciously. So why not choose consciously what you say "no" to. It's also a fact that by saying "no" sometimes raises your brand. That's basic economics, supply and demand.