We need slack, or down time. This space is where creativity and innovation come from. Truly innovative and creative individuals or organisations are the secret weapons in the war for competitive advantage. Creativity comes from self-motivated curiosity. And curious people need time and space to experiment. As Max McKeown in last Saturday’s Guardian says, “You may think that you are more creative under pressure but research shows the opposite is true. Your boss think the best way to get results is to keep you as busy as hell, but he’s wrong.”
Creativity needs space and overscheduling squeezes out spontaneity. Google, Apple and Genentech provide employees with a day a week to come up with ideas. More than half their new products come from projects started using slack time.
So the question is; “How are you going to create and then use your slack time?”. Reduce distractions, cancel meetings, get out of the office. Go for a walk, meet in the pub, slack at the coffee shop or at an art gallery. Make time, during work hours, for reading, sleeping, meditating, thinking.
Here is a technique that will help you to create space and eliminate the experience of stress in the middle of mayhem. It will will you a booster jab of calmness and focus that will help you maximise your performance under pressure and even increase your creativity.
Simply click on the link below to view the video. Or watch it now on this blog by clicking the play button on the screen to the right.
The Gift of Space video
Have you ever had the feeling that you just don’t have enough time? Do you sometimes feel that time runs by so fast that it leaves you almost breathless and you are not achieving even half of the things on your ‘to do’ list? This experience often creates a cycle of stress, with the belief that we don’t have enough time, or that we are not in control, exacerbating the feeling of stress.
Stress has mental/emotional, behavioural and physiological components and each of these characteristics can give us important clues as to how we can break the stress pattern, regain control and improve our performance.
When we are under stress certain physical symptoms present themselves: increased blood pressure, we breath faster and shallower, and our heart rate goes up. When we start to feel threatened by external pressures our nervous system triggers the release of adrenaline and noradreneline (amongst other ‘stress’ hormones). It is these hormones which get us ready for ‘fight or flight’ and induce some of the physical symptoms mentioned above.
When our breathing increases, and our heart rate increases, it speeds up our physical system and the mind experiences this as time speeding up. So, we have a sense (albeit unconsciously) of an even greater compression of time.
Our thoughts and emotions often trigger the response of the sympathetic nervous system. So herein lies one route for ‘rebooting’ the system: change your thinking and you can change your experience of stress by affecting the physiology of stress. And we can also work with the breath. By slowing the breath down, we can significantly impact our emotional state, and this initiates a positive feedback loop which will help to affect the nervous system and induce the relaxation response.
Here is a simple technique to create space in the mind and in the body, to dissipate stress and allow enhanced performance. It takes less than 5 mins and can be done anywhere, and will help to improve your wellbeing and increase your performance under pressure.
The Pause that Refreshes – click to open PDF. (We would like to gratefully thank Simon Low and the Yoga Academy for this information.)
The emWave is an electronic device developed by the Heartmath Institute. It is a biofeedback device that looks somewhat like an iPod, and uses advanced technology that helps individuals to reduce the negative effects of stress. The patented technology, which is based on 15 years of scientific research, measures physiological coherence. By analysing heart rate variability (HRV) and giving feedback through lights and sounds, it helps coach you to optimal coherence.
Usually, I use the emWave device to coach myself and others into a highly coherent state which promotes health, performance and well-being. By slowing down, breathing and training the mind they can experience greater health, energy and improved mental and emotional clarity. The power of this little device lies in its measurement of HRV, one of the best measures of coherence (see post 30 April), and its ability to help people see how effectively (or not) they are coaching themselves into coherence.
Using the advanced mode not only measures my level of coherence but also allows me to visually see my heart rhythm in detailed and real-time changes in my heart rate. Over these last two busy weeks, I have been using the emWave to measure my HRV and coherence from start up (ie without coaching myself into coherence using breathing techniques etc). I have noticed that my HRV range has been high (10 to 15 bpm) and I have been able to get into high coherence very quickly. Normally this would take me 10 minutes.
As the emWave measures the spaces between heartbeats; the more erratic the intervals, the more stressed out I’m likely to be, conversely the more evenly paced the intervals the less stressed and more coherent I am. So although I might be feeling under pressure after the week I have had so far, actually my body seems to be coping very well and the high HRV would suggest that negative effects of stress are not being felt too deeply.
Is the watch helping? I don’t know, I can’t say for sure. All I can say is that I have noticed an increase in coherence since I have been wearing it; but this is not unequivocal proof that the two events are linked! Nevertheless, I am starting to feel stressed in myself after various events and demands this week have led to increased pressure. In my next post I will talk about some cognitive behavioural techniques that help to increase my ability to cope with this pressure.
What holds us together? What system of the body most fully represents our physical being when all else is removed? It’s the connective tissue the fascial web of the deep to shallow structure of our bodies. Rather like a leotard it wraps our muscles, organs, tubes bones etc and hold our systems together. It is like a loofa, but rather than dry and brittle, it is wet and fluid with a responsiveness that it simultaneously temporal (slower change over time) and immediate (elastic).
Our fascia is essentially collagen and it responds to piezo electricity which means that poor postural habits or repetitive physical movements will cause patterns and build up in our connective structure. Because fascia is so all pervasive, ultimately connecting our hair follicles to the deepest cells inside our bones, it is a highly efficient communication media. It can communicate blockage and stagnation or conversely freedom and space. Muscle tension, caused often by emotional tension, such as stress or worry, is communicated via the fascia to deeper organs within our bodies. The tension itself can cause restrictions and inhibit blood flow, for example, and the correct working of the neuro-endocrine system. For example, tension in the neck and shoulders, caused by fear or anxiety, can lead someone to hold their neck forward and down. Gesture becomes habit and posture. This structural restriction is transmitted on a deep level to our hypothamalus in the brain (the central regulator, if you like), and has a negative impact on its functioning. Essentially the hypothalamus is our body’s hormonal regulator, so by having a negative impact on its functioning, our breathing and our heart rate is adversely affected. A common ‘dis-ease’ results from this is high blood pressure. So what implication does all this rambling have for stress management? By creating space in this area of the body, the neck and shoulders (and underneath the occipital bone) and elsewhere in the body, through practices such as yoga we work at a deep level of connective tissue helping and educating the body to reorganise itself in a freer and more spacious state of being. This will inevitably help us achieve coherence and reduce mental and physical stress.
I know that one great benefit of this ‘reorganisation’ of my body through 8 years of practicing yoga is increased energy. Yoga educates the body and reorganises it on a subtle level so that, over time, muscles and most other systems become more efficient, and use less energy to do the same work. For example, yoga helps me to stay slim because my digestive system is much more efficient: I know eat less food but get all the energy I need because my body is more efficient at processing it.