Hey everybody, and welcome to the Anxiety at Work podcast. I’m Chester Elton, and this is my co-author and dear friend Adrian Gostick.
Oh, thanks, Ches – and we hope the time you’re going to spend with us is going to help remove the stigma around anxiety and mental health in the workplace and in your personal life. We invite some of the world’s greatest experts to give you ideas and, more importantly, tools to deal with anxiety in your world.
We love our community! Thank you so much for your time, and we’re really excited to introduce you to our guest today, Anne Grady. Anne is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and leading expert on resilience and the science behind it. In her newest book, Mind over Moment: Harness the Power of Resilience” she delivers a collection of actionable, practical, and timely takeaways for the changing world we find ourselves in today. Anne’s book is broken out into three parts, each covering the what’s, hows, and whys of practicing mind over moment, showing you how to retrain your mind to be more resilient—showing you how to retrain your mind on how to be more resilient. One of the most powerful takeaways from her new book is that resilience is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and honed. It’s one of the things we love about having Anne on the show, and boy, do we ever need these skills, especially now, when anxiety in the workplace is especially high. So welcome to the show Anne. We’re delighted to have you on our humble podcast.
Oh well, thank you so much for asking. I’m thrilled to be here with you, and it’s such an important topic.
Well, thank you again, Anne, for joining us. You know, your own personal story that you’ve shared of resilience is so compelling. I have a son, Anthony, who’s lived with anxiety and depression, and he said the resilience is something that’s been very important to overcome those issues, so we’d love it if you could tell us a little bit about your journey to resilience, especially with your son Evan. And tell us a little bit about how Evan’s doing now. How old he is etc.
So when I was pregnant, I knew something wasn’t right, and a lot of people say, oh, come on, that’s what a mom knows, right? I just knew something wasn’t right, and when he was born, the nurse said honey, I’ve been doing this 30 years. I have never seen a baby this angry, ever, which is, you know, always what a first-time mom wants to hear. He just cried all day and all night, and he was inconsolable. And when he was 18 months old, my husband left. So I had just started a new consulting career. I had a baby that cried 20 hours a day, and I was very alone. And I kept going to different doctors, and nobody could tell me what was wrong. They just said if I were a better parent, he’d be fine. But when Evan was three, he tried to kill me with a pair of scissors. I wouldn’t give him more ice cream. And when he was four, we started him on his first antipsychotic. So Evan’s first hospitalization was at the age of seven. We lived at the Ronald McDonald house.
I got married when Evan was about nine years old, and we lived at the Ronald McDonald House for two months while he underwent treatment. He was hospitalized again in 2014, and that’s the time I was diagnosed with a tumor in my salivary gland that led to a whole host of craziness. Evan is 17 years old. He’ll be 18 in April, and we just got off a psychiatry call with him, literally. So Evan has been at a therapeutic boarding school in Idaho for the last couple of years, and as he graduates and tries to, we need to figure out the next step. So it was funny because I was thinking about this podcast today as I’m on the call going; I’m feeling so anxious right now. I wonder if I’m going to be anxious on the podcast about anxiety? You know? So these feelings are very normal, but we’re now in this place where I didn’t, I haven’t been prepared for, right? Which is guardianship and disability and finding another living situation that will keep him safe, and you know. So it’s just an ongoing journey. Evan’s formal diagnoses are autism, severe. Well, they call it severe mood dysregulation disorder, so it’s kind of a jumble of depression, bipolar, anxiety all mixed up into one. He’s got individual developmental disabilities and delays. He’s got something called dysphoria, which I didn’t even know was a thing. Which is basically whatever he’s doing, he’s not really happy. He just wishes he was somewhere else. So it’s definitely been a journey, and I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 19. so you know, I have some experience with it as well. This is why a portion of all my book proceeds go to the national alliance on mental illness in central Texas because I’m such a huge advocate of reducing the stigma. You wouldn’t shame someone for having a cold or getting covid, you know? But when we’re dealing with intense emotion, it becomes almost a judgment; and one out of every three people in this country are struggling with anxiety or depression as a result of covid, so it’s becoming a norm.
You know, I think any person would be incredibly anxious and worried with just one of those things that you mentioned, and you mentioned 15 things. I mean, when you talk about resilience, I am just so inspired that you seem so put together now and just came off a call with your, you know, with your doctor and, you know, this is the second time you and I have talked. I’ve thought about you often with your story and how important it is for you to be able to share with people that, even in the face of all of that, you know, going through the divorce, going through the different diagnosis, having your own health problems, that you know this resilience thing. You know we talked about it in our LinkedIn live show. You talked about life is made up of moments, you know. I still have to ask you the question, is it hard to live just moment-to-moment? You say you can train your mind to do that, and how would living moment-to-moment help, or how does it help with anxiety? So the goal of mind over a moment is not to live each moment separately, or you know, I think that can often create even more anxiety when you’re like, am I living this moment correctly? Am I doing it right?
You know, I think that – well, I know the idea of mind over moment is to become aware of your thoughts and emotions without letting them drive you, right? Without letting them control you. So most of us get in a very reactive frenetic state. I think life kind of almost requires that, at least on the surface. And prior to covid, you know, it’s driving the kids from one lesson to another in recitals, games, dealing with work, meetings, networking functions, and birthday parties. And having to, you know, be everyone to you know be everything to everyone, and even you said it- and you look so put together, right? People are great at presenting the version of themselves that they want you to see, and the goal, I’m so grateful for your podcast, is because it’s getting under that layer. Right? It’s okay to say; you know what, I’m not okay. But mind over moment is really learning to step out of that frenetic busy reactivity and decide how you want to live your life. I think we’ve, I don’t know about you, but I got so busy trying to survive the life I had that I forgot to create the one I want. And if you’re not deliberate, it just passes you by, and we live on autopilot. Each day becomes the same day, and we just kind of repeat the same patterns, and we look up, and 50 years may have gone by, and gravity’s taken over. We may or may not be any closer to reaching our goals, but we just wonder like, what did I just do? And I’m on a mission to like get people to stop and really be purposeful about the way they live their life well.
That, okay, so we’re gonna. Can, you know, as I think about this, I kind of want to think about it because living in a moment seems to be more of a short-term thing we’re thinking about right now. But what you’re talking about is more of a long-term. So can you explain maybe how mindfulness helps us create this sense of direction and strengthen our resilience more long-term than short-term?
Well, there are thousands of studies. I wish I could claim that I’ve figured this out myself, but no, there are thousands of studies that document the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness. And when people hear that term, when I used to hear that term, I imagined like sitting in a full lotus and eating tofu and finding my zen and inner-self and whispering to Yoda. Like, I had all of these visions in my mind, but the truth of the matter is mindfulness is nothing more than brain training. That’s it. It is training your brain to direct its attention where you want it to go instead of where it naturally goes on its own, so you can learn mindfulness through meditation. That’s one tool, but the goal isn’t necessarily the ease and the calm you feel in that moment because it’s hard work; your brain is constantly wandering. Buddhist monks call it your monkey mind, and our minds love to chase things like little shiny objects, right? And so you’re in the middle of trying to focus on being mindful, and you’re like, oh, I forgot to call my mother. Okay, wait. Focus. All right, what are we gonna have for dinner? And it’s just really easy to get caught up. I think the research. I don’t know of a newer statistic. Still, in 2010, Harvard came out with research that said we spent 47 percent of our time somewhere else somewhere other than where we are. We live our life checking our phones out of habit, and you know, switching tasks every three minutes and swiping or tapping or trying to get some type of dopamine gratification from staying busy. But that’s not what the human mind was designed to do, and mindfulness is a way to train your brain to start observing your thoughts and emotions without getting swept away by them so that you can really get curious and dig down a little deeper. So walk us through, you say, retrain your mind to be more mindful. And we know that that’s a powerful tool in tamping down anxiety. Right? So how do you do that? Like, can you give us a one-minute demonstration?
How do I train my mind to be more mindful so I’m not in that monkey mind, and I’m not chasing, you know, chasing all those shiny objects?
Well, that’s what’s so funny about it, you know? I’m like a huge perfectionist. Over struggle with anxiety, you know? So I wish I could tell you there’s one magic thing that all you do this and your anxiety, poof, it goes away. I think part of it is taking a step back and, you know, happiness is an 11 billion dollar industry in this country. 11 billion dollars. Right now.
Wait a minute. Just to interrupt. So what you’re saying is if you have 11 billion dollars, you’ll be happy?
No, absolutely not. That is not what I’m saying. You will be no happier than if you had a hundred thousand dollars. The idea of happiness is a very western construct that we have kind of created. This expectation that we are supposed to be happy and not have anxiety, and the truth of the matter is your brain doesn’t really care if you’re happy. Your brain only cares if you’re safe. Its only job is to protect you, so anxiety serves a purpose it’s alerting your brain to a potential threat, and right now, there’s no shortage of it because our brain views uncertainty as a threat. Our brain would actually rather have an outcome it doesn’t like than one it doesn’t know, and because we have a negativity bias – meaning we have been pre-wired to search for the negative as a way to protect ourselves. Because the positive things in our life aren’t going to kill us, our brain has done a great job at, you know, really letting the positive things slip by and the negative things get stuck. It’s kind of like a strainer. Right? If you think of spaghetti as the negative and the water as the positive, and you pour it all through a strainer, the water just pours out, and your brain doesn’t have to depend on those positive experiences in order to survive. So what it does is naturally, in a state of negativity. It is naturally in a state of looking for what is wrong. It is naturally in a state of trying to protect you. Mindfulness and this practice, first of all, is just that. It’s a practice. It’s not something that you master. It is not something that you just figure out. It is something that you fail at and try again and fail at and try again and fail at it and try again, and the simplest explanation is to kind of bring yourself back to being where you are when you’re there. You know, the next time you’re in a conversation – do you find yourself thinking about what you want to say? or when you’re with your kids, or you’re like, hey, let me just send this one last email. Or you’re at a red light, and you’re checking your text message. Now people do this all the time. I do this. Right? This is not like to say that you ever get to a place of stillness and single-tasking, and you never do it. The goal is to catch yourself when you’re in that spiral. So I just recorded a video today for our community, and if it’s okay, I’ll share with you kind of the context because I think this will help. So when something happens to us, there’s really two parts of it – there’s the event or the issue, and then there’s our interpretation of it. Right? There’s the story we tell ourselves about it, so for example, right now, the issue is an 18-year-old autistic, mentally ill disabled child needs to find placement in a long-term program that’s going to support his physical and mental health. That’s the truth. The story I tell myself is oh my God, what am I going to do? I’m going to fail him. He’s not going to have a place to live. He’s going to come here. It’s going to be a mess. We’re going to undo all the progress he made while he was gone. Now I have to get a lawyer, and I have to file for guardianship, and someone’s going to have to serve him papers, and what if he goes into a group home, and they’re abusive? And blah. Like it just goes spirals into this anxiety, and you can almost work yourself up into a panic attack. Not almost, you can. Part of what I have learned to do through mindfulness and meditation is brain training. It’s training your brain to direct your attention back is separating the event from the story I tell myself because it’s only when you realize you’re telling yourself a story that you get to reshape it or take back control of it you know the truth is I don’t have any proof that things are going to fall off a cliff the day he graduates there’s no evidence to support that right. Hence, I’m worried about things that may or may not happen. It’s not fact, so anytime you’re going through something, you can. My therapist actually taught me this if you can take yourself out of first-person and almost be like a news reporter, a third-person objective party who’s just explaining the facts of the situation and then view your version of the story you’re telling yourself about it simply stepping outside and realizing that you’re telling yourself a story is enough to take your brain out of fight or flight and put you back into control.
You know, what you’re saying resonates so much with me. I remember being back in the corporate world as a young employee and going to meetings. I was impressed by certain leaders – their ability to come into a meeting and just be laser-focused, and I remember my mind going, you know, all over the place and just being really impressed by that. And so yeah, what you’re saying is really helpful too, not only in our lives but also in the working world. So maybe, you know, as we think about, and you’ve now been researching resilience for some time, is there a lesson? Maybe there was a little counterintuitive for you, or maybe something that was really impactful that you learned while you’ve been studying this subject that might be really interesting – especially as we think about anxiety in the workplace?
Yeah, so there really was a kind of an aha moment for me, and it is that when we try to numb uncomfortable emotions or we try to run away from them, like alcohol sales in Texas has gone up 500 percent since covid started right because people just don’t want to feel uncomfortable. They don’t like discomfort, and so in our attempt to run from that, while it may seem counterintuitive, it actually makes it last longer and feel more intense. So, if you don’t want to feel anxiety and you tell yourself stop being anxious, your brain feels more anxiety, and it lasts for longer. So, while it seems the opposite of what you would want to do when you’re experiencing anxiety or any other difficult emotion, sit in it, and give yourself some space for it. You don’t have to marinate in it. You don’t have to live in it for hours and hours and hours, but give yourself permission to experience it because we tend to think that our thoughts and our emotions are factual statements. When we learn that our brain is playing tricks on us, our brain is trying to protect us, so it’s constantly turning things into negative it’s telling us we’re not good enough. It’s telling us we’re going to say the wrong thing. It’s telling us we’ll look stupid.
Whatever your brain is telling you, those are not facts. Those are habit patterns that you have developed as a protection mechanism throughout the course of your life. If you can step back from that and start to pay attention, that’s why mindfulness and meditation is so powerful. When we have stress, the gray matter in our brain is the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation, attention, and focus. So when we are under stress, that gray matter density shrinks mindfulness actually grows it back. Hence, it gives you the ability to step back from all of those swirling emotions and thoughts to evaluate them for what they are right and to not run away from them but to let them work through you. I know that kind of sounds new wave, and you know, kind of froofy, but it has been incredibly a powerful lesson because as someone who has struggled with depression, you don’t like to feel sad. Nobody wants to feel sad, but in an attempt to not feel sad, right so stress is the same way I don’t want to be stressed, so we have stress management podcasts stress management books, programs, television shows, you know, coaches right your brain when you talk about managing stress all your brain focuses on is that word that feeling of stress so an example of this would be instead of focusing on reducing stress and anxiety focus on finding joy and calm it’s it’s a shift of the lens. Still, it is one that is so powerful and profound because it affects the way your brain processes the world, so instead of trying to reduce anxiety, look for gratitude instead of trying to reduce stress, look for joy instead of trying to numb discomfort learn from it that’s the skill with resilience, and it is not an easy one.
Yeah, just as you’re saying that I’m thinking that’s hard, you know, that’s hard. You know, so often when we talk about resilience, you’re bouncing back. Right, it’s that ability to bounce back, and we seem to put a premium on people that bounce back fast, you know, an athlete gets hurt. Boy, they’re so resilient, you know, they heal so quickly, you know, they go from a loss to a victory, and so there’s this element of speed that we associate with resilience. How do you measure success in bouncing back from resilience? Is it like you’re so practiced you’ve trained your brain so well that you can do it really fast, or is it just a process that you have to embrace? Give us your definition. So, I’m going to go out on a limb, but I’m going to bet you my home and everything in it that the people who are listening to this podcast have survived every bad thing that has ever happened to them.
Okay, I would agree with that. Right, we are resilient because they’re here, right? We’re resilient by nature. The definition of resilience is not just getting back up, but did you learn from it? Did you grow from it? So, for me, the definition of success is not the outcome. It’s the growth, and it takes different people at different times in different parts of their lives to deal with things differently. Right, there is no, there’s not a formula. Oh well, you’ve grieved for three weeks. Now you should be okay. Right. Or man, you didn’t get the job you wanted. I know you’ve been down about it, but it’s been a month. You need to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and move on. Right, like those types of things aren’t helpful. They’re the judgment that we attach to the situation, so if you’re a third-party reporter who says Adrian has been looking for work for the last 18 months, and he’s approached multiple companies, and he’s waiting to see where he stands, well that might be the issue. But the story is I’m never going to find a job. What am I going to do? I’m going to be homeless. And so it’s really focusing on the growth and the learning from it. There’s no timetable to tragedy or trauma. There is, and quite frankly, the change curve is the same as the grief curve, so it means that we go through these different stages. I was angry when I realized my son had autism. I was mad, and I didn’t accept it. I was like, no, no, no. He’s just got some anxiety. He doesn’t have autism. Right? Even though there’s nothing wrong with autism, it’s just where my head went. But we really tend to, and I’ve just kind of circled around this question. But we, I think it’s just very easy to get caught up in the way we’ve always done it and relinquish control to our habits instead of being deliberate about cultivating them. Right? So, if you think about a lobster. I talk about this in my Ted Talk and in my book. When a lobster grows, its shell becomes constricting and tight. It doesn’t grow with the lobster, so in order to grow, the lobster has to shed its shell. It has to hide. Crustacean without a crust is very vulnerable, and it hides under some rocks and sand and waits vulnerably and uncomfortably while its new shell grows. It does this through its entire life. We know that you cannot have growth without discomfort. Like I think my idol, Brene Brown, you can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you can’t choose both, right? And so when you get comfort, when you have that time, savor it, enjoy it. Soak in it. We get to be comfortable sometimes, but when you have the stuff that is challenging you past what you think you’re capable of handling, you can’t see it in the moment. But you’re able to look back with perspective and learn from it. It’s called post-traumatic growth, like covid sucks. Nobody wanted this. We don’t. It’s not like we’re gonna crave another pandemic, but I am willing to bet that we can look back in 10 years and extract some lessons from it. Things we did right. Things we didn’t. Things we learned. Growth is the definition of success.
You know this is such good information. And tell us more about your books. Where we can find more information about you. I mean the Ted Talk. I’m guessing we just put Ted Talk and put your name? and we’d find that? What about everything else?
So, I’ve got two Tedx talks. One is on finding your courage, and the other is based on my second book, which is “Strong Enough: It’s Time You Realized You’re Strong Enough.” But, annegradygroup.com is a great place. I’ve got hundreds of articles, interviews, and podcasts. Our last interview, I think, is even up there. So it’s just a great place for resources, and every week we send out a resilience reset email. It’s just a quick video tip tool or strategy to help really focus on resetting your nervous system to reset your priorities, and those are the skills that the book really dives into.
The mindset is your habits, and how we form habits, how we break habits, the story you’re telling yourself, the growth mindset, what your brain is doing. Skills are these practical hands-on tools that seem so simple that we often dismiss them—things like cultivating positive emotions, emotional intelligence, gratitude, social connection, humor. Giving back all of the tools, the things we know really cultivate resilience. And then, the reset is the third part of the book. And that’s really, how do you reset your nervous system? Because we have control over that. When you’re having an anxiety, specifically a panic attack, there’s a reason it’s happening. If you understand the biology and the neurology, then sometimes you can make it objective enough to take yourself out of the equation, right. So you can physically reset your nervous system. And I have to do it all the time.
You know, one of the things that fight, I think, against resilience is others’ expectations of us. How resilient they expect us to be. So you know, can do we work against that when, maybe, people, especially in the workplace, where they expected to have certain resilience. As Chester said, hey, we’ve given you a couple of days. Come on. How do we work against, you know, fight against that? You know, our own kind of panic of wanting to meet up to somebody else’s expectations on our progress toward resilience, you know, that’s a tough one because we crave social acceptance, love, and want to be included. We’re tribal by nature. It’s a survival mechanism. So it’s natural to want to be a people pleaser. It’s natural to want to look good for others. It’s natural to have all those emotions, but then you have to decide what’s realistic for each person in different situations. That will look very different, you know. I have had times where I have had to leave a keynote in the middle of the keynote because Evan was in the fifth grade having a meltdown and in a basket held by police officers at school. Now I had all this anxiety. They’re not going to hire me again. They’re not going to like me. They’re not going to buy my books. They’re not going to blah blah blah blah. And I was terrified of it, right? But ultimately, what is my priority? My priority is making sure my kid’s safe, right? So in that situation, it’s easy for me to go; I don’t care what you think. I got to take care of my kid. Now, if I have something happen, and I’m sitting in a meeting, my mind wanders because I’m distracted, and my boss is like, hello, are you focused? Are you focused? Are you here? It’s been a week. Then I have one-on-one, and I have a conversation. This is where I am, and I think the beautiful thing that has happened this year that no one could have accounted for is this huge magnifying glass we are now able to put on mental health. And mental health is not the absence of mental illness. Mental health is a set of skills. It’s a set of tools. It’s a set of habits. So, it is now accepted more than ever to go to whoever it is on your team, and look; I can appreciate that we’re struggling here, or that I’m struggling here, and that must make this challenging for you. Here’s what I need from you. Here’s what you can do to help, and it doesn’t mean you’re not still upholding the same responsibilities. It doesn’t mean you’re not held accountable, but you can’t give other people grace if you don’t start with yourself.
You know, I keep coming back to this idea of speed. You know that the champions, you know the good, that they bounced back quickly. I was thinking about, you know, my son Carter went through a lot of anxiety when he was just little, and we’d let him stay home from school, and I remember saying, hey buddy, you’re falling behind. I mean, you can’t stay home. You’re thinking that that would motivate them and what i was doing was i was just piling more anxiety on top of them well what do you mean i’m falling behind you know and it was it was so frustrating i couldn’t relate at all and that was a real journey to uh to give him that grace and um you know unfortunately it it took years he’s doing great now he’s got a good mom is what i say um talk to us about managing those expectations though um the bounce bank expectations how do we do that because you know at a certain point employers are gonna i mean as much as we say there isn’t a timeline there is a timeline i i think for for employers you know you can’t take a year off and and and expect and yet you’ve got to manage those expectations at the same time right so how do we how do we take the stigma off of that do we need to get the counselors talking to business people do we need to be a little more transparent i agree with you i think kovud has shown the light on that and everybody’s kind of gone through it there’s more empathy around it and at the same time i think there is still going to be that that sense that the clock is ticking and so you better suck it up and figure this out sooner than later yeah we’re a culture that is obsessed with uh productivity and getting more done and if we’re not getting it done fast enough then we’re not enough and i i don’t know if i have the right answer to this i for me i can only speak for myself and the the teams that i work with first it’s you know i’ve been blown away by i i have done resilience sessions for staff and leaders at dell microsoft johnson and johnson general mills adp boston consulting group starbucks these companies are starting to realize this is needed that that people need these tools and that they are tools um but i think you can also create some of your own boundaries for example many of the boundaries we have or many of the expectations are self-imposed right so we can put an email signature in our out in our out i can’t speak we can put an email signature right that says i respond to emails twice a day at these times if it’s an emergency here’s the way to reach me or here’s someone else to reach it’s creating boundaries that allow you to disconnect i understand i work with a lot of global teams and yes it’s tomorrow in bangalore and i’m you know doing stuff but the the ability to disconnect your brain cannot be at a hundred percent capacity all the time so in order to meet the goals that your employer has for you you have to set up boundaries that are going to provide you with the ability to meet them and if you can’t meet them it’s not the right employer right like there’s something to be said i don’t think it’s employers i think it’s individual leaders and managers often so it’s not usually like an enterprise-wide thing i mean it could be a culture thing but i think more often it’s these self-imposed things like we’re not communicating with our manager that i’m feeling overwhelmed and that i’ve got a lot on my plate so one activity that i encourage people to use is something called high payoff activities and it’s the 80 20 principle right like 20 of x generates 80 percent of y 20 percent of you know social media followers generate 80 of your revenue if that’s your model right what it means though in work is that there are 20 of the activities that we do on a regular basis as part of our job that generate the biggest return for our time invested the 80 of the return and are you and your manager in alignment on what those are because you might think you’re super busy and yet you’re still not accomplishing what they want so it’s going back and independently of each other it’s saying all right here’s what i think are the top five or six high path activities in my job the thing it doesn’t mean the other stuff doesn’t have to get done but it means when i do those things everything else falls into place you ask your manager independently of you if you were to identify the top five or six tasks or responsibilities that i have that generate the biggest return for the time i invest on them my biggest responsibilities what would they be and compare your list because you’re either going to validate you have the same perspective in which case it’s great to create alignment or you’re going to figure out that you’ve been spending a lot of times a lot of time on things they don’t deem quite as as much of a priority as you might have thought but it also gives you a way to push back so for example if um i go to my manager right and i say what are my high payoff activities in your eyes they are mine we combine our list then the next time she puts more on my plate i can say okay i just want to level set here based on my high payoff activities where does this fall and she might say you’re right i didn’t remember you were working on this thing let’s put that off till tomorrow this takes precedence or she might say i didn’t realize you had that on your plate let me find somebody else who can do that right so it’s just about clarifying expectations we we assume all the time and it’s not it’s the assumptions that get us i need this asap okay well does that mean as soon as possible does that mean as soon as perfect does that mean i needed it yesterday does it mean i need it tomorrow we have a lot of these expectations and many of them are self-imposed if you have a manager or a leader that is not understanding your need for recovery time then it’s a conversation you really need to have or you need to have a skip level conversation and and share with that person’s leadership what you’re going through because there’s no timetable for for grief or loss or anxiety it costs our a global economy one trillion dollars a year a trillion dollars a year depression and anxiety so it’s not in the form that you would always think it’s in it’s in low morale it’s in sick days it’s in you know hiding in facebook so that you don’t have to deal with the work on your desk because it’s overwhelming so it’s it’s just got to be a conversation that we’re willing to start having you know you mentioned sometimes it’s a cultural thing but it’s more a manager or leader thing well i i just want to give a shout out to to a leader uh that i’ve known for a long time his name is david kashish he’s at american express and we were talking about this situation with one of his employees that was out and he said something i’ll never forget he said you know what chester work gets done it gets done whether you’re there or not it we figure out work work gets done right and he said so when my employees are struggling i just tell them one thing get well come back when you’re well don’t worry about the work the work will get done and i loved david before that conversation you know and and to me he just put himself in one of the great pantheons of leaders that get it that it really is you know 10 years from now they’ll never remember what those assignments were that maybe got delayed or didn’t hit the deadline they’ll all remember that he cared about him every one of them and so yes hopefully it’s a cultural thing if the if the leader doesn’t get it the cultural part doesn’t matter well and that’s why mental health needs to be a leadership skill that’s why resilience needs to be a leadership competency because it’s not this magical presence it’s it’s learned behavior and if you’ve never had a leader say those things to you then how would you know to say those things to others when you’re now in a leadership position right so this is just training and it’s enculturating this mindset into organizations and it’s slow but it’s happening yeah and i love the fact that you’re out working with organizations helping them with these skills and this has been just such an amazing conversation with so many amazing takeaways i’ve taken three pages of notes myself so i i hope our listeners uh you know not only listen to this but probably listen again and again because your advice is so profound um if you had to sum up our conversation today what couple of things you’d like our listeners to take away as they uh as they head out now and uh and and try and tackle the world with these new skills what would you say well one is to change your expectation of what life is supposed to be it’s not happily ever after happiness is not a genetic gift it is a skill and you’re not supposed to feel happy all of the time so one it’s to understand that you’re not there’s nothing wrong with you i hear people say what’s wrong with me my family’s healthy why am i so upset still why do i should be grateful i have so much to be grateful for there’s no should you’re allowed to feel how you feel give yourself permission to feel it so that’s one the next i would say is start paying attention to how much time you spend away from what you’re doing start to pay attention to how distracted you are when you’re in conversations catch yourself if your mind wanders when you’re with your kids be with your kids start to practice presence right being present with people because kids especially they just want to be heard right i hear people say all the time love is spelled t-i-m-e for kids that’s just what they they just want time they don’t need you to be perfect they just want time so i would say bring yourself back to the moment but the other thing and i haven’t taught anybody how to do this yet which is the most profound thing for me which is sounds so silly but it’s breathing and we typically take very shallow breaths from our chest and our brain literally doesn’t get enough oxygen and blood supply to function optimally so i learned a technique from an elite athlete friend of mine and they teach this to newscasters they teach this to opera singers it’s called diaphragmatic breathing and the reason this is so powerful is one it resets your nervous system three deep diaphragmatic breaths will reset your nervous system like a deeply relaxed person takes seven breaths a minute so simply slowing down your breathing and paying attention to it is enough to let your brain know that it’s safe so if you’re focused on your breathing your brain knows you’re not being chased by a tiger that’s the first component of it the second is it’s so backwards from how we normally breathe so on the inhale you actually want to pooch out your stomach so you’re almost like making a buddha belly on the exhale and then you’re holding it for a second or i’m sorry on the inhale and then on the exhale the exhale is the part of the breath that puts you back into the parasympathetic nervous system so on the exhale that should be a little bit longer and three of those in through the nose as you expand your belly hold it exhale slowly even deeper like i imagine a weight pulling my exhale down three of those will reset you and it is so simple to forget to breathe correctly and we feel all of the physiological well my heart is pounding and my brain my my head is pounding and my shoulders are tense yeah you’re not getting air right like it’s something we take for granted but something as simple as changing the way you breathe um and then the other thing that has been game changing is meditation and there are a bunch of free apps i wouldn’t i hated meditating because i kept thinking i was failing you know i thought i was supposed to feel zen and peace and calm and instead i felt like i couldn’t control my mind and i was angry at myself for not being able to stay focused but then i learned that that means it’s working so every time you catch your brain wandering and you come back that’s you’re bringing the monkey back you’re raining the monkey back in that’s what grows gray matter that’s what trains your brain to start observing your thoughts without getting carried away by them that’s what allowed me last night to get a text right before i got into bed that normally would have sent me into a panic my heart rate still went up i started to sweat i started to get nervous and then i meditated till i fell to sleep fell asleep and then i woke up in the middle of the night and i had that and then i meditated and fell back asleep and and the issue was still there in the morning and it got resolved and it’s no big deal and i could have been up all night worrying about it but just focusing on your breath is enough to re-regulate you and and we got to take ownership of our own body you know when you’re anxious and i know you’re like finish up your answer already ann when you’re anxious when you’re anxious everything that you don’t need to survive stops digestion salivation reproduction all of those things stop so your body can protect you you’ve got to send your body the signal that you’re safe and breathing is the best way to do that so just to sum that up you said the most important thing is breathing and you left it till the very
Hey, listen, tell us again where we can find all your amazing work. Tell us your book titles and your website one more time.
Sure. So, lots of book titles, but the newest one, my favorite right now – it’s like my newest baby- Mind Over Moment: Harness the Power of Resilience”. And what’s even cooler about it is that a special education teacher illustrated the journal that goes with it. So, I speak to a lot of educators, and she took all the notes as pictures of my speech and showed it to me, not so she could illustrate a journal. I wasn’t even going to make a journal. It’s just, it was so amazing that I had, that I had to. But you can learn my books are available on amazon. If you get them and like them, please write a review. If you don’t like them, you don’t need to. And then you can go to annegradygroup.com to learn more about my work and organizationally what I do. But you can always find us on social at Ann Grady Group. We’ve got a 31-day mindfulness challenge taking place right now, and it is not too late to join in. I appreciate you guys having me so much. You got it. Well, thank you for being on the show. Amazing help, and, you know, I really just appreciate how candid you are and how vulnerable you are and sharing your story and how powerful that is. I think when people are vulnerable like that, we can all relate, and it gives us courage to do the same. So thanks so much, Anne, for being on the show.
Well, Adrian, another amazing guest. I mean, what, what an incredible personal story and all of that. So what are some of your key takeaways?
Oh wow, I don’t even know. I pulled just a few ideas. You know, she talked a lot about mindfulness which I thought was really important. And she said, you know, we have this monkey mind that bounces all over the place, and boy, you know, how do we bring ourselves back to the present? And it’s going to benefit us in our work life but also in our personal life. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think, you know, when I think about – I don’t think if I have a monkey – might have a monkey’s mind. I don’t think one monkey covers it, you know? She said happiness is a western construct. I thought that was really fascinating. Your brain doesn’t care if it’s happy, it just wants to be safe, so that’s why it keeps warning you about all these things, and you need to train your brain to quit looking for, you know, the tiger behind every bush. And I thought that was fascinating, that happiness is a western construct. I thought that was fascinating. I took the same away. Actually wrote that down as well and also this idea that, look, how minds are like this, you know, colander holding spaghetti and the positive will just drop out, and that will focus on that negative and, you know. So an event comes up, and she was talking about something that happened to her last night, and unfortunately, we do tell ourselves these stories these negative stories. Oh my gosh, this is going to happen, and this is going to happen. And I liked Anne’s advice of treat it like a news reporter. We focus in on the facts. What do we know? What don’t we know? And keep to the facts. Yeah, you know, it was funny when she was talking about the calendar, and all the good stuff drains out. I had a Homer Simpson moment there. Don’t stupid brain, you know, letting all the positives drain through. I like your point, though – the event and the interpretation of the event. Like you say, the reporter, what are the facts because as we start to interpret the facts, that’s when we go down the rabbit hole, you know. A kind of a tender moment for my family today, and this was so helpful for me, to be on this podcast, you know, we just got news that my brother’s got covid, and he’s on the way to the emergency room. Now it’s one thing to say you’ve got covid. We all know there’s a difference when you’re headed to the emergency room. That’s not good, and so I got to thinking, well, I could go down that rabbit hole immediately. He texted me on the way to and he said, “Hey, I’ll be okay,” and I said, you know what, all I know right now is he needs to go to the hospital. It doesn’t mean it’s horrific. All we know he’s going to the hospital. I can deal with that. I can’t deal with the interpretation of that. The interpretation of that would destroy you, and so I love the way she said separate the event from the interpretation of the event. Yeah, I agree. And, of course, our prayers are with your family, too, as your brother goes through that. I’ll bring this back to the work world for just a moment, too, and talk about this idea of that she had of high payoff activities and having a conversation with our managers because, you know, you had challenged. Okay, what if it’s a year, and I think what we don’t realize is people with anxiety, as we found in our research for Anxiety at Work, people with anxiety often are extremely intelligent. Sure. In fact, their moving minds want to keep them safe because they process so many threats. So these typically are not people who are who lack productivity. What can happen is being overwhelmed, or she talked about just processing so many things that it gets just paralyzing. And so, really think focusing on those 20 activities when you’re feeling overwhelmed and making sure you’re in alignment with your manager. Making a list. Are we in alignment? Am I focusing in on the right activities when I do feel overwhelmed? Yeah, yeah, she said too, it wasn’t it interesting when you have those difficult times if you run away from it, it extends it. So sit in it. Don’t marinate. Sit in it. Embrace it. The more you run away, the worse it gets, so face up to it, own it, you know, we talk about that. Own the situation. And I thought, well, you know, that is retraining because that takes courage. Because your first reaction is run. Absolutely, and one last final thought is, let’s pay attention to the happiness around us. The joy. The gratitude. And so, we are grateful for all of you for listening in. We want to thank our amazing producers, Brent Klein and Christy Lawrence, and we want to thank everybody who really has been vulnerable and has been on our show and is willing to join in our community. We Thrive Together and talk about anxiety and mental health at work. Yeah, if you like to share with your friends, you know, let’s create a place that’s really safe to talk about these things. It can be found anywhere where your favorite podcasts are found, and just my last note is, you know we are by nature resilient. I love that we’re, by nature, resilient. If you’re listening to this podcast, you are resilient. Don’t forget that, so until next time, be well, be resilient, and know that we’re cheering for you.