Podcast

Episode: 412 |
Nadine Sinclair:
Mental Health at Work:
Episode
412

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

nadine-sinclair-mckinsey-alum-malta

Nadine Sinclair

Mental Health at Work

Show Notes

Nadine Sinclair has a doctorate in molecular biology, she was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey, and is now an independent consultant and advises companies on how to improve conditions for mental health for their employees. Today she talks about mental health in the workplace.

Key points include:

  • 03:39: The cost of poor mental health to business
  • 07:10: How poor mental health impacts performance
  • 16:44: How companies can help build resilience in employees
  • 21:13: Tackling negativity bias
  • 28:33: Resilience training
  • 38:45: How exercise in the morning helps performance

 

Learn more about Nadine’s company and take the test on your emotional health at mindmatters.pro

 

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Nadine Sinclair, who has a doctorate in molecular biology is a former Engagement Manager at McKinsey is an independent consultant and advises companies on how to improve conditions for mental health for their employees. Nadine, welcome to the show.

Nadine Sinclair 00:26
Thank you. Well, excited to be here.

Will Bachman 00:28
All right. So before we get into mental health and your consulting, I got to ask so you tell me before we start recording that you just got back from the beach, you’re in Malta? And I think you may be the first person I’ve ever spoken to who’s in Malta? So what what what should I know about Malta? Other than that, it’s in the Mediterranean. I know like almost nothing about it, like the Knights of Malta. And that’s about it. So tell me like, give me one minute about what I should know about Malta and how you ended up there.

Nadine Sinclair 00:57
Okay, that’s a good one. Maybe I’ll start with how I ended up here. We were on holiday here in 2011. Okay, liked it, but never thought about it being a place we would eventually move to. And about two and a half years ago, we sold a food business, my husband and I were running in Munich in Germany. And it was really like a blank slate. We were like, Okay, what are we going to do? And where are we going to go? And we said, Hey, actually, we can be anywhere. So we actually spoke to a bunch of people, what’s a good place for an entrepreneur to be based in, in Europe, which is connected so that I can still serve my consulting clients is quite good in terms of business conditions, text wise, and business climate, and where the main language is English, because my husband is English. So yeah, so we seem to suit on in Malta. We’re both diverse. So it’s a small island. It’s really good for diving. It’s got a lot of sunny days, I think, the most sunny days in Europe a year. So yeah. About two and a half years ago, we took the leap, moved out here and started our new business here that might purchase business. That’s amazing. Now,

Will Bachman 02:02
Malta, I mean, this sounds so stupid here. I could check Wikipedia, but like Malta, it’s its own country. Right?

Nadine Sinclair 02:07
It is. Yeah. It’s the I think the smallest country in Europe. Yeah. I was there. Right. Okay. So is it part of the European Union? So if yes, yeah. So if you’re on 1000 people, roughly how many 400,000? Okay,

Will Bachman 02:20
all right. I mean, like city more. Right. But it’s sort of on the scale of Iceland, I guess. I mean, it’s bigger than Iceland. Right? So

Nadine Sinclair 02:27
I have to admit, I don’t know.

Will Bachman 02:30
Iceland is okay. So it’s okay. 400,000 people, that’s a pretty tiny country. It’s like, small midsize city. And it’s, I guess it must have its own navy and so forth. And it’s a good business climate. Tell me about that a little bit. Is it easy to start a business, they’re pretty good. Tax.

Nadine Sinclair 02:45
It’s pretty, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s, there’s a lot of entrepreneurs here. So you can actually meet a lot of people, especially in the digital space, Bitcoin, or blockchain people, they all flock here from Europe. So it’s quite a nice international crowd of entrepreneurs, consultants. Yeah.

Will Bachman 03:04
Wow. Totally not a place that was on my radar screen. But it sounds like it’d be fun place to visit and just meet people, and maybe be a global Nomad for a month and check it out. Yeah, So let’s talk about your work a little bit. So yeah. So you do some consulting your Engagement Manager McKinsey, but you also do some work is slightly different, which is more about helping companies create the right better conditions for better mental health. The employees, I probably not saying that correctly, and approach helped me understand that piece of your work. Yeah. So I think over the last year, mental health in the workplace has become a lot more prominent for a lot of companies. But it’s actually an ongoing trend that has been probably going the last 15 years where mental health in general, and mental health in the workplace is keeping on deteriorating. And part of the reason is that the way we work has changed. But what we keep forgetting is that the way our brain works has not changed. Right? So so there’s a mismatch of how our brains work. And as a result, how our mental health works and how workplace is working out that is, just to give you an example, a big discussion here in Malta is about actually establishing a law around the right to disconnect from work, you know, people working from home, and there’s the unspoken or sometimes even spoken expectations that they’re available 24 seven that they reply to emails around the clock and as a consultant, that doesn’t sound like really strange, but for a lot of people, this came really sudden, and paired with job insecurity of the last year where people are really worried. You know, some of them work shorter hours or worried about their jobs in general. People feel pressure to work around the clock. So the discussion even goes you know, establishing a law around the right to disconnect from the workplace and our workers He focuses on, you know, first of all, having a discussion with employers around the actual cost that poor mental health at work. Yeah, is actually hurting their bottom line. And we just actually finished an analysis a report that we are going to publish next week that the estimate is for European employers, this number is about 470 billion euros a year. That’s a lot of bottom line to get lost, right. And there’s also enough evidence that shows if you execute a mental health program, well in a company, you can actually get a significant return on investment. So you can actually improve your bottom line by helping improve mental health in the workplace. Okay, so if you were sort of an evil capitalist, you might just say, I don’t care about the mental health of my employees, I’m just going to crack the whip until they, you know, just get more get more output. But for knowledge workers, there’s, there’s some probably declining, declining marginal benefit from cracking the whip, because at some point, people just start breaking down and actually making worse decisions, or what are some of the what are some of the ways that poor mental health of employees actually hurt the bottom line? Like what are what are some examples? Well, um, well, straight in the numbers. The first one is it drives absence from the, from the workplace, right, a lot of mental health problems obviously leads to absence directly, but also indirectly, because it’s, you know, people have tension headaches, they have back pains, they have gastrointestinal issues. So a lot of things that we see as typical physical health is actually problems as a manifestation of actually poor mental health. So what you see actually fairly quickly is absence is one of the drivers of the costs, but the other one is actually presence, presence when you’re actually not fit to work. And depending on the on the company, if that can be like 40 50% of your productive hours, but are lost to being present in the workplace with poor mental health. So if you look at the overall cost two thirds of the cost, actually people showing up at work and not being fit to work in terms of maybe just making poor decisions, or they

Nadine Sinclair 07:10
it’s getting into conflict with co workers, it’s making poor decisions, it’s lacking motivation, it’s taking longer to complete tasks that otherwise would, you know, come easy to them, it’s it’s like dropping the ball, when you’re juggling multiple things it’s make, like I said, making poor decisions, it’s really got a lot of big string of effects. It’s, you know, not being able to memorize, memorize things properly. You know, it also having the connection, and especially if you’re a leader in the workplace, you know, you create this whole knock on effect where it affects your entire team. And if you’re, if you’re, as a leader, are struggling with your mental health, your entire team will suffer.

Will Bachman 07:48
Yeah. So what are some of the things that a company can do? Let’s talk first about how does a leadership company recognize that they may have a problem? Let’s talk about that. And then we can talk about what are some of the things that a company could do about it? So how do you know if you have a problem? How do you How should you assess your your existing current state?

Nadine Sinclair 08:12
That’s actually a very good question. Because there is actually not many tools out there to really do that properly. Right? There’s a lot of tools that allow you to to measure how many days people are absent from work, there is very poor tools to measure actually, what’s productivity loss, maybe you get a higher turnover, especially like voluntary turnover, people leaving the company, you’re not able to retain talent. But one of the the challenges is that most companies or most measurements only focus on the end of the spectrum. And I’m deliberately talking about a spectrum because mental health is not something that’s an on off switch, you know, either healthy or you’re not, but it’s a it’s a continuum from really well being and thriving, of work to really struggling and suffering. But most companies the same as our most of our medical system, really focused interventions and treatment once people are struggling and suffering. And that’s part of the problem, because that’s what gets measured how many people burn out how many people take time off because of depression, right? You know, but in actual fact that most of the people will be in the middle of spectrum where life is just not as good and productive as a day. Right. And that’s one of the problems that we are addressing when we work with our clients. So what we did over the last few years, actually is we develop psychometric together with neuroscientists and psychologists really looking back over the last 30 years of research. And we build up psychometric that basically goes across six domains and assesses resilience of the workforce. So you can run this individually and have sort of a snapshot of the current level of resilience of a person or you run it as a team report or even a company report. And the insights from that if you do that on a company level is it It shows you where your gaps are. Right? It shows you which factors for example, existing initiatives address Well, it shows you where you’re where you’re lacking. It shows you have maybe different roles, different geographies where there’s different needs or different things you’re not, you’re not seeing yet and your numbers, but that are there. And that will hit your bottom line that will hit, you know, your ability to attract and retain talent going forward.

Will Bachman 10:23
What are some examples of some of the questions or some of the parts of your of your diagnostic tool?

Nadine Sinclair 10:30
Yeah, so. So if you think about it as a circle, right, with six, yeah, with six domains, six segments, right. So we have the big bucket health is the first one. And health has everything from sleep, and other lifestyle factors like exercise, nutrition, and that sounds familiar from many, many places. But it’s actually one of the biggest productivity drivers there is. That’s why it’s really for us, it’s foundational to assess that area. The second area is really in the, in the domain of purpose, where we look at motivation. And I saw actually, one of the episodes around burnout that he had recently where he also talked about, you know, motivation and meaning and having confidence in your abilities. So that’s the second part. The third part is really problem solving. So this is both how you know how we can structure our day? And how can we also work different differently to really boost our analytical thinking and creative insight. Number four, is perseverance. And that’s what many people actually equate with resilience. And there’s two elements that are important to perseverance. One’s is optimism, it’s actually remained, you know, keeping a positive outlook, even when things are not going as planned. And the other one is adaptability. You know, because, as I say, it’s insanity. If you try the same thing over again, and over and over again and expecting different results. Number five is composure that’s all about being able actually to know what what emotions are you actually experiencing in any particular moment, and how to you can work constructively with them. And the last one is all about relationships. So creating connection, creating trust, and using intuition to actually adapt the way we act and with different kinds of people. So this is, in a nutshell, the areas we look into, can you get like a pretty nice, like spidery graph that really tells you you know, where you need to work on an interesting part of it is that behind each of these 12 drivers to for each domain, there is a whole bunch of evidence based training that you can do, and interventions you can do based on what we learned over the last 30 years of research that can basically don’t, you know, very target, that very targeted way you can improve and train any of these areas, there’s a lot of people thinking resilience is about either you got it or you don’t. But that’s actually not true. It’s something that you can build, and you can build it rather quickly, you know, within a few months. So you don’t need to wait for years and years and years to build your resilience.

Will Bachman 13:13
Let’s talk about that. Walk me through some of the things that a employer can do to help build resilience or to help just the overall mental health of their employees.

Nadine Sinclair 13:27
Oh, that’s a good one. Because it’s a very big question, actually. Maybe if I take a step back, right, and talk about that, you know, if we look at mental well being programs in the in the workplace, which, which are actually the five things that really set apart the really, really successful programs out there, right. And the first one is actually, that you anchor mental well being in your in your business strategy, that it’s not just like, one topic that HR is struggling and HR is a central role, but it’s actually part of your business strategy, which also means it’s on the CEO agenda. Number two is that you secure leadership commitment, you will not move the meet leader needle, unless you have the commitment of all leadership levels in the company. So what you often see is that companies, you know, try to initiate a mental health initiative, but it’s actually coming from the bottom of the organization, and you will not get ready the scale and the visibility that you need to really have a successful program. And third one is really related is really, that it needs to be something that really drives cultural change, right? It, it, it permeates all parts of your operating model. It’s not just something that you do on your mental health day, but it’s something that needs to be integrated in your culture. The fourth one is really having a data driven approach. You know, it’s not just something that you do once but you need to, like in most consulting engages me to solve it by Learn, you need to understand what’s working and what’s not, and what you need to close that gap. And then you need to monitor and, you know, actually also improve as you move along. And then the last part is what we already talked about is really that emphasis also in helping people build the skills to have resilience and deal with stressors, effectively, because, you know, we all know it, stress is not gonna go away. So the only thing that we can really, really, really change as individuals is how we work with it, and how we respond to it employers can reduce risk factors for stress. But, you know, I think it would be realistic to completely unrealistic to expect employers to remove all stressors from the workplace, right?

Will Bachman 15:41
I agree. So, so what are so that’s kind of helpful characteristics of the system, in terms of specifics that an employer can do. And the only things that kind of occurred to me are, you could say, well, like, you know, you got to take your time off your vacation days, you’re required to, or maybe you say, you know, we don’t want people emailing each other after a certain time at night, or before a certain time in the morning, to give people some downtime. Or maybe you could give people some training about how to, you know, react to each other, and how to, you know, speak politely and, you know, you know, yeah, in a positive way. But beyond those things, it’s hard for me to imagine how a company could help on some of the things like making their employees exercise or eat right, or go to sleep early. And, you know, not stay up all night watching Netflix or something. So what are so what are some of like, the specific changes beyond just making it a CEO priority? But like, what are some of the specific things that a company can do to help with with that resilience?

Nadine Sinclair 16:44
Yeah, I think the first one is it starts way more basic, and all of it right, when we look at companies, and we just actually finished a work with three research institutions, and one of most, the astounding effects is visa researchers, right? If you’ve never the research, you’d expect even neuroscientists, but it’s actually that individuals, often they don’t know where to start building resilience. They don’t know what is involved in mental health and resilience, they know when they’re not feeling right. But they actually don’t know, you know, it’s like it, you know, if you talk to somebody who’s just had a heart attack about exercise, you know, that’s probably far too too far down the road. And it’s the same with mental health. It’s something that you do today, so that you can benefit from it for years to come. So one big part is actually creating that awareness of all the factors that play into mental health, tuning into actually recognizing not when things are really, really hard, but when things are not as good as they could be. Because it’s like a long road, you know, from really thriving to really struggling. And you don’t you want to catch it early, basically. So that’s the first part. And the second part is really walking, walking the talk as thing as leader, you know, if I talk about people should be, you know, it’s not enough to tell the people I’m working with you should be disengaging, you should, you know, have regular bedtimes, you should have a bedtime routine, and then emailing them, God knows what time of the day, right or giving them a phone call. So I need to also be conscious of that and walk the talk. You know, if I’m saying, I make my sleep and my time with my family priority that and I tell my team, that’s okay, I need to do the same thing, right? I can turn around and do the opposite by emailing people by calling them up at all time, and they have the night And I’m not talking emergencies. I’m like talking directly kind of thing. I just typed out that email while I was waiting, you know, for for for dinner or something.

Will Bachman 18:41
Right? Yeah. And maybe just jumping in there. I mean, one, one practical thing a company might do would be an any of us can do is get some get some kind of email plugin tool, so that you can send emails later, right? You can Yeah, sending later. So like, Look, if you want to work on the weekend, or if you’re a night owl, and you like to work at midnight or two in the morning, or wake up at four in the morning or whatever, that’s fine. But maybe instead of just if you if that’s when you like to work, it’s an emails, great, but then schedule them for Yeah, it’d be sent during normal working hours.

Nadine Sinclair 19:13
Yeah. And that’s a great example. Because that’s what we do in the company. I like writing a lot of emails, like Friday afternoon, it’s my time to catch up on emails, but I schedule them, you know, for Monday, and not even like eight o’clock on Monday, but like 1115 or something, give everybody a chance to come in and take stock of what’s happening before, you know, bombarding them with all this stuff. So you know, it’s really small things can already make a big difference. Right? It’s things like we talked earlier, it’s about things like feedback, right? We always think about feedback and it’s like, sometimes feedback can feel like the 10 Things I Hate About You, right. And, and and simple things like knowing that we have this this natural negativity bias, right that we pay more attention to give more emphasis, more belief, two negative information. And many of us have experienced that reading the news. And I think you mentioned that you stopped reading the news. So that’s actually

Will Bachman 20:10
I think, January you mentioned right. I did. Yeah, that’s exactly right. I stopped reading the news in January, Gen. Six, I spent basically the entire day like, just sort of

Nadine Sinclair 20:19
you get you get sucked in. Right. They call it dooms chronic

Will Bachman 20:24
quitter. And it just, it wasn’t good for my mental health, I was just stressing out about it. Particularly, it was just, I found that the national news and stuff that would stress me out, but it was outside my control. I wasn’t doing anything about it. And, and a lot so much in the news is not like, here’s what happened that you really need to know. But it’s, you know, yeah, you know, politicians are there, they’re expected to do this, or the court is expected to rule this way or, or they’re planning to do this bill, like, you know, it’s not like I’m going to do anything about it. If I was gonna consistently write my, you know, representative in Congress or something and take action, maybe you could see it, but otherwise, it’s just stressing me out, like, Oh, this terrible thing may happen. And I have no,

Nadine Sinclair 21:13
I’m actually this is also the positivity, the negativity bias at work, right. And you need to really be develop optimism, you need to kind of switch it around. And that permeates everything, how we also communicate as leaders, when we deliver feedback, I think our ratio is like three to one, we need to hear three positive things, positive messages to offset one negative. But more often than not, you only, you know, you might only hear from your boss if something went wrong, or you could do something better, or deadline has moved earlier. And the problem with that is, it’s almost like setting a spam filter, the more the way we set our spam filters in our mind determine what we see. And there was like a really great experiment, I think, guys called Wiseman, who studies also luck. And what he showed is that so he had an experiment, he gave people a newspaper, and he said, You know, I want you to count the number of pictures in this newspaper. And if you get it right and a certain time, I’m going to give you I don’t know, I’m just making up a number of $5. But the people who were actually who consider themselves luckier and optimists, the so they got the right result within like 20 seconds, and everybody else took like a few minutes to count for all the pages. And that is because then there was a message on page two that say stop counting, there’s 40 odd pictures in this newspaper. And when they asked all the other people who didn’t consider themselves luckier or optimist, they literally did not see that message, they literally their filters prevented them from seeing it. And there’s, like so much other research out there that shows it’s really like you really literally set these filters. And then you don’t see information. It’s the same when people spot opportunities in the workplace, right? So one of the exercises you can actually do is ask your team to start writing down almost like a gratitude journal, at the end of the week, like the three opportunities. So no matter how small, it can be small, how can we work better as a team? How many for our product? What are small opportunities to spot it? Because over time, you will reset these filters of your team. Right? And rather than setting these filters on focusing on something negative, why not use that principle to zoom in on opportunities? Right?

Will Bachman 23:26
Well, I love that idea. Okay, so, so make it a weekly habit to share, identify and share an opportunity, even if it’s a small one.

Nadine Sinclair 23:35
Yeah, and especially the small ones, you know, the the big flip breakthroughs, how often do they happen? And how do little improvements, opportunities stack up over time, right? If you consistently identify small improvements, small opportunities, that effect will be much bigger than trying to get that one big thing.

Will Bachman 23:53
So you mentioned earlier that there’s some part of this could be some training, some delivering some training around building resilience, resilience, and that’s a little counterintuitive to me that you could give someone training and help build the resilience. I would have thought that it’s more something that it’s a kind of a natural setpoint. So what are some of the training interventions that can be done to help increase someone’s level of resilience? So if you were going to increase my resilience, what would some of the trainings be that you would give me?

Nadine Sinclair 24:28
Yeah, so the answer is, as with many things, it depends a little bit right. I would literally start with with a diagnostic to really understand where you stand at the moment. If you’re like, many people, probably your sleep would be one of the areas I would focus on first. And the reason is, if you’re not sleeping well it will not just take a toll on your body on your motor skills, pain, sensitivity, immune system, but it will actually also affect your brain. Like what you pay attention. To Ken, how long you can pay attention, you know, your decision maker you creativity, how you respond to emotionally charged situations. And if I give you one example, you know, as consultants, we have probably all pulled to the one nighter, right? Or we had some stressful project where we don’t get a lot of sleep. And if you look at studies that show the effect of sleep deprivation, on performance, and talking about cognitive performance, the scary thing is not you know, we all expect if we didn’t sleep at all, only two hours without performance suffers. But the scary part is actually if we, for example, consistently, get only four hours of sleep, over a couple of days, these performance lapses become cumulative. So after, you know, 10 days of not of sleeping only for four hours a night, we actually performing like somebody who’s pulled two all nighters even just a single night of two, four hours of sleep is equivalent in terms of physic physical and cognitive performance for somebody who is above the legal limit to drive. And if you ask somebody, you know, often it’s a badge of honor in the workplace to have slept little state lights to push for the project. But if you’d ask, you know, a leader, how acceptable is it for somebody to come in to work drunk? They would just, you know, say, Oh, boy, no way, right. But in the in the way, a lot of people are showing up with equivalent cognitive performance.

Will Bachman 26:31
Yeah, you know, that’s one of the reasons not not the main reason, but that’s one of the reasons that I left the Navy. I enjoyed my time in the submarine force. And there was, you know, other reasons I left, it probably wasn’t the light, long term career for me. But one thing that I didn’t really like that much was, was that lack of sleep was just part of the job, right? So when we’d be out, if you were lucky, and when I was, you know, sort of lucky, you’d be in three section watch. So you’d be on watch for six hours and off for 12. But we ran the boat on a 24 hour schedule, right? So you had this weird rotating thing, where every few days, you know, you’d be basically, let’s say you get up at six o’clock in the morning. 6am 06 100, you know, because you’re going to run drill. So you run get up at 6am. You run drills in the morning, you have lunch, run drills in the afternoon, and then maybe you have watch, and then maybe let’s say in the evening, you’re doing some paperwork or something. And then you’re on watch from midnight to six in the morning. And then you’d like to go to bed, but now six in the morning. Okay, you have drills again the next day. So now you have drills from 612 1218 Oh, now three, section one. So now you’re on a watch from 18 to 24. So there’ll be times where you’re up for 24 hours, we had one readiness exam where I think I was up for almost three days straight, right? Um, and I just like, okay, when you’re, but you know, I just, I didn’t want to do that for the next 20 years, I was just really rough. I’m really rough. And I mean, you can just easily see how that could just lead to bad decision making, right? Even right now, if I got, I usually wake up early is four or five. So if it’s like, nine o’clock at night, I’m, I’m stopping because, especially if you’re doing something that requires a lot of attention to detail, it’s so easy to send out, you know, set, you know, send out make just make mistakes, right, just easily make mistakes.

Nadine Sinclair 28:33
Yeah, totally. You know, and actually, what you mentioned is also something that I observed in myself, I go to, I literally go to bed now before 10 o’clock. Right. And, and I get up really early, but it seems you know, when I was still, you know, working in a consulting firm, it felt like, you know, the, the early mornings did not really do much for you just meant you had a longer day versus the late nighters were sort of the the badge of honor what was expected to, you know, pull on for the team. But in actual fact, we all have our natural biorhythms. But it’s not the same for different people you have the night also will, you know, naturally find their peak late in the evening for doing analytical work, but you get actually more people who are, you know, morning people or just somewhere in the middle, and they don’t have their peak hours later that evening. That’s actually when they have the biggest step.

Will Bachman 29:25
Yeah, I think Daniel Pink has a book on this, right? Because when and yeah,

Nadine Sinclair 29:28
there’s a Yeah, there’s a that’s a good book. When is a good book? Yeah, there’s a few books actually written on that on chronotypes. And I think there was also some studies where they optimized factories like shift work around chronotypes. And they found that they could reduce accidents and increase productivity just by optimizing around the extremes of the of the hours and the morning lack so that they didn’t have to do their shifts out of sync with their chronotype.

Will Bachman 29:54
Okay, so Okay, so you’re so you’re going to give me some training on resilience, let’s say and the first the first thing Lesson was about sleep. It’s like, well, you need to get more sleep. Okay? So I get that message. And I start going to bed earlier like I go to bed at 930. Okay, what’s the next lesson here? If you’re going to be teaching Will Bachman, how to be more resilient?

Nadine Sinclair 30:14
Yeah, so I will actually teach you a lot more about sleep, I will also teach you that sleep is more about what you do during the day than what you actually do during the night.

Will Bachman 30:22
So tell me about that.

Nadine Sinclair 30:23
So for example, when you sleep, right, when you when you sleep as one part, we often think about sleep as really literally when we go to bed. But a big thing, for example, is other things with you during the day, when do we drink the last cup of coffee? When do we exercise? When do we have dinner? If you’re a smoker? When when do you have your last smoke, and also very important in today’s age is when do you disengage from Tech? Right? Because these factors all affect your sleep, and some of them affected much more profoundly than we think, for example, caffeine stays in your body like seven, eight hours, which means literally, if you know, if you’re going to go to bed at 10, your last cup of coffee should be no later than like two or three in the afternoon, unless you want to upset your sleep quality. So it’s as much as when do we do things during the day, the same with exercise, you know, especially if it’s cardio, it would actually change our metabolism and make it much more difficult maybe to fall asleep or get good quality sleep. So exercise should really be three, four hours before bedtime.

Will Bachman 31:27
So really three hours before bedtime. Okay, that’s not a problem. Okay, yeah.

Nadine Sinclair 31:32
So you can really work you know, we literally help our clients come up with a schedule that says, you know, this is your optimal wake and sleep time based on your chronotype. And then you work your way back right as eight hours before that is your last caffeine intake. Four hours before bedtime is the latest you can do your exercise three hours before bedtime. Is there no alcohol? Two hours if you’re smokers your cigarette? So we’ve answered,

Will Bachman 31:57
so you should not eat within three hours of bedtime. So

Nadine Sinclair 32:02
that would be the optimal Yeah. Okay. Because your

Will Bachman 32:04
body’s like digesting it. And your blood sugar’s up and then so

Nadine Sinclair 32:07
exactly changes your metabolism again.

Will Bachman 32:10
Okay, so I should, let’s say if I want to go to bed at let’s say 10 o’clock, but maybe, yeah, 10 o’clock. I should not have coffee after three o’clock. Yeah, and I shouldn’t eat after 7pm. Okay, so that’s helpful to know. And yeah, I stopped drinking alcohol actually, a year ago. And I never smoked, I’m okay there. Yeah. All right. And then I should not exercise normally exercise in the morning. So I’m good there.

Nadine Sinclair 32:36
So you get there. Maybe the last one is you know, stop using your your screens about an hour hour and a half before bed. The blue light will actually kind of trigger your brain again to to wake up, it will change your melatonin level.

Will Bachman 32:50
Has that been replicated that research? Because I, I’ve seen I seen some of that stuff. And then I thought I saw something that kind of was skeptical of that. But is that is that pretty solid? That?

Nadine Sinclair 33:00
Yeah, that there was two diversity factors, right? One is the blue light and generally just dimming bright light will help. But the other factor, at least nowadays that’s much more important is actually the stimulation we get from our devices. Right? It’s that it’s either this stress response if we get an email from our boss telling us about the deadline in the next morning, it’s reading the news, bad news. That will you know, get us stressed again before bed. It’s it’s also actually also the boost of dopamine, we get like going on our social media and seeing somebody liked our post, right? It’s, it’s that kind of stimulation of a system and we’re actually trying to wind down that’s much more important even than then the blue light.

Will Bachman 33:44
So that’s interesting to know. So it might be okay, or might be less bad to read a book on a Kindle with a screen versus checking Twitter on on your phone where you’re getting that kind of ramped up or even worse, you’re getting like an email and then either you respond or you don’t respond, but then it’s hanging over you. Oh, I got to respond to this email in the morning. So

Nadine Sinclair 34:09
Exactly.

Will Bachman 34:10
That’s kind of what you’re what you’re looking at as well. Yeah. The light itself.

Nadine Sinclair 34:14
Yeah.

Will Bachman 34:16
Okay, that’s good. All right. So talk through those things. Avoid, avoid stimulations don’t look at your email. Don’t exercise it in four hours. Don’t alcohol, sugar, dinner. Don’t smoke. What? Anything else around sleep that that I should know about?

Nadine Sinclair 34:39
Yeah, we literally one of the things we ask our clients to do is what we call a bedroom audit. Okay? So so we’re looking at various factors that affect sleep that they should look for in the bedroom. So for example, lights, not just from the melatonin production, but generally people sleep much, much better when they are in a dark room. Okay, and there’s different things you can Right, you can have like different curtains that shatter the light, you can cover up like electronics that have a blue or red light that lights up your your room it can be. The second one is sound, you know, nighttime noise, even things like the fridge, right? If you can, especially if you’re living in a studio apartment, your fridge might might make a lot of noise, it might be taking devices. So anything that sounds a sound can disrupt your sleep temperature is a big one. A lot of people sleep in a room that’s hard to warm for optimal sleep, because I’m not good at in my ammonia in the metric system and the European one, but 16 to 18 degrees Celsius, I’m not sure what that is Fahrenheit is actually the optimal bedroom temperature. And that’s a lot lower than what

Will Bachman 35:48
most people are for. Okay, so having a little chillier. Some blankets, okay,

Nadine Sinclair 35:53
yeah. So generally, it’s easier for us to fall asleep and stay asleep in a colder room than then a warmer room. And some of these things, you know, especially if you’re traveling a lot for business is also important because when you get to a hotel room, you can literally implement some of these things, or I select my hotel, when I’m traveling to my corporate clients at the beginning of a project, I actually look for a hotel where in the initial weeks where the you know, it will be really dark in the room, I will check for how quiet it is, I will check actually also whether they have rooms that have the same layout, and then book into the same layout, because everything that’s familiar, and I’ll explain to you in a second will make it easier to fall asleep smell can help you like if you ever aroma therapy oil, familiar smells will make it easier. Anything that is familiar will give you better sleep. So you might have heard that dolphins sleep with one eye open, right? They aquatic animals have to keep on swimming to breathe so they cannot actually stop and sleep. So when you’re swimming with dolphins even sometimes notice that they have one eye open and one eye closed. And that’s because one half of their brain is asleep. They do this uni hemispheric sleep. And at some point they switch and then the other half of their brain gets rest. And we have a mild version of that when we are sleeping for the first time in a new place. So literally the left hemisphere of our brain is like a watchdog and doesn’t sleep as deeply. Surgery reacts most strongly to sound and if you know anything that’s out of the ordinary. And that’s also called the first night effect. And it goes away on the second night. But it affects our performance on the first day after sleeping in an unfamiliar place. So if your consultants sleeping in a different hotel, every week, you get this effect each and every week. So by choosing a hotel that has similar room layout, or going into the same hotel, trying to get the same room layout, you make it more familiar to your brain. So you reduce that first night effect that you would get in sleeping in a completely unfamiliar place, which you will then feel the next day and you’re just in how alert you are and your energy levels. And if you’re traveling a lot for work, you know, it’s gonna stack up for you.

Will Bachman 38:09
Right? Okay, so try to get in the same exact room or the same room with the same lab or room with the same layout. Yeah,

Nadine Sinclair 38:15
and then make it dark, you know, put a towel if there’s light coming in from from the hallway, just put a towel there see kind of make it really dark, put the aircon down so that it’s really like a low temperature. Use earplugs. If it’s not, you know, if it’s not quiet, they’re just, you know, you can optimize your sleep that way, especially when you’re traveling.

Will Bachman 38:35
Okay, let’s talk about let’s go beyond sleep, or do you get much into diet or mindfulness or exercise or other topics?

Nadine Sinclair 38:45
Yeah, so we, we touch on diet and exercise, we don’t really go that deep into that, because it’s a whole, it’s a whole animal for itself. But one of the things you can can do if you’re looking at improving your cognitive performance, and your resilience is actually doing just like 20 minutes of exercise a day at about 60 to 80% of your maximum heart rate. A much lower heart rate than most people would pick for a vigorous, vigorous cardio. And literally what you do doesn’t matter. And what they have shown us with students is that doing that first thing in the morning will improve your ability to retain your information, it will boost your mood levels, but it will also help your concentration and your focus. Also, actually, you know, low low heart rate exercise, just 20 minutes makes a big difference. So we go into into deliberate tactics like this, but we don’t go go that much deeper. Where we spend a lot of time on where the mindfulness comes in, is actually emotional regulation. So how do you actually recognize what you’re feeling in the moment and how can you work with that constructively. So if you think about emotions, you know if you ask people so how are you most of the say like goodbye Okay, you know, and it’s it’s like emotions almost like our first language, right, we learn to distinguish emotions way before we actually speak. But we treated really like an unwanted something right? Most people are really illiterate, it’s recognizing what they’re feeling they know when they’re really angry, and then know when they’re happy. But all the all the other emotions and the stuff in between, they have trouble pinpointing that so we literally help people build up an emotional vocabulary. Because only if you know what actually is happening, you can actually work constructively with it. And if you look like, you know, studies suck people into into a scanner, and once they are able to identify their emotions, especially if they are stressed, you see that the activation of the of the reptilian brain that has like the fight or flight response, it goes right down, right, as soon as I say, Oh, this is anger, this is sadness, activity goes right down. So it doesn’t feel as intense anymore, it doesn’t feel overwhelming anymore. Once. Yeah, once you identify it, and when you practice it, it’s like building any vocabulary for any language. You know, it’s just comes like that. It’s not like something where you have to open your dictionary and search for it, right? But you reduce the intensity of especially negative experiences immediately, and then that open space to respond. Because if you’re really just in the grip of being really angry, or sad or threatened, you will not be able to respond properly.

Will Bachman 41:30
So if you were giving me this training, what would some of the tips be around? Well, here’s how to recognize a name the emotions that you’re experiencing? Like, how would you

Nadine Sinclair 41:42
teach? Yeah, I would actually give you two very simple things. And it’s very simple task, I would say, here’s an emotions chart, like a map of emotions. And now I just want you to four or five times a day, just check in with yourself and just say, Is it good or bad, and then try to pinpoint the emotion. So literally, the chart will tell you chart will tell you is that how intense it is? Is it a tort or an of a response, and he will start just practicing it, you will think about what’s the situation that what did actually just happened before experience that emotion. So you don’t just practice doing it. So it’s like with almost any skill, you just have to practice it and sit down and do it. And the way your chart will look like you’ve you know, it’s literally collect data will tell you also a lot about how you deal with with emotions. So if it’s almost like a flatline, you might be bottling, if it’s a if it’s almost always in the negative space, you might be ruminating. And you can start to distinguish which kind of situations maybe set set off a rumination and which ones will cause you to bottle emotions. So I literally had a client, an executive in a company. And he was he was always scoring himself like on a scale from zero to nine, with nine being the best, it could be like seven to nine all the time. And then I saw a six and said, What happened with a six. And he was like, you know what I was out on the weekend, we were hiking with my wife, and I was I was thinking about changing my job. And you know what it would mean for my family. And I had a panic attack, and I couldn’t breathe, and I was on the floor. And I said, that’s a six

Will Bachman 43:18
panic attack on the floor. Wow, this sounds like a good exercise. Do you have a link that we could include in the show notes for that kind of emotion chart?

Nadine Sinclair 43:29
Um, yeah, I can, I can fix that one for you. Alright, that’d be fantastic. So

Will Bachman 43:32
we will include that link in the show notes, listeners, if you want to try this, and I think I’m going to try this. I’m going to try to identify your emotions throughout the day, like Nadine suggests, let’s try that. Okay. So identify your emotions throughout the day, just to sort of get the experience of checking in and saying, What am I experiencing right now? And beyond this binary, you know, happy, sad, you know, just try and get more refined and realize that there’s more, a lot more flavors than just yes or no, right?

Nadine Sinclair 44:07
Yeah, imagine playing a piano, you know, just hitting the same two tones over and over again. But, you know, even if it’s two very beautiful keys, it gets boring fairly quickly.

Will Bachman 44:18
So if I’m doing this and I’m learning to recognize, okay, I’m experiencing, I don’t know, what would be other than angry or happy what I’m feeling poignant right now or I’m like, What would some examples be of some emotions outside the, you know, the

Nadine Sinclair 44:35
house and be like, Joy could be contempt, disgust, you know, service. I think, you know, we work with a relatively small set that’s maybe like 20 emotions to start with, but they build it up to like, 40, but there’s literally hundreds, right, the more like less compassionate. It gets really complex. You have the prior eight primary emotions and the combination of those it’s like mixing watercolors, right? Because second To emotions, and then you can do tertiary ones.

Will Bachman 45:04
And then you recognize it. And then then once you can actually name it and recognize that the idea is that the intensity of negative emotions can be sitt more subdued, right? Because Yeah, now you’ve named that thing. And you can address Yes,

Nadine Sinclair 45:20
first thing, and then you start developing strategies of, you know, then how to deal with that constructively in the moment so that you’re not going off an old autopilot, but you’re actually working with it. And one of the things people, you know can do is you start looking for patterns in your chart. So you charted for a couple of weeks, you start looking for patterns, what are the things that trigger the same, especially uncomfortable negative emotion, what triggers anger? What’s what I’m actually thinking in that moment, what is actually behind that reaction? So you start to you, you want to start seeing the patterns that you have, because once become you become aware of the patterns, you will often notice that it has actually nothing to do with the present situation, but within with an assumption that you’re making right about what it means about you.

Will Bachman 46:09
Tell me a little bit now about your practice, and what an engagement would look like for you around all of these things we’ve been discussing. So do companies say hey, my employees attended, you know, sound like it seems like my employees are stressed out and mentally, you know, they’re not doing the best that they could be and find you. And then what would a project look like?

Nadine Sinclair 46:35
Yeah, so so so typical project for us is, for example, that we work with a group of employees who who raised their hand and said, Look, I’m struggling, I would like to improve. And we work with them literally in a in a nine week training set. over nine weeks, we work with them in a training, going through different elements of resilience, practicing last week really being charting the way forward so that they have a path of how to continue building their resilience after. So that’s, that’s one way. The second or third way is actually helping organizations design trainings. So we run our diagnostic tool, and we help them actually design a training curricula that that will address these different areas. And sometimes it’s also you know, only the diagnostic and then they bring in their companies or their internal departments to build a training to really address the challenges they identified. And the third one is maybe more like classical coaching, we’ll start again with a diagnostic and then it’s more like a personal one on one coaching over a certain certain period of time. And then we do the check in you know, what changed, where do you still need to work on? And that’s a that’s a more personalized journey, then.

Will Bachman 47:45
And let’s, let’s share a link for listeners. If people want to go and find out more about your practice, where would you point them online?

Nadine Sinclair 47:55
Yeah, the easiest is to go to our website, mind matters dot Pro.

Will Bachman 48:00
Okay, we will include that link in the show notes. My mentors that bro. Ed, thank you so much for joining today. This was really helpful. I’m going to take some of these to the bank and work on implementing some of these, I’ll be checking you with my emotions, and be mindful about screen time and a lot of other tips. Thanks so much for joining.

Nadine Sinclair 48:21
Thank you. It was a really, really nice opportunity to finally get to meet you

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