Career Stress and the Healthy Mind Platter

Welcome to episode 91 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss the concepts of Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter when managing career stress.

Original Recording Date: 08-28-2020

Topics – Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter

1:00 – Setting the Stage

  • Found an article validating stress in IT workers via Spiceworks
  • Get involved with a community!
  • Stress, burnout and redundancy: Tough times in IT
  • No time to switch off
    • Worry of losing job or contract during pandemic
    • Fewer outlets to unload stress / get a break
    • Boundaries around remote work
  • Half of employers don’t provide formal support for mental health issues, and one in seven tech professionals describe their employer as unsupportive on mental health issues.
  • The article tracked John and Nick’s experience with the current work environment.
  • Not every company had the capability of providing universal work-from-home
  • Even if you had the capability, it might not have been while every other person was at home working or remote schooling
  • John forgot that other companies might have issued desktops in-office
  • Nick has heard about people “living” at their data centers to properly support their applications and customers

7:01 – Healthy Mind Platter Introduction

8:54 Focus Time

  • When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, we take on challenges that make deep connections in the brain
  • Flow state
  • We probably all do this every day
  • Also includes active listening or doing presentations
  • Nick shuts down email to help get there

10:48 Play Time

  • When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, we help make new connections in the brain
  • John thinks this includes doing interesting work-adjacent projects which you really enjoy
  • Nick regards the podcast as play time

12:07 Connecting Time

  • When we connect with other people, ideally in person, and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain’s relational circuitry
  • It’s a tough time to do this during COVID-19
  • Video calls aren’t the same
  • John’s heard that the fewer people on a video call, the closer to an in-person experience it is
  • Nick especially likes this outside

14:18 Physical Time

  • When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways
  • John’s experienced this with swing-dancing and cycling
  • Nick’s experienced this with dance-aerobics, relieving tension and stress
  • Nick was reminded of Brain Rules – John Medina: Physical activity can help solve problems and stimulate creativity

16:43 Time In

  • When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain
  • Oddly named; Maybe “Reflection Time” instead?
  • Introspection on career progress
  • Focusing on sensations and images, being present with yourself, as mentioned last episode as part of the Inner Game methodology

18:33 Down Time

  • When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge
  • Unfocused is different
  • “Give yourself some time to be bored”
  • Gearing down

19:53 Sleep Time

  • When we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day
  • The one we steal from the most
  • We have an instinct that we can be more productive by just not sleeping

21:09 Reviewing the Framework

  • It’s a representation of how a healthy mind might work, not a perfect model
  • Activity: make a guess about how much time you’re spending in each state to see if you’re missing time in a specific state
  • Inner Game Method: Just the act of observing in a non-judgemental way can lead us to naturally correct things

24:50 – Dear SpiceRex – Too Little Too Late– A scenario review

  • Synopsis
    • Employee not told about a project until execution begins (short timeline)
    • Lots of stress
    • Could not get server working at first once after a reimage
    • Went to manager, and manager took pressure off – "no one died"
    • Admin able to solve the problem without the stress on top
    • Was this a good / bad manager?
  • If there’s a change management process, it should include reviewing testing procedures. Why even have an approval process? It didn’t work.
  • Was risk communicated? Was there a rollback plan?
  • The person doing the work should be involved in the plan and testing
  • Career tip: De-risking a process can help you take the next step
  • What went wrong
  • The question asker should have called out the risk
  • We shouldn’t do it
  • Here’s the process we should use
  • The failure should have been called out immediately
  • What went right
  • The supervisor did the right thing by having a mitigation process and taking the process
  • The supervisor should have communicated the approval with enough time to test
  • With the short time frame, it’s much more difficult to push back; There weren’t designed times to examine things for a no-go decision
  • Did the boss resetting the stress level help with the solution?
  • Inner Game model: Self 1 causes the stress with speculating about consequences
  • “I had a different mindset”
  • Stop tool
  • Trying on a new attitude
  • Community again – connecting time!

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