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Coaches Diary: Grant Learns To Look After His Brain


Having spent 10 years dedicated to building up his thriving engineering business, Grant recognised that he was on the verge of a burn out; coach Olivia Stefanino shares her latest casebook notes.

Helping himself to another cup of sweet coffee, Grant told me that he often worked 70-hour weeks. Reminiscing about the early days of his company’s history, Grant admitted that he had thrived on the adrenaline rush created by winning business and meeting deadlines.

Having taken little time for holidays and even less for exercise, Grant’s physical and mental shape was certainly leaving a lot to be desired. Fortunately, he recognised that he needed to do something now, if he were to avert disaster later.

Firstly, I suggested that Grant consider joining a gym but cautioned that he should first secure the services of a medically qualified personal fitness coach. Not only would this keep him out of danger, but the coach would also offer ongoing encouragement.

Having come up with a practical solution for improving his physical state, our real work began. Not only was Grant feeling fatigued, but he also complained that both his memory and creativity had been suffering over the last couple of years.

While the whole body is capable of cellular memory, the mental activity to which Grant was referring was clearly more associated with the brain. Given that so much of our time is spent using our brains, Grant laughed when I pointed out the absurdity of learning so little about the brain in the school. It made sense therefore for us to spend our session looking at ways to look after the brain better and improve its functioning capabilities.

Grant admitted that he was addicted to drinking coffee together with fizzy drinks. His consumption of water was virtually nil and I suggested that one of the reasons for Grant’s burnout was that he was severely dehydrated. “Man is made up of more than 80% water not coffee, cola or whisky and without water the system starts to malfunction,” I explained. “Worse, coffee acts as a diuretic so for every cup you drink, you need another two cups of water to replace it.

When I told Grant that the brain needs plenty of water for its ‘electronic circuitry’ to work properly, he nodded and immediately resolved to invest in some large bottles of mineral water to take to work with him every day. Oxygen is also equally important for the brain and just stretching every hour or so for a couple of minutes can release nearly 30% extra oxygen immediately into the blood stream.

Having taken physical of the brain, we now switched our attention to how Grant approached a variety of mental activities. I gave Grant three areas on which to focus until our next session. Firstly, when approaching a creative activity, Grant needed to look at the big picture and decide upon his desired outcome. And when he had done this, he needed to learn to break down the consequent workload into bite-sized chunks. This would stop him feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Secondly, Grant had to take relax more as his stressed demeanour was having a detrimental affect on his workforce. He had previously admitted that he was finding it increasingly hard to delegate to his staff, as they weren’t meeting his high standards. Grant looked shocked when I suggested that perhaps his staff were frightened of him. “Basically,” I said, “never create fear in people if you want them to work well for you. The more frightened they get, the less they will achieve and remember, it will be your fault and not theirs!”

Grant agreed to think before he spoke and promised that he would take in three deep breaths from an imaginary white light around him before he criticised anyone’s work again. Finally, Grant visibly relaxed when I told him that he needed to bring more humour into his life. “Endorphins, nature’s opiates are released into the blood stream when we laugh and every aspect of your being will benefit from the effect of these chemicals.”

Knowing that he could help himself considerably and that there was light at the end of the tunnel Grant stood up to leave. But before he did so, he smiled and told me that he had just come to a major decision. On his way back to the office, he had promised himself that he would stop at the travel agents to book a long overdue and well deserved holiday.

Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. To find out more – and to download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power”, visit


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