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Creating the Body Chemistry for Engagement and Success


How can we use stress to engage people and help them on the path to success? Surely a stressful environment is a negative one? Not necessarily.

I wrote a blog a while ago about how stress may NOT be harmful, depending upon your attitude towards it. I've come here today to write about how stress can actually be good for you, and good for your business too!

We know that if you are under significant levels of stress and that you believe stress to be harmful to you then you increase your risk of premature death from stress related illness by 43%. If you do not believe the stress you are under to be harmful then you don’t have any increased risk. This in itself is an amazing discovery.

But don't reach for the pixie dust!

However, this is not a mandate to stress out our workforce with a caveat “it's OK everyone, just believe this is good for you”, even Peter Pan needed pixie dust to turn belief in flying into reality!! And we don’t get a lot of pixie dust round these parts.

So there is more to this. For a start, in my work I enable people to see that their attitudes towards themselves shape their body biochemistry, and in order to develop the most supportive attitude towards yourself you need to know how different physiological changes can affect your body chemistry.

The science lesson

We know that stress is a way of preparing our body for fight or flight, but there are other aspects to this. Some time ago it was considered that in addition to fight and flight, the female stress response was also “tend and befriend” as an archaic response to survival – the need to group together and protect the children (next generation).

We now have evidence that there is more to the stress response than the simple fight or flight, or tend and befriend. We know that one of the hormones produced in effecting the stress response is Oxytocin. This is not a miracle hormone, but it does have some amazing effects.

Oxytocin is also known affectionately as the “cuddle” hormone, because we produce it when we give or get hugs. The effect of this hormone when we are stressed is remarkable. If our Body Chemistry has an ample supply of Oxytocin flowing through our blood vessels harmful stress becomes helpful stress. Even as far as enabling our heart tissue to mend itself!

When Oxytocin is part of the mix, our blood vessels dilate, so that the blood can flow easily. Without this hormone the blood vessels constrict when we experience stress, which is where it could be ultimately dangerous to our health.

When we have a hormonal stress reaction which combines Oxytocin in our Biochemical makeup our response, our feelings, are similar to when we experience joy or courage. So, with a little physiological intervention through applying very simple steps we can take those scary stressful moments and become courageous and enjoy the whole experience: we change the chemistry and then automatically we change the attitude.

Oxytocin: the emotional engagement primer

So how do we promote Oxytocin in our Body Chemistry? Well, we need to reach out for support when we feel stressed and surround ourselves with people who care about us. And then as the oxytocin rises we will notice others, empathize easily and be willing and able to support the people we care about.

Oxytocin is a win – win hormone. When our people are able to regulate this aspect of their Body Chemistry they are primed for feeling emotionally engaged with their employer, and ready, willing and able to go the extra mile – not because they fear losing their jobs, but because doing so makes them feel good, they feel part of the organization as a community and they want to do their bit in making it a safe and successful place to be.

Much of the work I do is in helping people to make those instant alterations to the way they behave that immediately alters the way that they feel. Combine that with some solid behavioural strategies and you have the magic formula for committed employees who perform at the peak of their powers – and feel happy about it!

All this, and no pixie dust necessary.

And now a shameless plug: I'm going to explore this in lots more depth with a group of Learning and Development Professionals in London on 14/11/14 - if any of you would like to join us for tea and cakes, pop over to eventbrite for more details or drop me a PM. We'll be discussing how to use body chemistry to create engagement with clients, viral change, and quite a bit more.  

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