…how to stay healthy at work
Developed by Robyn Bradey
Stress activates our fear centre
This turns down our immune system
Operates from our right emotional brain
Sidelines our executive function
And triggers fight or flight
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
But their stress response only lasts about 3
minutes, which is the time it takes to run
away from a lion!
Once the lion catches a fellow zebra or they
escape, the zebras stress response is quickly
turned off.
Turning the immune system and soothing
mechanisms back on.
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
The fear response can stay on for hours, days,
weeks, months or even years because we
We analyse what went wrong
Go over and over it in our minds
And worry about what will happen next.
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
This effectively means we keep retraumatising ourselves by our thoughts and
worries long after the event and even before
 All this time our immune system is
compromised, and trauma chemicals are
chugging around our brains and bodies.
From Robert Sapolsky, 1994
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
Sleep disturbance
Weight loss or gain
Generalised anxiety
Poor decision making
Relationship issues
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
Memory problems
Over reactions
Loss of empathy and intuition
Increased stressful situations arising from
poor judgement
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey -– August 2012
A feeling of futility
Disparaging workmates, clients and others
Blame and shame
Loss of confidence.
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey -– August 2012
Chapter 2
When You Smile, The World Smiles With You
No Laughing Matter
In 1962 in Tanzania an epidemic of laughing spread through many
villages resulting in the closing of several schools
This was a “mass psychogenic illness” – also known as “epidemic
hysteria” and was traced to three teenage girls
Photo by Casey Lehman
Photo by Federia Olivieri
Photo by k-girl, Flikr
No Laughing Matter
“Emotional Stampedes” are common.
Did you ever feel sick after a friend complained of a stomach
ache from the dinner you both ate?
Photo by Angelo Juan Ramos
Photo from Nokes, Flikr
The Importance of Emotions
Emotions coordinate group activity
• Communicating information
• Facilitating interpersonal bonds
• Synchronizing behavior
• Preceded language as a form of
Photo by Rebeka Ireland
Example: mother-infant pair bonding
Stop Mimicking Me!
Emotional Contagion spreads for two reasons:
1. We are biologically hardwired to outwardly mimic others
2. We benefit from adopting the inward state of others
Facial Feedback Theory: people imitate others’ facial expressions
and come to feel as they do (the path of signals is from the
muscles of the face to the brain)
Mirror Neuron: one system in
the human brain possibly
responsible for the “catching of
Photo by Jennifer Morton
Emotional Contagion
• Most prevalent in networks with high transitivity
• Physical Proximity and face-to-face interactions are important
(Facial Feedback Theory)
• Women are affected in MPI epidemics more often
• more inclined to discuss symptoms
• better sense of smell (smell and emotion are both regulated
by the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain)
Photos by
Garcia del
Cano and
Diego Cupolo
Family Feelings
Experiment using beepers to record and track the emotional states
of family members
• The strongest path was from daughters to parents
• Parents had little affect on daughters
• Fathers had a significant affect on wives and sons
Photos by
Mike Carroll
What this means…when a father returns grumpy from
work the whole household soon becomes miserable
If You Wanna Be Happy
Our friends and their friends and their friends affect our
happiness! (Three Degrees of Influence Rule)
• Happy and unhappy people cluster among themselves
• Unhappy people are on periphery of the network
Photo by Annika Bischof
If You Wanna Be Happy
• A person is 15% more likely to be happy if directly connected to
a happy person (1 degree)
• At 2 degrees 10% more likely to be happy
• At 3 degrees 6% more likely to be happy
• Each unhappy friend deceases the likelihood of happiness 7%
If You Wanna Be Happy
An increase of $10,000 of income per year yields only a 2%
increase chance in happiness.
Compare that to a 15% chance from a happy friend and a 6-10%
from someone you may have never met, but to whom you are
indirectly tied!
Photo by Andy Perkins
Photo by Minoria Hinds
Happiness, It’s in the Genes
We have a “set point” for personal happiness strongly influenced by
our genes
Long term happiness is affected by:
• 50% genes
• 10% circumstance (i.e. quality of life)
• 40% attitude (what you think and do)
Photo by Duncan Hull
Photo by Emily Faulk
Alone in the Crowd
Loneliness is a discrepancy between desire for connection and
actual connections--spreads according to the three degrees rule
Photo by Tom Woodward
Each extra friend reduces the frequency of loneliness by 2 days
per year (the average person feels lonely 48 days per year)
Loss aversion
Emotion before reason
First impressions to classify
Confidence before realism
Empathy and mind reading
Contest & display
Hierarchy & status
Source: Andrew O’Keefe, 2011, Hardwired Humans
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey -– August 2012
….. leading to the importance of the first 7 words
which must be:
 Specific
 Plain
 Truthful
 Single concept
 Emotional
 Without jargon
 Contain the future narrative
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
... a set of interpersonal relationships structured to
achieve established goals.
.... a group of people ... with a common purpose (which is
understood by all members) who play assigned roles...
using their individual skills and talents to best
advantage ... to accentuate the strengths and minimise
the weaknesses, and achieve the common goal.
Shields, In the Tiger’s Mouth
Does this definition fit your workplace?
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - Legal Aid NSW – August 2012
Belonging and valuing
Being clear about the task
Creating safety
Listening and consulting
Respecting diversity and uniqueness
Being aware of oppression and
Being committed to conflict resolution
Encouraging and supporting leadership
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - Legal Aid NSW – August 2012
Training and development skills
Sharing visions and encouraging each other's
Making room for fun and humour
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - Legal Aid NSW – August 2012
What went wrong.... & why?
clarity of roles & tasks
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - Legal Aid NSW – August 2012
…..an ability to cope with stress and adversity,
….to recover quickly from stressful situations,
illness, change, or misfortune
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - Legal Aid NSW – August 2012
Personal vision
Problem solver
How do you rate yourself in these areas?
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - Legal Aid NSW – August 2012
This happens when our fear centre is
activated by what has happened to another
One of the executive functions that we have
that zebras don’t, is empathy.
The capacity to imagine what it must be like
for the other triggers fear in us.
Ironically if this happens our executive
function in the cortex is compromised and
fear takes over.
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
Then we are triggering into a fear response
on a daily basis
The better our empathy, the more likely this
This has serious implications for both our
work practices and our health.
This kind of stress accumulates
So that means experienced staff are more at
risk of this
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
Allowing opportunities for staff to connect
with “big picture” activities such as:
Writing policy
Lobbying government on behalf of client
Being on inter-agency working parties
Changing the outcomes for the client group
as a whole (Charles Figley, 1995)
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey -– August 2012
Employers need to recognise the condition
and validate it
Provide a safe working environment
Provide orientation and ongoing training
Provide supervision and mentoring
Rotation of duties
Regular leave
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey -August 2012
Tools to do the job
Respect in the workplace (Including dealing
decisively with bullying and harassment)
Performance appraisal
Peer review
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
The employer should provide access to EAP
Defusing and debriefing after stressful
Follow –up counselling for those who need it.
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
Meditating (or using a relaxation technique)
Eating well
Building Resilience – Robyn Bradey - August 2012
Training and professional development
A sense of humour
Exit Plan
Building Resilience – Robyn BradeyAugust 2012