This week, a coaching client said that during our session, he felt like he achieved the same mental state that he does in meditation – clarity and relaxed. Wow! Whilst I actively create a safe thinking environment and time out from the working day, I will not take all the credit. I think it was more a reflection of the mental and physical condition that he started the session in: stressed from a day’s work and worrying about his and his team’s performance. I was glad to be able to support him to move forward in solving some challenges and take action.

A continuously stressed leader is an ineffective one. They will not be as creative, insightful or innovative as the brain is in ready mode to fight or flight, rather than optimally primed to solve complex cognition. In addition, the stress and accompanying negative emotions are also passed onto those in the immediate vicinity and brought home.

We can become stressed from having to deal with (or inhibit) distractions, especially when we need to focus on doing work that requires a great deal of concentration and attention. A senior people manager at a financial institution’s leadership event this week admitted that he found the open plan office stressful and had discovered that he did his best thinking when working from home on a Friday. To my horror, 95% of the room (circa 80 leaders of 1000s of people) revealed that they work when on holiday and keep their digital devices permanently switched on. Not surprisingly they also said that they suffer from “foggy brain” (cognitive overload is the technical term) frequently during the working day. This is not conducive to peak performance.

Rather than embrace the fact that stress occurs, stress is seen as a weakness and in performance reviews, wellbeing is not generally viewed as a key indicator of success and high performance. However, I believe that it should be and research into the brain reflects this. More about this in my own research!

Another UK bank shows inspiring leadership in this area. In November 2011, Lloyds Banking Group CEO, Antonio Horta-Osorio resigned due to stress from overwork (wiping £930 million off the share value) only to be welcomed back into his position by the end of the year, still held to this day.

However, rewarding behaviour to minimise likely causes of stress could be a better way forward to promote lasting change. In the first place, it is our perception of the event as to whether we deem it stressful. However, this pales into significance if we have pushed our body and mind to its biological limit – we have no powers of clear perception, our brain shuts down. We are too far down the stressful motorway.

Therefore, I encourage you to be diligent in taking a Brighter Thinking break for your brain every day where you switch off the digital world, move away from your usual place of work and check in with your emotions for what you need at that particular time. You may think that you have heard this before however can you say hand on heart that you truly do this? Catch stress before it takes hold and please help others to do the same. We will all benefit.