Maintaining Your ‘A GAME’ Through Stress and Workload Challenges

Every day we are all bombarded with projects, commitments, too many emails – constant overload and it’s a constant challenge to maintain good focus, be productive and maintain (or have any!) energy to carry on.  It can be a vicious cycle and if you’re not able to keep up with demanding times, you’ll quite simply, fall behind.  So how can you be an effective leader and contributor if you have little focus, low energy and are feeling overwhelmed? This is where the idea of micro-resilience comes into play.

According to Bonnie St. John, micro-resilience is the idea of taking resilience and not just  going back to the original form, but instead, one focuses on getting better.  Unhealthy work habits are leading to burnout and health decline and so having a micro-resilience attitude is key.  Getting into the nitty gritty you’ll need to use the five basic factors that make-up the framework of micro-resilience.  They are: refocusing your brain, resetting your primitive alarms, reframing your attitude, refreshing your body, and renewing your spirit.

This week in In Process, a bi-weekly Podcast sponsored by Trusted Counsel, Bonnie St. John discusses her new book (on sale now) she’s co-authored with Allen P. Haines titled  “Micro-Resilience – Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy.” She discusses the idea that pushing yourself until you drop isn’t enough anymore.  There are proven scientific techniques and wellness processes that businesses and individuals can incorporate into their daily lives to provide them with added and needed energy to address challenges as they present themselves.

Bonnie says “if life keeps speeding up, emails, change, company reorgs, we have to have to have a way to speed up recovery. This is what micro-resilience does, it allows you to take smaller chunks of time and be more intentional in how we recover, and actually use what we know about science to recover better. So if we can speed up recover time, we can cope better with the pace of life, which doesn’t ever seem to be slowing down!”

“We’ve tapped into a lot of research in the book…things that drain you unnecessarily during the day is what we uncovered.  So there’s things that drain your brain, not using your highest brain resources for their highest purposes, sort of spreading them too thin. And so we show you, again, evidence based ways of using your brain more effectively, and it feels like you have more brain power, it feels like you’re smarter.  With micro-resilience, the focus is on hour by hour, and using all of your resources more effectively.”

During the course of the podcast “Micro-Resilience – Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy,” business owners and individuals will learn about:

  • The connection between resilience and micro-resilience
  • What science tells us about why we feel so mentally overwhelmed
  • Common road blocks to productivity and how to overcoming them
  • The micro-resilience framework
  • Implementing a micro-resilience program in your workplace

Stream the conversation with Bonnie in the player below to learn how to use recognize road blocks to productivity and apply the micro-resilience program in your life and in the workplace. You can also subscribe to In Process on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show on your smartphone.





Maintaining Your ‘A GAME’ Through Stress and Workload Challenges

Bonnie St. John, Leadership Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Olympic Medalist and Best-Selling Author



Speaker 1:                       It’s time for In Process: Conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit And now, with In Process, here are Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon.

Mike:                       Hello and welcome to ‘In Process’, conversations about business in the 21st century, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property firm. I’m Mike [Siavage 00:00:40], in for John Monahon this week, and

Evelyn:                    I’m Evelyn Ashley

Mike:                       We are partners in Trusted Counsel.

We’re all bombarded every day with projects, commitments, too many emails, constant overload, and it is a constant challenge to maintain good focus, be productive, maintain, or even have any energy to carry on.

Evelyn:                    It’s true, Mike. I mean, everything that gets thrown at you these days, it’s basically data overload on a regular basis. That’s why I think our topic today, Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive, and Energy, which is a book authored by Bonnie St. John and Allen P. Haines, is really very on point and of interest to a general audience really, not just in business.

Mike:                       Absolutely, and we’re very delighted to have Bonnie with us today to discuss the techniques and wellness processes businesses and individuals can incorporate into their daily lives to provide them with added and needed energy, and address challenges as they present themselves.

First, a little about the authors. Bonnie St. John is an Olympian, a Rhodes Scholar, and an amputee, and is a keynote speaker and leadership consultant who has guided individuals from Fortune 500 C suites to start-up entrepreneurs to reach their high performance goals. Her broad media exposure includes People, Forbes, Essence, the New York Times, Today, CNN, CBS News, PBS, and NPR. NBC News has called her one of the five most inspiring women in America.

Allen Haines has served as a CEO of several high growth mid-sized companies in the movie and television industries. He has advised and coached senior executives at Sony, Disney, IMG, NBC Universal, and Fox.

Bonnie, welcome to the show.

Bonnie:                  Thank you so much! This is great to be here talking about Micro-Resilience.

Mike:                       And we’re great- it’s great to have you. So tell us about what led you to collaborate with Allen and write this powerful book on micro-resilience.

Bonnie:                  You know, when I started speaking for corporations regularly twenty years ago, change was a hot topic. And you know, there’s bad change, topics change, but it’s like, change, twenty years later is still the topic. It just keeps speeding up and intensifying. People get burnt out, but it’s because there’s a balance between pushing yourself and recovering. You know, we should be able to push ourselves and have time to recover. But if life keeps speeding up, you know, emails, change, reorg, international changes, if life keeps speeding up, we have to have a way to speed up recovery. And so this is what micro-resilience does, is it allows you to take smaller chunks of time and be more intentional in how we recover, and actually use what we know about science to recover better. So if we can speed up recover, we can cope with the pace of life better, which doesn’t ever seem to be slowing down.

Evelyn:                    So, Bonnie, was there a particular point in your life journey where you decided something has to change, and that’s what drove you to write the book, or was it really just observation of what was happening in your consulting career?

Bonnie:                  Well, it is very personal for me, I have to say. But for me, maybe it showed up more in terms of just having to deal with difficult things being thrown at me. You know, having my leg amputated when I was five. I was abused as a child, which actually became more of an issue when my daughter was the same age that I was, and it was something that I really had to deal with. So people look at me and say, you know, “Bonnie, you’re one-legged, black girl from San Diego where there’s no snow, who became a ski racer,” and I’ve recovered from the abuse. They say “You’re so resilient, how can we be more resilient too?” So I think part of it grew out of working as a corporate consultant, and people looking at me and saying “You’re so resilient. I need some of that! How can I get some of that?”

And so then really looking at … Some of the things in the program are science based ideas that I turned to personally, but we also scoured the literature, in neuroscience and positive psychology and physiology and psycho neuro immunology, and really looked for a comprehensive way to help other people be very resilient. And then it has helped me too, to be more resilient, so what I’ve learned has actually … I was a very resilient person, but it’s made me more resilient.

And I think that’s an important point, because, even if you think already think “Ah, I’m resilient, I don’t really need it,” it actually, because it’s research based, evidence based, small things that you can do, it helps you get that extra edge. You know, if you’re a competitive person, it’s that small extra edge that makes all the difference.

Evelyn:                    That helps. So Bonnie, I am so curious, because I did read about your background and how you came up from a very challenging, very young life. What is it that you think drove, allowed you to drive yourself the way that you did, and overcome those things?

Bonnie:                  Well, I wanted to have a better life. I had a lot of challenges and things that didn’t work. So my family didn’t have a lot of money either; my dad left before I was born. I had a lot of challenges, and I wanted a better life, so I kept looking for ways to have a better life. And that did mean, even when I was younger, when I was growing up, I looked at how can I have more balanced emotions? I saw people losing their emotions around me. How can I have more energy to deal with what I have to deal with? So I was seeking the answers to a lot of these questions when I was growing up.

Evelyn:                    So we’re gonna turn to a more literal meaning of resilience. Basically, the power or ability to return to the original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched. Do you think that your definition of resilience differs from the traditional meaning?

Bonnie:                  Well yes, in a couple of ways. You talked about going back to the original form, it’s like a sponge. You squeeze a sponge, you let it go, it goes back to its original shape. That is the dictionary definition of resilience. For us, we think, we get squeezed by life all the time. Why just go back to the original shape? Why not get better? So we’re focused on getting better.

But also, traditional resilience, if you look up, google resilience research, you’re gonna get a lot of things about rebuilding a town after a hurricane, or rebuilding your life after a divorce. We decided with this to focus not on the big things so much, but to focus on small things, small problems, the day-to-day resilience. You have a bad interaction with a client, you have a deadline that gets moved up, you don’t get the resources you need for a project. Or something happens at home, your elderly parent falls down and has to go to the emergency room. That’s not a little thing, but it’s the daily things that we have to be resilient from, and if we can be resilient day by day, hour by hour, that actually accumulates to help with the bigger things too.

Evelyn:                    I think that makes sense, ’cause so much of what we read about successful CEO’s, successful leaders, is kind of the more macro, their approach: I get up early in the morning and I go exercise. They’re particular tactical process. What I see from your positioning is very much, how can you basically be tactically about addressing these challenges as they present themselves?

Bonnie:                  What I just said, we’re tackling smaller problems, in a way, but we’re also providing smaller solutions. So that’s why we called in Micro-Resilience. It’s ’cause it’s tiny solutions to smaller problems. And what’s so funny, I said it really, we’ve been doing this work since 2011, but now with the book out, I was realizing, everybody said “Oh my gosh, resilience is so hard. I wish I could be more resilient.” And I realize, it’s kind of brilliant that we defined it as small, because it’s doable. People thing “Resilience is just too big!” And if you define the problem as small, it’s achievable, and then the big thing is achievable too.

So it’s these tiny steps, these tiny solutions that have immediate results. So our criteria when we were scanning the research for things that would work, for science based things that would work, is we wanted things that you could do in the middle of a busy day, in the middle of an office, something that we would be quick, and something, it had to have immediate pay off. And so if you do it over time, it will have an accumulative effect, but we wanted it to also have an immediate benefit, not just a habit that you do over time, but something that’s gonna help you right now.

Evelyn:                    Right away, that makes perfect sense. So Bonnie, we’re gonna take a quick break, and we’ll be back in just a moment.

Speaker 1:            And now, back to In Process: conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. For more information, visit

Mike:                       Hi, this is Mike Siavage and Evelyn Ashley with Trusted Counsel, and we’re speaking today to Bonnie St. John, who has written a book with Allen Haines on micro-resiliency.

Bonnie, what does the scientific research tell us about why we feel so mentally overwhelmed?

Bonnie:                  Well, there’s … We tapped into a variety- a lot of research, so you’ll see a lot of research in the book. But things that drain you unnecessarily during the day is what we uncovered, there’s a whole bunch of things. So there’s things that drain your brain, not using your highest brain resources for their highest purposes, sort of spreading them too thin. And so we show you, again, evidence based ways of using your brain more effectively, and it feels like you have more brain power, it feels like you’re smarter.

There’s things that drain you because we react strongly to negative things, and that was programmed into us. Primitive man, he saw the bushes rustling, he might think the next village is coming to attack, or a saber tooth tiger, and he reacted really strong to that. But if he saw berries on a bush, he wouldn’t go “Berries! I’m going to go get those berries!” We don’t react that way to the good, and that’s our wiring, that’s the specs we were designed with. But in modern day world, that reaction is largely counterproductive. In a situation at work, when the deadline suddenly gets moved up on a project, we go “Ahhhhh!” And it actually lowers our brain power, introduces more errors, it has a variety of effects. So understanding your physiology and learning to dampen that impact, it’s like, you know what, it’s interesting, it’s like getting an upgrade for your human operating system. So we’re designed to operate in a way that worked a lot more in the primitive world, and so we need to kind of rewire ourselves to get the highest performance in this world.

There’s another example. So keeping more metabolism more even, you just waste a lot less energy if you’re not having ups and downs in your metabolism. We even show you ways to tap into the power of your purpose. You know, there’s a lot of things you could do our there to clarify your purpose or think about your purpose. I haven’t seen anything else where they take you, help you to think about your purpose, but how do you tap into that on an hour by hour basis? Most people do their purpose work and then put it on a shelf, and go about their day.

Evelyn:                    Right.

Bonnie:                  And what micro-resilience, again, is the focus is on hour by hour. How can we help you to have more energy, to be using your brain more effectively, all your resources more effectively? So when it comes to purpose, we’re looking at how do you tap into that gas tank at three in the afternoon when you’re lagging? So all of it is very much about being less drained by what’s happening to you. I can’t change what’s thrown at you during the day, but if you could live through that day and be less physiologically and mentally sacked by it, you go home, well you do better during the day, but you also go home and you have a better evening with your family, with your community, whatever you’re doing.

And that’s what we saw with all the real people that went through the program, is they say, “You didn’t change me, you just helped me to be more me, the me I want to be. I show up as myself more.”

Evelyn:                    Understanding who you are, it’s always important to be able to address any kind of challenge. So Bonnie, let’s move to, I want to talk a little bit about the factors that are part of the framework that you put together for Micro-Resilience, ’cause I think that that would actually help our listeners to actually understand exactly how you can develop the process the follow, to address these challenges. I think we all certainly understand that we have certain reactions to certain events, and even understand when we’re under stress or pressure, but do not necessarily consciously know what we should be doing in those moments, and I think your various, your framework actually can help that immensely, the idea of refocus your brain, reset your primitive alarms, reframe your attitude, refresh your body, and renew your spirit, and how that can actually lead you to that overall benefit of micro-resilience.

Bonnie:                  Right, so we talked about the research and saying “Refocus your brain” really gives you tools. Well, let me back up for a minute. One of the things we do in each framework is show you the kinds of situations that apply. So if we’re talking about using your brain better, or resetting your primitive alarms, here’s the kind of situations that you’re gonna encounter in life where this matters. And then we explain the science to you, it’s, here’s what’s happening in your brain, or here’s what’s happening in your body when this is going on. And then we give you tools that we’ve tested, that we know work, and they’re just simple things to do.

If we just told you all the simple things, you’d kinda go “Well that’s simple.” But when you understand the situations and the science, you understand the power of what you’re trying to do. And what I love too is when we work with people on the, you understand the situations and the science, you can start making up your own tools. Or you may notice, “That explains why when I do X, Y happens.” So it just turns on the headlights for people to be able to really understand how to engage with life in a different way.

I think it’s, I’m an Olympic skier, I think it’s a re-definition of high performance. So much of my life, I just pushed myself until I fell over, and I said “See, I’m tough.” I’m sure you guys have done that too as well. And this is saying, wait a minute, there’s a smarter way to do this, and you may still be working 16 hour days, or 20 hour days sometimes, but you can do it smarter, and actually be more effective. Sometimes when you talk about wellness, people think “Oh, well you just want me to pull the throttle back,” and that’s not what this is at all. This is high performance, and it’s about saying if you’re gonna work at 16 day, in a traditional way, the last four hours are probably gonna be pretty crummy hours-

Evelyn:                    Crappy?

Bonnie:                  But this is saying, how can I maintain my level of energy and focus, and use my brain more effectively? If I’m aware of decision fatigue and how it works, I can fix it. I can fix my decision fatigue, and actually those last four hours can be much more effective.

Evelyn:                    Right. That makes perfect sense. So take us through how we can actually … So tell me how we can understand that better. And, I guess Bonnie, is it important that we really do understand that? I mean, it’s, um.

Bonnie:                  How it works? I mean, we take you though that in the book, but one example is multi-tasking. A lot of people think, you know, I’m more effective if I’m doing two or three things at once, see I’m saving time. But the reality is, multi-tasking is fine if you’re not doing things that require accuracy, quality, or innovation. Maybe you’re folding laundry in front of the TV, that’s fine, but if you actually want to do something that requires you to generate good ideas, or do high quality and accuracy, you really shouldn’t be multi-tasking, and if you are, it’s gonna take you longer, you’re not gonna get the results you want.

So it’s paying attention to, when should I be multi-tasking or not? And the tools we give you for that are creating zones. Some people say “Don’t answer email except twice a day” and that’s not really realistic, but for me, for many people. And so we say instead, thing about where you can create a zone in your calendar where you’re not multi-tasking, and you can focus on really important work. You know, in some offices, maybe you can create one zone a day. If you work in the ICU, maybe you can create two zones a week. It really depends on what’s realistic.

Evelyn:                    Right. Right.

Bonnie:                  But everybody who works with us and does that said it’s like having more time. And one of the keys to zones is also communicating with other people who work with you, is “I’m gonna be a zone, I’m doing this to be effective. I want to respect your zones too, and here’s the threshold. If this happens, you’re gonna have to contact me.” There’s part of being able to relax and focus in your zone is knowing that people, if there really is a crisis, have a way of getting a hold of you. So there’s a number of pieces. I know we’re going over a lot of stuff quickly, but that just gives you an idea on how you can take the research on multi-tasking and then use that to change the way you do your schedule.

Evelyn:                    Right.

Bonnie:                  Do you want me to give you another example?

Evelyn:                    Yup, absolutely.

Bonnie:                  So this one is fun, because it really, looking at the research, really changed the way I structure my week, and I think once you hear this, it will change it for you too, is exercise. So macro-resilience frame of mind, you would say “I’ve got to exercise three, four times a week, for an hour, really work out, get sweaty, and that’s gonna make me healthy.” But from a micro-resilience perspective, you would look at it really differently. Oh so, again, from a macro-resilience perspective, if you had a really big presentation you had to give, or a day when you had to finish a proposal and just grind it out all day, you might wake up and say “You know, I exercised yesterday, I’ll exercise tomorrow, but today I just need to focus on this work I’m doing.” So that would be a macro-resilience perspective.

From a micro-resilience perspective, there’s research that says a certain amount of exercise can actually make you smarter for hours afterwards. So again, this is the idea of how can I help you have an immediate benefit from something, as opposed to an on-average benefit? And so there’s a study that says 20 minutes of dancing makes your smarter afterwards. Ten minutes of walking makes you smarter afterwards. And what I mean by smarter is you access your memory better, you create insight better, you generate new ideas better, all those things.

And so it turns it on its head, because then you’re looking at your schedule for the week, and you say “Gosh, you know I exercised yesterday, I’m gonna exercise tomorrow. Today I have this big thing I have to do, but I’m gonna carve out some time in the morning to do some exercise, because I need to be smarter today.” You’re not gonna put it off until tomorrow, because you say I need it, but it also looks different. It doesn’t have to be an hour of getting really sweaty; it can be a fifteen minute walk. And maybe you do a fifteen minute walk with somebody generating ideas, and then you sit down and write the proposal. And if you, once you understand this, and you start to use it, it helps you so much to be more productive in getting stuff done. Does that make sense? Isn’t that cool?

Evelyn:                    Yeah, no, I think that’s really cool. I also think the idea that, I know they say that you should eat basically six times a day rather than three meals, because it actually renews your energy, so it seems to me that maybe taking a walk in the middle of the day when you’re feeling down would probably be the thing to think about too.

Bonnie:                  Exactly. So you raise an interesting point, is that you can use these ideas proactively or reactively. I mean, you should use them in both ways, so if you’re saying “Gosh, I should probably get up and move around” in the middle of the afternoon when you’re hitting that low point in energy and you need a pick-me-up, you could have a snack, you could walk around a little bit. You can schedule that into your day on a regular basis.

But that piece about “I’m gonna do some walking in the morning before I start working on my proposal,” that’s reactive, right? That’s like, I need this right now.

Evelyn:                    Yup.

Bonnie:                  So it’s important to do both. And a lot of these tools have to do with when you get thrown off your game. So again, maybe you have an angry client call and yell at you, and it’s really not fair and you don’t deserve it. That’s gonna throw you off your game because it triggers a lot of your emotions, and so you didn’t predict that, that’s not something … The tools you want to use to react to that aren’t something that you would have built into your calendar, but if you’re practicing them on a regular basis, you’ll immediately be able to pull it out of your back pocket.

Evelyn:                    Right, to be able to reframe, and step away from it, and get a different perspective. So Bonnie, we’re gonna take a quick break, and we’ll be back in a moment.

Speaker 1:            And now, back to In Process: conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, For more information, visit

Mike:                       Hi, this is Mike Siavage and Evelyn Ashley, and we are In Process: conversations about business in the 21st century, presented by Trusted Counsel. Today our guest is Bonnie St. John, an amputee, Olympian, and Rhodes Scholar who NBC has described as one of the five most inspiring women in America. Bonnie is talking to us about her book on micro-resiliency, which she wrote with Allen Haines.

Evelyn:                    So Bonnie, when we broke, we were talking very much about how you actually can reframe your day, and through those responses and learning the framework, basically change the way that you react to certain events, and how exercise can be helpful, and food. So we’re curious to know, we know that you provide consulting services to companies and to individuals. So talk to us a little bit about how that comes about. Is it typically the company that decides, I want to be able to offer these services to my employees, or what happens?

Bonnie:                  It is, most of what we do is work with companies, and we’ve been working with a variety of Fortune 500 companies since 2011 as we’ve tested these tools and refined it and added research to it. Just quickly, for individuals, what we mainly provide is the book itself, so you can read that and work on it. We give a lot of tips on social media. On the 20th, we’re doing a free session on the purpose work, on how to add, how to tap into the fuel from your purpose, and that’s at 8:30 eastern time on the 20th of April, and you can email us at our website or on Facebook. My assistant is, if you want to be in that session.

So that’s mainly what we do for individuals, but for companies, they often hire us to come in and teach a half-day or a full day session for their leaders to be able to implement this for a department or a group, and we love it when we can work with an intact team and take them through it, because it’s one thing to do it by yourself, but when you’re really doing it with your team, you’re reinforcing each other. And like we said, it’s a re-definition of what high performance looks like, so it’s nice to have everybody on the same page, pulling each other in the same direction, and pushing each other. So we love to do that.

But we’re providing a train-the-trainer program. So the trainers from your company can come and get trained, and then be able to train it to other people, and that’s a really nice way to go if you want to cascade it throughout a large organization, because there’s not enough of me to be at every company at the same time, and so that’s a great way to be able to spread it through different groups and different areas.

Evelyn:                    And so having had this experience, you can actually show that having your people learn these techniques can actually increase productivity to the benefit of the company?

Bonnie:                  Oh, we’ve seen it in so many different arenas. We worked with a thousand nurses at Kaiser Permanente at the end of 2016 in different groups, we had the east coast group, the west coast group, we were taking different groups. And they were all nurse leaders, so they’re leading teams of other nurses in all kinds of situations, it could be in an out-patient setting, it could be in an operation, a setting where they’re doing operations and ICU, it could be a clinic setting, you know, all kinds of different settings. And we had such great feedback from the nurse leaders about how they were using it to keep everybody’s energy up. And you can imagine a hospital setting to be very stressful and very intense.

So here’s one example, is a nurse leader was telling us, she said “Sometimes the energy on the floor will just kind of start going negative, and you can feel it.” It could be two nurses call in sick on the same shift, so everybody’s overworked, and maybe there’s a car crash out on the highway. There’s a number of factors that everybody’s feeling pushed to the limit, and she would say “I would just call a huddle, bring all the nurses in, and we would use several of the tools, and it would shift the energy, and then everybody goes back to work.”

And we’ve seen it, there was an oil company that we were working with that said the same thing. They were just in an all day meeting, an off site retreat, and you hit that point where people’s eyes started to glaze over, and somebody said “Hey! We have some tools to deal with this,” and they were like “Yeah!” And they used a couple of the tools, and lifted everybody’s energy and focus, and the rest of the meeting was more effective.

And so, in both of those examples, it’s groups of people not being satisfied with what we usually observe in terms of having our performance go down, and saying, wait a minute, I recognize this situation that we learned, and we have ways of not just letting our brains go blah, and our energy go blah, but keeping everybody on track and moving forward at a better pace.

Evelyn:                    So who is it in the organization that drives this? Because I have to, well, I come from a fairly cynical profession, number one. But I have been in meetings where the speaker will suddenly say “Hey everybody, get up and stretch and move around the room,” and everyone is kinda like “Oh god no, I don’t want to.” So I’m curious to know, where, ’cause it does take a … You have to have a very positive view on wellness techniques, I think, to be willing to do this. So where does it usually emanate from in the company?

Bonnie:                  You’re saying wellness, and I’m saying high performance, and I think what happens is cynical people, and I’m in the same boat, can be more cynical of wellness than performance. If it’s really around … We just want to get stuff done, we have a big job to do, we have to deliver for our client. If it’s about that, they’re less likely to be cynical, and so that’s where it comes in, is if you have a whole group, or a whole department, or a whole organization that has the same vocabulary, that understands the science behind this, not just like “Hey everybody, let’s feel good!” If it’s about performance and how to get through a 16 hour day with more productivity, and everybody’s committed to that, that’s very different than “Hey everybody, let’s tell a joke.”

And so it helps if it’s from the top down, and that’s what we like to do, is work with the CEO or the head of the division, and have that person really committed. There was one company in the manufacturing business that we were working with where the leaders went through the program one day, and then the next day, they took their departments through it, and it was really neat, because we incorporated the leaders into teaching the material. And so we had the people moving around to different stations to try different tools, and we had the leaders teaching at the stations. And that sends a profound message, is when your leaders are saying, this is how I do this. And I think too, it’s about what fits in your culture. So adapting the people to say, this is gonna fit in our culture. And we like to do the background work ahead of time to make sure that we are adapting to culture.

Mike:                       So Bonnie, let’s talk about, a little bit about actually how some of the tools work. We’ve talked about resetting your primitive alarms. Is that just a matter of understanding that you’re having a primitive reaction, or is it something more than that?

Bonnie:                  No, there’s specific tools, and we haven’t talked about those. There’s so many that we’re not gonna be able to talk about them all in this interview, in this podcast. So resetting your primitive alarms. One term for it is amygdala hijack; your brain is having an amygdala hijack, and there’s some things that can cut through that actual reaction that’s going on in your brain, and calm it down so that you have more access to your prefrontal cortex, your brain power, your ability to collaborate with other people. There’s lots of benefits to that. So it’s simple things. You know, research out of UCLA with Matt Lieberman, he talks about labeling. It’s when you’re starting to have this reaction, you’re starting to be triggered by things that are happening around you, simply describing with words what it is you’re feeling when that’s happening lowers your limbic system reaction. So Matt Lieberman did fMRI brain scans where they not only see your brain, but they see where they blood is flowing in your brain, and what they found is when you’re putting word descriptions on how you feel, it changes the way your brain is reacting.

So for example, say you’re in a meeting, and somebody, you said and idea and everybody ignores it, and 20 minutes later in the meeting, somebody else says the same idea and everybody says “What a great idea, Joe! Great idea.” And you’re frustrated, you’re thinking that’s not fair, he just stole my idea, and you might be having an emotional reaction about that. You can sit there and think, you don’t have to say it out loud, “I feel frustrated, I feel insulted or disrespected, or I feel angry.” When you put words on it, it allows you to step back from it and see it, and make a choice. And you can say “I feel angry, but I’m gonna laugh it off. I feel angry, but I’m gonna come up with a new idea.” So it just gives you a little bit more control. So that’s one example. There’s a number of other examples of things you can do to de-escalate the reaction you’re having, ’cause it’s not helpful.

Evelyn:                    So, okay, so let’s talk a little bit about the techniques themselves that help us to kind of do this refocusing, ’cause I saw very much techniques of meditation and maybe some yoga in there, and some different aspects. But we’re gonna take a break first, and we’ll continue this when we come back.

Speaker 1:            And now, back to In Process: conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, For more information, visit

Mike:                       Hi, this is Mike Siavage and Evelyn Ashley with Trusted Counsel, and we are In Process: conversations about business in the 21st century. Today we’re talking to Bonnie St. John, who wrote a book on micro-resilience with Allen P. Haines. She’s been described by NBC as one of the most five most inspiring women in America.

Evelyn:                    So Bonnie, when we broke, we were starting to get into the various techniques that one might use in order to become more micro-resilient, how to actually refocus your brain, reset your alarms, reframe your attitude. So talk to us a little bit about those areas, because as I read the book, I saw very much elements of meditation, of yoga, of you know, healthy eating, so I think it would be good if we could go into more detail there.

Bonnie:                  That’s great, and thank you for that segue. What’s funny is, we don’t ever, you may notice in the book, we pretty much don’t ever say yoga or meditation.

Evelyn:                    Nope, I know you don’t.

Bonnie:                  And for good reason, I think. Again, we want this to be about high performance, and as we’ve talked about, if you’re a cynical, results oriented person, those words might not resonate with you. Also, I think it conjures up, when you think about yoga or meditation, that you’re gonna be, I’m gonna do an hour of yoga in a studio wearing certain yoga pants and all that, and we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about simple, easy to do things, that are in an office setting. So you outed me: yes, we have borrowed some things that work from the science behind yoga and behind meditation, but we’re not asking you to meditate or do yoga. Does that make sense?

Evelyn:                    Yup, absolutely.

Bonnie:                  We converted it into these micro, bite size things that work in an office, and they work for the same reasons those things work. If you like those things, you’ll like this, but if you don’t like those things, you’ll still like this.

Evelyn:                    Hmmmm.

Bonnie:                  You mentioned healthy eating, and we don’t into … You know, I’m not a nutritionist, we don’t get into telling you how to eat. But it’s more, it’s very simple, it’s looking at the ups and downs of your metabolism due to what you’re doing in terms of your blood sugar level, and also your hydration. And it’s a very simple point, it’s saying if you can keep your hydration level more even, and you can keep your blood sugar level more even throughout a day, you’re gonna be less exhausted. Because it’s the ups and downs that are draining. And simple things like being hangry, have you heard the term hangry before?

Evelyn:                    No, I haven’t.

Bonnie:                  It’s when you’re hungry, you’re angry.

Evelyn:                    Oh! Yeah, okay, that makes sense.

Bonnie:                  I’m angry because I’m hungry. All of the other things we’re talking about doing, like using your brain better, resetting your primitive alarms, spiraling to the positive, all of the those things are easier to do when your metabolism is on an even keel, so it really supports everything else. But we’re not giving, it’s like, we’re not giving you complex yoga advice, we’re not giving you complex nutrition advice either. And that’s what’s so powerful about micro-resilience, is it cuts across a lot of fears of knowledge, but it’s easy. You could real a whole book about each of these frameworks and come up with a hundred things you should do, but this is easier.

Evelyn:                    Right. Yup, keeps it down to a smaller group. I think it’s really, so one of your points that you made in the book talks about the judge and the prisoners, and basically how important it is to be the first one up in the morning to have their case heard.

Bonnie:                  [crosstalk 00:37:14] Judges experience decision fatigue and they were looking at a study where they were giving out parole, and they found that whether or not you got parole depended a lot more on the judge’s decision fatigue than the merits of your case. And the same with doctors, there’s a study that talks about how doctors give out more opiates at the end of the day when they’re tired. So if really smart people like doctors and judges are that impacted by, you know, metabolism is a part of that, they said the ways to relieve decision fatigue is you could have a snack, you could look at pictures of nature, you could take a walk, you could do something that makes you feel more positive. If you know that this decision fatigue is a reality, there’s a number of concrete ways to address it.

Evelyn:                    Right. So all right, give us some, you do give a variety of examples in your book, but can you talk to us a little bit about how some individuals self-diagnose their problems, and?

Bonnie:                  You know what? Thanks for asking that, because I think it’s so important to say, I talk about the science and all of these ideas that, it sounds cool, but to hear about real people makes a big difference.

Evelyn:                    I think so.

Bonnie:                  There was one, and what we did was, we’d been doing this with companies and teams for many years, as I’d said, but what we wanted stories of real people, so we took 30 people, trained them on micro-resilience, and then followed them for a few months afterwards. And so those are the stories that are in the book. And actually, it surprised even me how much their personal life was affected. We were really only seeing people at work up until that point, and there was one woman who was a jet set executive traveling Zurich and Paris and working 90 hours a week, and she was using micro-resilience to help her in her leadership, she was not getting good 360s, and she actually made a huge impact on that, but that’s not what I’m talking about. That’s not what I want to focus on, is it helped her at work, but the side effect was that she started dating. She hadn’t been dating in four years. And so it just made her have that energy and the different attitude to be able to be more open to dating. And she’s so happy about that.

Evelyn:                    That makes-

Bonnie:                  Um, there were-

Evelyn:                    Yeah, I think that makes perfect sense. I mean, if you’ve got, if it is re-energizing you to use these techniques, then I would think that your attitude and perspective on basically everything could change.

Bonnie:                  Yeah, and you just have more energy for life and yourself, as well as for work. So there was a doctor who was working 12 hour days. He was in an urgent care facility, so they just were marching patients through really fast, and he was exhausted all the time. He would work all day, he was often skipping lunch and then he’d eat fast food on the way home and crash. He was on a treadmill that was terrible, and so he started incorporating these micro-resilience tools in his day, and the way he did it is in the book, the exact way the he combined tools and what he did, it explains exactly what he did. And the side effect for him was he stopped falling behind on his charts. Again, it wasn’t even something that we were focusing on, but because he had more energy, he was able to deal with patients in real time, and fill our their charts, get to the end of the day, and he’s done. And he said “Oh my gosh! This is the most profound thing that’s ever happened to me.”

So again, he got more of his life back, because you … For so many doctors, that’s a big problem, is they end up doing all their charts at night, on weekends, and we saw huge results that are not always what we predicted, right? It’s that, here’s the problem you’re working on, we can fix that problem, and oh by the way, we fixed three other problems at the same time. And that’s why this is so great for organization, because the synergy, you have a whole bunch of people doing that. It creates a leap forward.

Evelyn:                    So. I’m interested, and I know you mentioned that with nurses, you’d actually gone back and you saw that they were continuing to use the techniques. Generally, once you put these techniques into a corporation and you go back, do you see that people have mostly continued with them, or? So what is the, I guess I might be asking the success/failure rate, which I know has got to be totally individualized, but-

Bonnie:                  Well yeah, I was gonna say, it depends on the leadership a lot. If the leadership is committed to it and modeling it, it’s gonna last longer. It also depends, you know, some companies decide to implement this with more formal policies, versus just informal policies and letting teams decide how they want to do it on their own. So it does depend on how the company wants to implement it, and how much formal structure they want to create about it. But we find when we go back, even companies that haven’t put in a lot of structure, there’s a lot of people doing it, just because they see the rewards. So it can work either way, but it’s better when there is more leadership commitment supporting it.

Evelyn:                    So let’s just say that I do want to implement a program in my workplace. Talk to us a little bit about the timeline of how this would actually be rolled out and how it would work.

Bonnie:                  Well again, it’s gonna depend on the company and what they want to do. The best thing is to get in touch with us through the website, and it’s is the one that’s really for businesses. is for everybody who’s reading the book. But get in touch with us, and we can look at your situation and think about what is the best approach. But for some companies, it’s gonna be working with a senior leader, understanding, what are you going through that this is going to support? Are you upsizing? There’s one company that we’re working with, a defense contractor, that has to grow their production rate 10 times in five years, so they’re going through tremendous rapid change and they want to use this to support that growth. Other companies might be downsizing, or introducing new products. What is the transformation that you want to support using this?

And then we can- so we want to have that senior leader buy in, and then we can work with a charge and say, do you want to do train-the-trainer, do you want to train some of your internal trainers to support this work, and maybe I personally can come in and work with the senior team, and then the trainers that you train internally can work on the roll out down different, cascading it down different levels. And so we can put together a plan for how to do that. Some companies, if it’s just a division, one division head really gets it, got the book and was excited, we’ll come in and just work with that division or that team, and then maybe that can create a conversation to work more broadly with that company.

Evelyn:                    Sounds good. So Bonnie, take us back one more time and tell us about the free event that’s on April 20th.

Bonnie:                  Oh, so there’s a free event, this is just for anyone to participate in. We did a series of three of these during the book tour, and this is the last one, it’s on April 20th. You can get in touch with us on Facebook. It’ll be about tapping into the power of purpose.

I’m also gonna be at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck the first weekend in June. You can sign up for that through Omega, or again, just contact us to get more information.

Evelyn:                    Perfect.

Bonnie:                  You can go on the website too, and find out where we’re making public appearances, if that’s what you want to participate in.

Evelyn:                    Excellent, excellent. So Bonnie, we’d like to thank you for this terrific podcast. We really appreciate your time. And as you all heard, please check out if you are a company, and we hope you enjoyed In Process today. If you’ve got any questions on the topic, please reach out to, and please visit our website at, where you’ll find a listing of our past and upcoming shows. Thank you for joining us. Thank you, Bonnie.

Bonnie:                  Thank you so much, Mike and Evelyn.

Speaker 1:            This has been In Process: conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit

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