While we may not worry about the same things we did a hundred or a thousand years ago, as humans we still face stress. Everything in our modern world seems to move so quickly. It almost feels as if we can blink and miss a business deal to the competition. Work demands, being a good partner, taking care of pets, or socialising with friends all require our time and energy. Most of us try to do it all, so it’s no wonder many people are stressed out.

Performance is what we strive to achieve, for ourselves, for those we work with and the organisations we work for, as described in my book Leadership is Upside Down. While we may perform well on a project today, it is difficult to maintain consistently high results year after year in an environment that is increasingly stressed & volatile.

Stress and mental health issues don’t just have a negative impact on those we lead. People we love and those we spend time with will also suffer if we are always feeling on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

The Real Toll Of Stress In The Workplace

Medibank found that Australians miss an average of 3.2 days of work per year due to stress, a $14 billion loss for the Australian economy.

According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of adults experienced moderate or high levels of stress in the previous month, and their stress was increased compared to the prior year.1

We are all encouraged to do more with fewer resources. This feeling is typically pervasive throughout an organisation, from the groundskeepers to the CEO. Fifty or sixty hour work weeks are commonplace, yet we are still expected to perform as never before.

It is time to look deeper at what it takes to consistently perform at work and home. Once we understand how the brain works, and how stress influences the chemistry in our brains, we should use this information to make positive changes. We can boost our leadership performance and still get home in time for dinner and soccer practise.

Stress is not a state of mind... it's measurable and dangerous, and humans can't seem to find their off-switch.

Dr Robert M. Sapolsky

More Effort Is Not The Easy Answer

Unfortunately, many of us respond to increased work and life pressures by avoiding the problems and just working harder. Longer hours aren’t always time well spent, however, especially when your brain is not functioning optimally. Instead, you’ll probably experience a steady decline in performance and stress will lead to burnout, and ultimately, failure.

Other signs to look for in yourself or team members include2:

  • A lack of self-awareness
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Poor strategy and planning ahead
  • Absenteeism
  • Inability to balance work and home
  • Decreased mental health or increased instability

When we exhibit these symptoms, we are more likely to be inconsistent between things we say and do. It’s is nearly impossible to follow a leader who behaves in this manner. If you notice these symptoms in your workplace or personal life, it’s time to stop ignoring the issues and face them head-on.

The Neurobiology Of Integration Is The Future

We need to become smarter as leaders and utilise all the resources neuroscience has to offer. Reframing performance to include the brain by taking care of the mind, body and spirit will help us to become more confident & remain calm in stressful situations.

The future of work requires an integrated body and mind. By embracing a brain-friendly culture, we will help create a better place to work and a better place to live. We know we’re at our best when we are rested, balanced and calm, and with this mindset, we can achieve higher levels of performance.

It’s time to stop saying business as usual and pause to reflect on how healthy our brains are. Stress affects every part of our body, including the brain, heart and gut, and can negatively impact our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

To shift from a leader and instead become a high performing Neuroleader, we must integrate our body, mind and spirit to adjust our outlook on life and become the most authentic and joyous version of ourselves.3

Learn more about living to your full potential by reading:
The Neurobiology of Integration - Becoming a High Performing Leader

You don’t have to let stress take hold in your brain or affect how you live your life, and you can achieve a calm mindset that will help you accomplish your dreams and goals.


  1. Global Organization for Stress. Stress Facts. GoStress.com. 2018. Available at: http://www.gostress.com/stress-facts/
  2. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Model. About my Brain Institute. 2016;1. [White Paper].
  3. Damiano, S. Wellbeing Strategies for Optimal Brain & Body Performance. About my Brain Institute. 2018;1. [eBook].
Originally posted on: 12 March 2019
Last updated on: 12 April 2024
Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think