E14 – Digital Wellbeing with Mich Bondesio – Expert Interview

 
 
00:00 / 00:51:08
 
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E14 – Digital Wellbeing: Interview With Mich Bondesio from Growth Sessions

In this episode, I interview Mich Bondesio. Mich is a business performance mentor, with a 20-year background in communications and project management. Her Growth Sessions mentoring programmes, workshops and talks support business people to build healthier cultures and develop more mindful approaches to work. Mich’s clients include consultants, entrepreneurs and teams working in creative and digital-focused sectors. Today, we discuss digital wellbeing in more detail.

Digital Wellbeing, Mich Bondesio

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:

Welcome to Sticky Interviews, this is Making Business Matter, MBM, the home of Sticky Learning and the trainer of Soft Skills to the UK retail and manufacturing industry, helping them to increase profits and sales. This interview series is all about speaking to great thinkers and sharing ideas to make that happen.

Nathan Simmonds:

Today, we’ve got Mich Bondesio with us. I hope I pronounced that right, I’ve never checked the pronunciation of your last name, Mich. I do apologize if that’s horrifically wrong. Talking to us today. Thanks very much for being here, Mich. I’m just going to give the guys a quick rundown of who you are, where you come from, and I’m going to get into these questions, okay?

Mich Bondesio:

Okay.

Nathan Simmonds:

So the first thing, Mich is a business performance mentor with a background in communications and project management. Her grow sessions, mentoring programs, workshops and talks support businesses, people to build healthier cultures and develop more mindful approaches to work, which we all need in this day and age, before this and after this. Originally from South Africa, Mich is currently based in the northwest UK, her clients are consultants, solopreneurs, and small teams working in creative and digitally focused sectors around the world. Mostly in the creative space, as far as I’m aware at this point in time.

Nathan Simmonds:

Mich, thanks very much for being here.

Mich Bondesio:

Thanks for inviting me.

Nathan Simmonds:

It was huge, we started to have a bit of a get to know you, which had nothing to do with this interview series, and as that conversation developed and sprouts came out of it, I was just like, some of the stuff you’re talking about is absolutely vital for people to be hearing, from a mental health point of view, from an isolation point of view, which we’re all in right now. I think the majority of people are just starting week three. I know I, we’re a week before that because our work’s starting to slow down, the face-to-face work started to slow down a little bit. So we’ve been isolating for, this would be the beginning of week four.

Nathan Simmonds:

And as we were talking about that you were just saying there’s going to be some critical crunch points that come up through this that you’re kind of aware of. I just thought, you know what? We’ve got share this. We’ve got to give this to people in the work space and they need to hear what you’ve got to say about this, to support those consultants and the culture that’s coming up out of this.

Nathan Simmonds:

So first of all, thank you as I just said. Please tell everyone what you do and why you do it.

Mich Bondesio:

So, as you mentioned I’m a communications consultant and business performance mentor, and I want to help people to develop more mindful approaches to work because for the past 20 years I’ve worked in high pressure deadline driven environments and industries and sectors, which have very unsupportive work cultures, and I’ve also experienced burnout first hand and my burnout was so epic that I wasn’t able to work for more than a year. So I have first hand experience of being socially isolated and very unwell and not having a work environment that was supportive of my recovery during that point.

Mich Bondesio:

So I realized actually that we need to be helping others to build their resilience, develop the skills that they need to work better whilst supporting their wellbeing. Because it’s all very closely tied, there’s a lot of research out there that shows that better selves are better for business, they’re better for your bottom line, and if you were humans first and resources second, essentially. So if you put humans at the center of your business, they’re going to be better for your business.

Nathan Simmonds:

I love that because I’m guilty of doing it in the past as well. We are humans first before we are resources. The bit that I’m mindful from as a leadership point of view is making sure that we get a balance of both of those. Like you’re saying, like people first, so how that links in for me is actually these are human beings, what are their needs, what are their wants, what are their desires, what support do they need, what training do they need, how can we help them do that?

Nathan Simmonds:

Then helping them to see where they’re going. Because we can see what they’re capable of and the skills they’ve got, we can then see how they move across the chessboard of business in the nicest possible way, but they’re moving to their strengths. I’ve often referred to people in business, it’s like a game of chess and some people are knights and some people are bishops and some people are kings and queens or whatever. But if you try and move a bishop the same way as you move a knight you’re going to get some serious resistance from the people around you.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct.

Nathan Simmonds:

So like you say, it’s making sure that they are supported, so that actually they feel like they’re working optimally.

Mich Bondesio:

And that leads to more engagement and loyalty totally company as well, so they will bring their whole selves to work and they’ll give you 110%, because they feel supported and they feel safe within the environment that they’re in to deliver their best.

Nathan Simmonds:

Absolutely. And there’s plenty of people around here that band these numbers around. 87% of people are not engaged in the work that they’re doing and it’s leading to millions and billions of pounds, I think even in the UK it’s 84 billion I think of lost productivity due to some of these situations. But if you’re not feeling productive and you’re not feeling like you’re contributing, you won’t do your best work, and if you go to somewhere that you just genuinely feel unhappy about and you’re unsupported in that, burnout is an absolute given, for sure.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing, but then you also talked about that self-isolation piece. It’s a personal event for you, so how much are you happy to share about that in what you do?

Mich Bondesio:

I’m happy to share as much as I need to. Actually sharing was part of the last step of the recovery process for me, so I think it’s important for people to know why I’m doing what I’m doing now because it had such a profound effect on my life. So I’m happy to share. Through that process of burnout, I kind of rediscovered myself, I developed the skills I needed to support myself better in both working and living. I discovered the importance of solitude as a form of self-awareness and as a way to actually help you develop all of those ideas that we have inside our head but we never get a chance to actually think about or do something about.

Mich Bondesio:

And I also… I discovered that I had far more resilience than I thought I did. And this is an important thing for all of us to know is that we do have resilience within us, to cope with highly stressful situations. We just need to know how to bring it out, we need to know what to do in certain situations. So I’m finding that in this situation, yes it’s scary, yes it can be anxiety inducing, it can create a lot of fearfulness within us, but if we have the skills and toolkit that we can call on to support us when we’re feeling that way then we can get through it a lot more easily. We feel a lot less paralyzed, we feel a lot less uncertain because we’ve got the skills to look inward to find that certainty.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you. And I do a lot of work inside workplace stress, anxiety and depression. I’ve suffered with that horrendously myself, I’ve worked through it, and talk about that resilience to push through. Yes you can still get through it. It doesn’t make it easier and eventually that stuff starts to kind of… it can start to weather you and wear you down and then eventually something happens. The key part, as I talked about, is everyone has that resilience.

Nathan Simmonds:

The bit that I often see with people is, especially from the workplace, what we call the normal workplace anxieties and depressions. I have a problem, I feel like this, everyone else looks like they’re okay, therefore I don’t say anything in case I look like I am the problem or causing a problem. And we keep quiet.

Nathan Simmonds:

And because of that keeping quiet we start to put a lid on things and the pressure builds up and we’ve got all these coping mechanisms in place and whatever it is, for me it used to be drinking too much coffee, or overworking. And then something happens and then you fall down. No one copes their way out of a crisis. You don’t manage yourself out, you know you have to take the lead on that.

Nathan Simmonds:

But then going back through what you’re saying, developing ideas, having the solitude and quiet to develop those ideas and come up with new… with a creativity, that actually helps to improve where you’re at.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct. We’re all capable of creativity, we’re just not aware of it. But creativity needs a little bit… sometimes a bit of a constraint can help but it also needs space and time and very often our modern workplace does not allow for that, because we are constantly on and we’re multitasking, even though that’s not something that our brain can do, and we’re working in a digital sphere where everything around us works faster than our brain does, so we’re actually the weakest link and we’re trying to keep up all the time.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, no. The other thing you’re talking about in creativity is the amount of times I hear people say that they are not creative. Absolute misnomer, you’re a human being. First and foremost you’re a human being and you are a creative creature. Everything you do is a creation. The fact that I’m creating a sound using air coming out, going past my vocal cords, is creating something. When I cook a meal, I’m creating a meal for my family. When I’m doing these interviews, I’m creating a space to share ideas, and we all do this, we’re all creative in different ways.

Nathan Simmonds:

Some of us are creative as car mechanics or painters and decorators or cooks, whatever. And the moment we start thinking like that, well actually what else can I do with this creative thinking? And what else can I do with my spare time? What else can I do in this leadership space? Or, what else can I do with this project that I’m working on and come up with new solutions? But like you say having that quiet space to actually develop the idea and then being able to put it out there. Super important.

Mich Bondesio:

Indeed, I was just going to say in a work situation, often things are busy all the time and there isn’t time for deep work because you’re expected to be always on and available and contactable and responding to things immediately, and that is not conducive necessarily for creative space and for creative thinking.

Mich Bondesio:

So, in a workspace, that’s part of what I do in terms of encouraging healthier cultures is creating different types of work styles for different types of work. And allowing that space for the creativity to come out.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. I’ve got family that work in the creative space, and I’m aware, even from my own, from creating training content and doing certain events, that I need to have a time to doodle, and have a time to research, and have a time to not do that, and then have a time to then come back to it. But like you say, the modern workspace is 9:00 till 5:30 with no lunch break because you eat your lunch at your desk and if you’re at your desk you’re considered working so you’re get interrupted every five minutes and all that stuff, but you’re just going from the meeting to this to that project, and it’s someone else’s idea, which you’re interacting on but not being creative in those spaces. It’s more an expectation than anything.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah. But then what happens is that we don’t get our work done during the day because we’re constantly in meetings, so we end up working when we get home. So we’re still on and we’re still contactable and if people are sending us emails at night we’re responding to emails at night. So the work day never ends and actually that’s really bad for our rest and recovery, and for our creative thinking because our brain needs to rest in order to be able to produce the ideas.

Mich Bondesio:

So there’s a lot of bad habits being created, and behaviours in terms, because we’re always on and because there’s a war on our attention, there’s information coming at us all the time from lots of different places.

Nathan Simmonds:

There is a war on our attention, you’re bloody right there is. I’m mindful, I’m not sure who’s going to listen to this, I’m mindful of my language. I talked about this in the livestream I did just now, the webinar, is I sent an email last night because something popped in my head so I sent the email and I knew I had an hour booked out to do some work on a Sunday night just to make sure I was ready for Monday morning, I pencilled that in. The rest of the day was spent out in sunshine, doing personal work.

Nathan Simmonds:

I sent the email expecting not to get a response back until Monday morning but I had a response back in five minutes. So I know that people are sitting there with their phones and with their laptops because they’re home working right now or whatever it is, and they’re potentially using blue screens, quite close to their own sleeping time. Like you say they’re not actually switching off, they’re constantly giving themselves that deluge of blue screen, of that irritant to the brain stimulants. If they do go to sleep, it’s taking longer to get to the places they need to in their sleep to actually process and recalibrate that creative thinking that comes from dreaming that I know we need.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct. I mean, the melatonin, the impact on our melatonin, our sleep hormones means that it’s not just about struggling to get to sleep, it’s about how we can stay asleep and the quality of the sleep that we have, because it’s not just REM sleep that we need, it’s the other sleep that we need too, because they all perform different functions and processes that support our brain’s wellbeing. And then on top of that there’s also cortisol, the other hormone that gets stimulated by all of the negative news that’s coming at us when you’re looking at Twitter in bed and so forth.

Mich Bondesio:

So that’s raising our stress levels and our anxiety levels, that also impacting on the quality of our sleep and our sense of wellbeing. So, yeah, I mean I really advocate for strong morning and evening routines. You might not be able to control the rest of your day but if you start your day and you end your day well, both of those are really supportive of helping you during your work day and it’s all connected with your sleep. Both of those routines support you for sleep and help you to wake earlier in the morning as well or ready in the morning to take on your day.

Nathan Simmonds:

Great, and it’s interesting you said about the news being so negative, there’s a lot of stuff going on. Yeah, we need to be updated, but at the same time it’s producing cortisol because it’s causing a stress reaction in us. And if you’re watching the news at 10:00, which is probably the worst time to watch the news. A, you’re watching the TV, B, you’re watching it late at night, which is pumping your cortisol, which is then making it more difficult to get to sleep and the sleep you’re getting is not the right quality because you’re not dropping through those stages.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Cortisol is actually a beneficial hormone, and we know it is because it helps you to wake up, which is what I found out recently. But having it in your system when you’re trying to go to sleep is not giving you that beneficial sleep you need.

Nathan Simmonds:

So I’m going to switch from coaching interview hat to clear trainer/mentor mode, stop watching the 10 o’clock news, it’s not good for you, it’s okay, it’ll still be there tomorrow. And it will help improve your sleep, I promise.

Nathan Simmonds:

What other things can people do to really thrive in self-isolation? You’ve got some great experiences in this so what are the key things you took away that helped you to thrive in this?

Mich Bondesio:

Sure, so there’s three things.

Two are more personal and one is more work focused.

Firstly, I would say building strong self-care foundations because we need to support our body to support our brain. These are little habits that we can look at focusing on.

  • We’ve spoken about good sleep habits,
  • nutrition,
  • regular movement,
  • mindfulness and
  • meditation, being conscious of our breathing and lastly
  • practicing loving kindness, which is all about self-esteem and the language that we use when we describe ourselves in the mirror or to somebody else. And to all those impressionable people around us that might take on what we’re saying in that negative way.

Mich Bondesio:

All of those little things are so important to support our health and wellbeing, and our productivity and performance.

The second aspect we should be focusing on is around, we may be socially distancing, I actually prefer to call it ‘physically distancing’. We need to seek sociability online or in any way that we can because one of the big things we’re dealing with in self-isolation is loneliness and isolation, and both of those have a really negative impact on our physical and mental health. So what can we do to stay connected and to feel like we’re a part of a community?

Mich Bondesio:

Then the third aspect that I would focus on is around your habits to do with work. We are now, most of us are being forced to work remotely. For some of us this might be something we’re very accustomed to, but for people who are new to it, what they may be trying to do is transpose their work day and their work routines as they currently were on to their home life, and they can’t do that because now there are partners that need to be looked after, pets, children need to be educated, there’s laundry that needs to be done. There’s a whole lot of other responsibilities that factor in.

Mich Bondesio:

So we have to create new routines, we have to create new systems and rituals for how we work, which means that we can’t be necessarily available 9:00 to 5:00. We may be working outside of normal work times but what that also means is we’re not necessarily available outside of work times. It’s when we can get the work done. As long as we’re doing the work and we’re showing up and we’re getting the work done, does it really matter that we’re not necessarily available at 11 o’clock when you send that email? So it’s about changing our communication styles as well.

Nathan Simmonds:

I’m probably going to have to work through each of those sections but I’m going to work on that point that you just raised there. And it’s also about setting the expectations for it. We’re all working differently. It’s not necessarily that we’re all working Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 5:00, when actually we’ve got the home-schooling situation. Maybe we have to work in different shifts, maybe we start earlier but we have longer lunch breaks, maybe we start earlier and finish earlier, whatever it is. But making sure that we’re talking to our bosses, our managers, or whatever, so that they know what hours, they can see the plan. So they know when we’re going to come back to them.

Nathan Simmonds:

Frustration is caused by what we think and the expectation we have in our head and reality not matching that.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct.

Nathan Simmonds:

So when I think so-and-so is doing this job and they’re not doing it, then I become frustrated because those two elements aren’t meeting.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s huge.

Mich Bondesio:

In this situation it’s very important for teams to, together, set the expectations for how and when they work and then have regular check-ins. But leaders shouldn’t be micromanaging because if they’re constantly checking in and expecting a response that person’s not going to get that work done if they’re being badgered all the time, you know? So it’s maybe daily check-ins, weekly check-in.

Mich Bondesio:

Also what’s really important in terms of communication is asynchronous communication. So what that means is not responding in real-time. This is a very common way of working in tech remote companies where their teams might be spread across various different time zones, which means they’re not expected to respond immediately. So what that means is you don’t have email open all the time, you don’t have Slack open all the time, you don’t have every form of communication open all the time, with the dings and the pings distracting you from getting the actual work done.

Mich Bondesio:

So if you can agree on set times where you’re going to meet up or respond when, an email may come in and maybe it’s the case of saying to your manager, “I work for two hours solid in the morning before I check emails. If it’s urgent, please phone me so that I can get that work done.” Or, “I’m not contactable between 2:00 and 4:00 because that’s when I’m in educating mode and I’m the teacher for the afternoon.”

Mich Bondesio:

But then it’s also about deciding what types and styles of communication are right for different situations. Is it always necessary to have a Zoom meeting when actually a Slack, when a minuted response via Slack could suffice? Is it better to do email in this situation? Because Zoom meetings are very draining in terms of energy and I’ve only recently found out the reason why is because our brain is practicing or experiencing cognitive dissonance when we are in a Zoom meeting because what’s happening is we see the presence of somebody but we can’t physically feel them so there’s this sense of absence and presence that our brain is constantly battling between, and it takes a lot more energy for us to connect and make sense of that. So that’s part of the reason why it’s so tiring.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s interesting. I’d heard something recently that to see someone’s face is better than to not see them at all. So there’s an element, like you said, there’s this element of yes it is, because I can see the whites of their eyes, but there’s also that pull where actually I can’t, they’re not there.

Nathan Simmonds:

And then you’ve got that amplified, so if you’ve got that on gallery mode on Zoom so you can see everybody’s face, you’re seeing a whole group of people and you’re constantly looking and there’s all this different movement of people doing different things, of background…

Mich Bondesio:

And your brain’s taking in all of that stimuli.

Nathan Simmonds:

Exactly that. So you’ve got this dissonance from the person speaking who’s not physically there, and then you’ve got, depending on how many people in that Zoom room, all that movement, tiring your brain out because your brain’s overworking.

Mich Bondesio:

And the flip side of that is, as I discovered myself, I was telling you the other day that I had to minimize the images of people so that I could see my presentation. So I was delivering into a void and I felt like I wasn’t being acknowledged because I couldn’t see people’s responses or how that was landing. But the flip side of that was it made me realize actually when somebody else is delivering something can they actually see how it’s affecting me? Do I need to accentuate my responses so that they can see that it’s landing? Do I need to do more gestures and actually nod more vigorously so that they can be seen and feel heard? So there’s a lot more energy going on.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s a new skillset, and this is… talking to another interviewee, Natasha Wallace last week, she mentioned that people are getting more tired and I haven’t thought about that myself. We’re all getting tired-er in the evening because we’re not used to the way of working. We’ve got a different operating rhythm. We might be doing the same work but we’re doing it in a different space, we’re doing it with a different schedule, a different routine. And our brain is still compensating for that, it’s still checking, a primordial level in the amygdala, is this a threat environment, is this safe?

Nathan Simmonds:

So your brain is computing with that and then shifting it back to the habit forming part of your brain to say this is okay, you can carry on doing your office job in the kitchen and that’s okay. But your brain’s still trying to work that out. And then it’s trying to computer and manage your child then coming to ask you questions halfway through a project that you’re working on. Is this a threat? Are they going to eat me? That same computing is just tiring you out because it’s in your operating room, and you talk about cadence as well and that rhythm.

Mich Bondesio:

That’s right.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s that thing, are we working in a different way to what we’re doing? Yes we are. Is this new? Yes it is. And the other thing, you talked about that physical distancing, there’s a book called The Lost Connections by Johann Hari.

Mich Bondesio:

Yes.

Nathan Simmonds:

Revolutionized the way I think about mental health, my own mental health and other elements about it. It was a phenomenal read, made me feel really quite positive about what’s being talked about. And he talks about the opposite of sobriety. The opposite of… I’m sorry, he says the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection. And it’s the need for connection, it’s the need to connect with our families in a different way, it’s the need to emotionally connect with people around us. And connect more.

Nathan Simmonds:

You talk about social distancing, I actually, we’ve been social distancing for a very long time and what is actually more like antisocial media, like Facebook et cetera, it’s not sociable in the majority. Sociable is actually connecting and talking to people, sociable is actually getting together with friends, whether it’s on Zoom or whether it’s in reality or whatever. And sociable is actually working with your family unit at home and the people that you’re closest to and connecting with those people and having meaningful conversations, not just posting drivel.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct. It’s like an onion, a series of layers of support. And social media actually sits right at the outside of that.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s not feeding the middle part, or very rarely is it feeding the middle part. And then you talk about the self-care foundation. Sleep we touched on, food, meditation, love and kindness. I think it’s important to talk about, I don’t think as leaders we talk enough about love and kindness. I do, in a fairly pragmatic and direct kind of way. Often it is, horses for courses, when I speak to people it’s in a very direct manner and I talk about it, it’s very important, I practice it regularly for myself. What one thing would you recommend for people to help them practice love and kindness, especially in this situation?

Mich Bondesio:

So our brain, we can train our brain to feel positive about something and it could be as simple as smiling, even when we don’t feel good, and maybe it’s about having a visualization or an affirmation or a mantra that you get into a habit of saying to uplift your spirits, to be kinder to yourself. So it’s about accepting that we’re okay where we are even though we’re a work in progress, in terms of loving kindness.

Mich Bondesio:

At the moment we might be feeling I’m not working enough, I’m not being enough of a good parent because I feel like I’m being split all over the place because this crisis is demanding too much of me, I don’t know what to do but you know what, I’m going to be okay, I’ll take one step at a time, I can figure this out.

Mich Bondesio:

One of the important things that I learnt as part of my recovery was that there is always another way to do whatever it is that you need to do. There is always another way. So if you haven’t got the answer, keep looking, there’s always another way. And in terms of the positivity aspect that I was saying, if you’re having to develop new habits that you’re finding quite tricky in the beginning, like learning how to use Zoom and it’s a bit disorientating and there’s a lot that is new to you and it feels stressful. If you tell yourself that it’s exciting and that this is fun, it might not sound like it is or it might not feel like it is to start, but if you keep doing that and you keep registering that, with a smile, your brain starts realizing this is fun, and then it starts identifying it as fun and then it starts becoming easier.

Nathan Simmonds:

Exactly that. And you talk about shifting physiology. Sometimes if you force yourself to smile, you try and have a negative thought while you’re smiling, it’s pretty much impossible, your face changes. So when you start to smile it starts to shift. Then the other way, if you think about your cat or your children at a Christmas play or whatever, you’re going to think of that and it’s going to force you to smile because it feels good. So it’s almost like a chicken and egg scenario that you can force one to happen with the other.

Mich Bondesio:

It’s true. And you were talking earlier about creativity and the importance of playing, and that’s a really good way to lift your spirits and to feel more positive as well. When we go into play mode, we let go of all of those other constraints and we’re just in the moment and we’re a lot more mindful.

Nathan Simmonds:

And if you’ve got children, schedule more time to play.

Mich Bondesio:

Yes.

Nathan Simmonds:

And outdoor time, we home-school anyway, so we’re fairly used to this. This is a new level of intensity because we haven’t got Forest School, we haven’t got the yoga classes, all those things. But at the same time is we’re making sure that we’re scheduling every single day an arts and crafts session. So it might be stuff that she bought for Christmas and my wife Anna will be doing this with her. On Saturday we were making a life sized sea turtle out of cardboard and painting and I’ll probably not share pictures about this on the… But it’s coming up with new ideas and doing this stuff. I’m just going to paint.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I realized that I was still… In doing that I still realized that I was carrying some tension from work. And I was kind of getting frustrated with certain elements, I was frowning, I was doing the serious face which I often do when I’m working. I was like hold on a minute, I’m painting a giant sea turtle with my seven year old daughter, I need to breathe that out and let it go and just be in the moment of painting a sea turtle. And doing that stuff. And like you say just allowing that creativity to come just so I can relax and unwind and do a different day. Massively important.

Nathan Simmonds:

I wanted to expand on what you said though on there around coming up with those ideas of looking for that excitement. A teacher of mine once taught me when you’re in a serious situation you can just ask the question, what’s funny about this moment that I haven’t noticed yet? And there is always something about it, if you just change the angle which you’re looking at it, you can then start to ask questions. Well, what’s funny about this that I haven’t noticed it? And try and find something that does make you laugh or try and make you laugh or something that makes you laugh about an element or a person that’s involved in this situation that you remember from the past. Ah, and just to change the physiology just enough so you can get a new idea in moving forward.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct. And that harks back to the idea of self-awareness, and in the busy world that we now live in and this was before the crisis happened but it’s been exacerbated as a result of it. There’s so much that’s demanding our attention, as I said there’s a war on attention, our attention has been split in lots of different ways. We are living in a culture of cortisol because there’s things constantly raising our level of anxiety.

Mich Bondesio:

What that gives rise to is autopilot behaviours, because there’s too much going on for us to make conscious decisions about things. So we kind of default to the automatic response, which quite often is tied to detrimental habits. They’re not as supportive as they potentially could be.

Mich Bondesio:

So it’s practicing that self-awareness so you become more aware of hang on, I’ve responded in a certain way, why am I responding that way? Being able to question that, being able to reflect on it. As you said, what’s a different way of looking at this or what’s funny about this situation? All of that requires being able to snap out of the autopilot mode and into the conscious mindful mode. And that takes practice.

Nathan Simmonds:

Huge amounts of practice. And a certain amount of… Not acceptance, is the wrong word, acknowledgement that your brain is doing it first of all.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct, yeah. You can’t stop it from happening, you can only become aware of it happening.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, you become aware of it and you go, “Oh, I’m going to do something different.” At MBM we talk about learning to learn, so we teach people how to learn first and foremost. And one of the things they talk about habit stacking. See, if you’re doing a certain habit you can then build on that and remember certain things to help improve your learning. The other side of it though is almost doing the opposite of things. So go to work a different way, brush your teeth with the other hand. Doing those things, you get to a certain point in your life where not only do you have a favourite mug, and I guarantee anyone that’s listening to this has a favourite mug, and then they will go and find that mug if it’s not there just to check if it’s clean or not so they can use it, and even worse than that when we get to a certain point, I bet you have a favourite hob on your cooker as well that you use.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s ridiculous things like this, like hold on a minute, 95% of my day-to-day was exactly the same as it was yesterday, so you become aware of it, and if you want to create that neural plasticity to kind of help make a change, do something a little bit differently, just that gives you a nudge or actually I can do something differently or I can change the way that I’m looking at this, I can be kind to myself. Regardless of what I think happened before or I can change the way that I work that makes me feel better at the end of the day, even in isolation.

Mich Bondesio:

And that’s why it’s important to start small because if you try and make radically big changes you’re not going to stick with them because this whole idea of, we spoke previously about work/life balance being an unhelpful term or phrase because balance is a static concept, it doesn’t move, and we’re essentially setting ourselves up to fail if we’re trying to achieve balance because everything around us is moving.

Mich Bondesio:

So that’s why cadence is so much more important. But if we want to achieve that sense of cadence, what that means is being okay with the fact that we may have rituals and routines that we try and implement I our day but they need to be kind of flexible because things happen and we have to react to those or respond to those. So being open to the fluctuations in our day, rather than feeling like we have to stick with something.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s that rigidity and that holding on that is holding us back. So you’re talking about that balancing. Whenever anyone ever says  to me balance it, it always takes me back to the end of the original Italian Job with Michael Caine and they’ve just robbed the Italian bank or whatever it is and they’re whizzing around the mountainside, and at the end they’ve got the gold in the back of the bus and the bus swings off and goes over the edge of the cliff and it’s just teetering on an edge. And you’ve got the gold at one end and then you’ve got all the guys at the other end, and noone of them can move. So if everyone jumps over the bus, the bus goes over the edge because of the gold. And if anyone goes for the gold, there’s not enough weight at the front of the bus to keep the bus…

Nathan Simmonds:

Life is like this, obviously not this detrimental. But we know that in nature nothing is certain. There is no security in nature, stuff just happens. So if you’re constantly trying to balance everything and make sure everything just sits in like, nobody move, I’ve got a plan. It’s not going to work like that. You kind of have to have the flexibility to say, “Okay, this is coming in, I did the best I could with the best that I have, and based on that information I can maybe ask a different question that’s going to help to shift the direction rather than look for a balance, and keep us moving forward in a progressive kind of way, rather than trying to keep everything at some sort of erroneous status quo almost.”

Mich Bondesio:

This is why it’s important to have strong self-care foundations because it creates a level of certainty for us. We know what we’re capable of, we know what it is we can do. There is always going to be uncertainty around us, whether there’s a crisis happening or not. So if we can’t find certainty externally, we can find certainty internally.

Nathan Simmonds:

Exactly that. We have that choice of reaction. We have the choice to respond, how we’re going to respond, that’s the one thing that we have any control over. And regardless of what’s going on around us and I can’t remember the poem, but when everything’s chaotic around us the one thing that we have choice about, as you said, is that certainty internally, beautifully put. Massive advocate of that.

Nathan Simmonds:

So we’ve looked at in there, self-care foundation, we’ve looked at love and kindness that we hold into ourselves, that physical distancing and making sure we’re staying connected as well with people around us, and we looked at the work routines and making sure we’ve got that cadence and that operating rhythm that you and I talk about when we’re speaking to that. Amazing. Huge value in that already.

Nathan Simmonds:

A couple of things I wanted to talk about here. I talked to you before a little bit about digital wellbeing, and when I went and googled it, all it came up with was an app that teaches you digital wellbeing. Which in itself is almost an oxymoron, I think if that’s the right term. It’s an online app for helping to teach you digital wellbeing. So by being online, it’s kind of keeping you in the loop.

Mich Bondesio:

Keeping you online even more.

Nathan Simmonds:

So, to you, what is digital wellbeing?

Mich Bondesio:

For me I think it’s about being aware of how, when, and why we use our digital tools and the impact that they have on our health and wellbeing and productivity. And by tools I mean everything from our hardware, like our laptops and our tablets and our phones, to our software, to the apps we use, to TV and to streaming apps like Netflix, for example. Anything that we are engaging with that is electronic, that is technical in nature, and that we use to fulfil work and life practices.

Mich Bondesio:

When it comes to wellbeing what happens is when we’re not using them in a way that is supportive, it gives rise to anxiety and depression, it affects our concentration, our focus, our attention span. We are becoming permanently distracted, so we can’t complete lengthy tasks. We can’t have a conversation with anybody because we have become… It’s become automatic that we reach for our phones, it’s become an extension of our hand. It’s like a pacifier or a comfort blanket.

Mich Bondesio:

And there is actually even a phobia that has been named after it called nomophobia, which is the fear of being without your phone. It gives rise to anxiety. And this is where we’re at. So we actually need to be conscious of the impact that it has, we need to be aware of what we need to use our tools for and how the best way is that we can interact with them in a way that still supports our health and wellbeing.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. You touched on some… ideas were coming into my head what you were talking about earlier, it’s that connection piece though, and that fear of not having your phone, that addiction to having your phone. An addiction is an addiction. Doesn’t matter if it’s your phone, gambling, sex alcohol, drugs, whatever. Addiction is addiction.

Nathan Simmonds:

In that, the opposite of addiction is connection, as I mentioned earlier, and we as a family went and spent time, I have an allotment, I’m avid vegetable grower, we love doing this, so we went down there for the day and I didn’t touch my phone once for six hours. I didn’t even think about it. And actually to be honest I probably didn’t even need to take my phone with me because the most immediate people were next to me anyway.

Nathan Simmonds:

In that time I was painting the sea turtle, and it’s not finished yet, we still have to put it together, I didn’t touch my phone because I was with my family. And like I say, for me it’s doing those things that feel good where you can lose yourself in time and space, doing what you enjoy doing, that connects you heart and soul to who you are and where you are, whether that’s a family member or an activity, or something that creates that that is of purpose, that is purposeful, that creates that feeling. Anything tech is going to create a barrier to that.

Nathan Simmonds:

And even a discomfort in talking to someone. I’ll put my phone there and if someone comes it gives me an excuse to check my phone because I don’t feel comfortable having this conversation. But you need to be communicating, especially now, which is what I love, certain elements of this is that it is forcing the communication, it’s forcing the conversation to happen in a different way.

Mich Bondesio:

True.

Nathan Simmonds:

To you, why is digital wellbeing important?

Mich Bondesio:

Well, when I was going through my burnout and recovery, I found that my digital tools were both a help and a hindrance. So they were an opportunity for me to connect with the outside world but they were also provided a view into other people’s so-called perfect lives through social media, which made me feel worse about my own because I wasn’t in a healthy or good place at the time. We’re seeing this quite a lot, particularly with young people, who aren’t necessarily emotionally equipped to deal with the experience or the feelings that they’re encountering, when they feel like their life is not perfect enough or they can’t achieve what somebody else has.

Mich Bondesio:

So, that from a social media perspective, but I think that digital wellbeing with your tools is important as well, because we’re going to be spending… I mean even before the crisis, the future trend was that we’re going to be spending more time online, more time in a digital world. So that means more impacts on our brain and on our body. And as knowledge workers who are working in the online space, our brain is our number one asset, so we really need to look after it in every way possible.

Nathan Simmonds:

I can’t remember the exact stat but I think it was something like your brain uses 20% of all the energy that you’re putting into it. I could be wrong with that but it’s a huge.

Mich Bondesio:

I think that’s correct.

Nathan Simmonds:

In comparison to the rest of your body, it’s using 20% of the energy you’re putting in there. Now, when you talk about that, and we’re not equipped to deal with this stuff, my daughter says to me, “Dada, when can I have a phone?” She’s seven years old, she sees us with phones, she sees other people with phones. I use social media and platforms as part of my business, my own personal business as well as connecting with you guys on the laptop for the interviews.

Nathan Simmonds:

I said, “Okay, so what’s Mama said about this?” And Mama said maybe at 10, whatever the age was. I said, “Okay, well…” and she said, “What do you think?” And I said, “Well, do you know what age the human brain stops developing?” She’s seven so occasionally I like to drop these things in there at an early age. And she went, “No.” I said, “24.” She was like, “So you want me to wait till I’m 24 till I have a mobile phone?” And bear in mind she’s only seven.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I said, “In the scientific viewpoint, yes, because I want your brain to fully evolve and develop at the rate it’s meant to without pushing these chemicals in at these levels so that it grows the way it should do.” I’m also aware that there’s a necessity to be tech savvy and there’s a journey that we go through as developing human beings where we’re exploring and we need some of those tools to explore because the new world is going to involve this. So it’s about having the right mixes of that.

Nathan Simmonds:

As we get older I think it’s making sure we’ve got right routine in place, so this is tech time, this is green time, whatever it is, meditation time, nature time, away time, without the phone, the WiFi switched off, zero distraction, time with the right people, including yourself, to make that stuff work.

Mich Bondesio:

I agree, and with your children, whatever age you decide is appropriate for them to have a phone I think it’s about educating them on the pitfalls and the dangers of being online as well. Really, really important. I mean this has come up a lot recently with Zoom and there are a lot of children who are having meetups on Zoom but they don’t necessarily have the right security settings in place, and people, trolls are joining Zoom groups and they’re sharing inappropriate content and they’re… These are things that kids need to be aware of. They’re a lot more tech savvy than we give them credit for, so they’re open to this, but if they’re aware of the dangers and they know what to look out for to stay safe, that’s the most important thing.

Mich Bondesio:

And then it’s also about setting those good examples as a family, as you say, having time for tech, having time for play without, having time for family time where we’re doing activities with each other that do not involve any kind of device.

Nathan Simmonds:

You just answered a question for me because this morning I went to arrange a Zoom call interview with another interviewee for next week and it said password. And I couldn’t switch the thing saying I had to have a password on there. So presuming Zoom is now switched on so it’s password only to stop these things from happening.

Mich Bondesio:

That might be the case but there’s a very good blog post that I wrote on Friday by Wordfence, which is a security app that I use on my WordPress site, and I’m happy to share it with you. It’s got a lot of simple settings that you can change in your account to support security.

Nathan Simmonds:

Super important, especially with children. And I’ve heard some horrendous stories of, like you say, trolls in certain situations, even hacking into the video monitors of babies and stuff, and basically some horrendous person hurling abuse at the child, but thankfully the child, this child was actually deaf when they found this situation out so the child couldn’t actually hear what was being said and just slept through the whole thing. But had it been another child-

Mich Bondesio:

That’s horrendous.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. Before they got to that, so it’s security understanding, and it could have had really detrimental impacts to their child. Not okay. The other thing you mentioned, I picked up on, is that zero tech time, we have a rule in our house, we don’t have phones at the table, unless it’s a particular emergency or situation. We come to the dinner table, we sit as a family, we eat dinner, there is no phones, there are no laptops, we don’t have the radio on or anything like that, we connect to that time and we talk to each other and we have questions. So it’s important that we’re setting that as mealtimes is part of our routine and our ritual, it’s part of our operating rhythm and zero tech.

Mich Bondesio:

And there’s an important thing there as well, when you’re eating, when you slow down and you’re having conversation, it actually stimulates your digestive process. So it’s an important part of slowing things down and giving your body enough time for your gut to send the hormones to your brain to tell it that it’s not hungry anymore. But when we are on our phones and we’re in those autopilot mode, we’re eating too fast, we’re not taking cognizance of… and that’s why we end up eating more than we want or we finish dinner and then we dive straight into the chocolate or the snacks because we don’t realize that we are full, yet.

Nathan Simmonds:

That is a really interesting point and I hadn’t thought about it that way around. Because I’m aware that as hunter gatherers, when you see the apple tree from the distance, you get a dopamine hit, which encourages you to keep going after the apple tree. But whereas if you’re on you mobile phone and you’re getting a WhatsApp thing, you’re still getting the dopamine hit, which is keeping you going forward, but it’s not registering you’ve actually got the food which was in front of you and you’re messing with your brain chemical levels. That’s super interesting. So like you say then we make poor choices around the snack eating afterwards.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah, it all has a knock-on effect. And there’s a lot of research around, you were saying addiction’s addiction irrespective of what it is you’re addicted to, and they found that the physiological effects of our phone addiction are exactly the same as if we were addicted to hard drugs.

Mich Bondesio:

So the comedown when we don’t have it, the need for it, that craving, it’s all exactly the same. And we get to the point where it becomes automatic because it becomes, kind of our brain identifies it, oh that’s something that helps me feel less discomfort. That’s something that makes me feel safe or makes me feel pleasure so that’s what I reach for. And then it becomes automatic and even though we’re not experiencing it anymore and it isn’t bringing us joy, we will still reach for it, we will still do that, engage in that behaviour. And so it becomes so detrimental and negative, but they’re all small things and we’re not aware of them because we’re on autopilot.

Nathan Simmonds:

You’ve then got me thinking about another… this conversation’s going in an open ended direction, sorry, I read an article and they were talking about virtual reality. So I can’t remember the name of the company but I think it’s Oculus virtual reality kit. And then you look at Ready Player One, the film, where the majority of the world is plugging into a virtual reality thing, and that’s what they do with their spare time.

Nathan Simmonds:

And actually it’s the same thing. So when they had people on these virtual reality sets and they were getting them out, it was like they were experiencing a comedown. They experienced levels of depression and anxiety when they’ve been in it for long periods of time. So as we move forward into the future and we’re getting more tech heavy, and the tech becomes even more immersive, because even in the training environment it becomes more immersive. There are ways that we as trainers, when we’re using Microsoft HoloLens, or we’re using VR and AR to actually deliver content in different ways, we’re actually encouraging the use of tech.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s going to be easier for people to plug into that, and be immersed in it, and then when they try and come out and come into the real world, they’re going to experience the comedown even further. So it’s going to be even harder.

Mich Bondesio:

And that’s why the self-care foundations are important. Because that’s what we do to support our body and our brain as part of our rest and recovery, when we’re stepping away from those digital tools.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s got to be that. Like you say it’s got to be foundation, it’s got to be in place to make that happen, before we go and use the tech. If, and we’re doing this with our kids and ourselves, if we’re teaching them how to use the tech first but not doing the foundational work before they go in, you’re going to end up with people going into some sort of recovery process to learn some sort of 12 steps or to stop using their mobile phone.

Nathan Simmonds:

Whereas actually if you can understand what the foundation is before you go into that, oh I’m using my tech but I’ve already got these good habits over here, where I spend time doing this, I go in play in the sandpit, I connect with people, I talk to people, and then I go and use my tech in a thoughtful way, a mindful way. We then don’t get the burnouts and the necessity to self-isolate when we have those support mechanisms in place. Which is huge.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah, correct. And I mentioned earlier about our brains being our number one asset. And the thing is that we are the weak link in this tech environment that we find ourselves in. Because, our brains can’t process things as fast as the technology that we’re using. So we will always be behind, we’re always trying to keep up. That’s why these rest and recovery periods are so essential as well, to give our bodies and our brains time to charge up again and be ready to join the fray again.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. And like you say, the phrase, fighting, martial arts BJJ, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, those sort of things. There is a rest and recovery time. We don’t go to the gym five days a week, eight and a half hours a day, no one does that. I don’t think the Rock even does that and he’s huge, yeah? There is still a recovery time that is required to make that happen. And that recovery time is time away from tech.

Mich Bondesio:

Time away from tech, and it’s part of cadence cycle.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. I’m sure there was some sort of play on words of some circadian cadence cycle thing going on. I couldn’t quite formulate it but it’s there. So a couple of the last things in my head. One of the questions that I’m getting used to asking people is around behavioural change. We’ve talked a lot, there’s a lot of behavioural change in what we covered here in the last, nearly an hour in this. How do you make behavioural change stick?

Mich Bondesio:

You start tiny. I don’t know if you’ve heard of BJ Fogg and his Tiny Habits method? I employ some of that in the work that I do and the mentoring work I do with people. You have to start small and it has to be something that people identify with. That they can fit into their existing routines quite easily. Because, if it’s too foreign and it’s too big, they won’t stick with it. So I think that’s how you make behavioural change stick.

Nathan Simmonds:

What was the name of that book again?

Mich Bondesio:

Tiny Habits.

Nathan Simmonds:

Tiny Habits. And who’s it by?

Mich Bondesio:

BJ Fogg. I think I’ve got it here. This is what it looks like.

Nathan Simmonds:

Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing, thank you very much for that, that’s huge.

Mich Bondesio:

My pleasure.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you very much for this interview, it’s been phenomenal. I wanted to dive into so many different aspects and bend them in so many different tangents which is why, partly, I love doing this. Where can people find you?

Mich Bondesio:

They can check out my website.  Which is growthsessions.co. And they can find me on social media @michbondesio, that’s M-I-C-H-B-O-N-D-E-S-I-O on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Nathan Simmonds:

Wonderful. People listening to this I highly recommend go and have a conversation. Go and have a look at this work, go and apply some of the stuff that’s been talked about in this conversation. Whether it’s just from the self-care, to the physical distancing, to the work stuff that we need to do to build stronger relationships from Mich. Really appreciate the value that’s been dropped in here. I really appreciate you Mich, thanks very much for this, it’s huge.  I look forward to you guys sharing another interview and joining us in the very near future. Thanks very much from me.

Mich Bondesio:

Thanks.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you, Mich, cheers, bye.

Mich Bondesio:

Thanks so much, bye Nathan.


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