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How Stress Impacts Performance with Dr. Tobias Kiefer

Stress is cited as the “Number One Killer” and the basic cause for more than 60% of all human illnesses and diseases. At lower levels, it can severely impact brain function – making smart people do dumb things. This can have negative effects on your corporate training or L&D facilitation, drastically reducing potential learning retention.

Dr. Tobias Kiefer recounts his experience with the impact of stress on a team’s cognitive function – something researchers refer to as “cortical inhibition.” He also offers mindfulness techniques as a means to counteract the effects of stress.

How does stress affect your team’s performance? What techniques do you use to keep you in the zone and not overwhelmed? If you have had the good fortune to alleviate stress from a training, what were some of the positive results following its removal?


Tobias Kiefer:                   I was participating in a leadership program a couple of weeks back. What you could clearly see is on day one, we were all stressed out doing this test and the performance of the group was okay. The stress level was high. The next morning, we did a similar exercise, same difficulty in the cognitive test but before we did that, we actually had a five-minute exercise on mindfulness and breathing. And what actually happened is the group performance went up by 35 to 40% and the cortisol levels dropped dramatically.

You can see that there is a correlation between your stress level, meaning cortisol, and actually your cognitive capabilities in order to solve a problem by simply doing five minutes of very focused attention and mindfulness, and breathing.

The mindfulness breathing technique is pretty simple. Inhale for about five to six seconds. Count one, two, three, four, five, six. Hold the breath, exhale for six seconds. One, two, three, four, five, six. Do that maybe 10 times and you will see automatically how the system works.