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Podcast Transcript

Episode 67, Season 1

How to reduce stress and refocus, with Chelsea Pottenger


Intro: 00:00 This episode was recorded live at United, the 2019 AFA Conference in Adelaide. The Association of Financial Advisors is the association of choice for financial advice professionals, and empowers them to transform the lives of Australians through quality financial advice. For more information, check out afa.asn.au.

Welcome to The Goals Based Advice Podcast, where I have conversations with pioneers of the new world of financial advice. I’m your host, Fraser Jack, and I thank you so much for tuning in today. I’d also like to thank our supporting partners, Advice Intelligence, for powering this podcast, to the Oh My Pod crew who are editing these podcasts, very, very appreciative, thank you. And to the Association of Financial Advisors, for inviting us along to be part of their conference, thank you very much.

Now, I’m lucky enough to be joined by two fantastic people who have just walked off the stage from the keynote presentation, and we’re about to continue that conversation, which I’m very grateful for. To start with, I’m going to introduce Russell Hannah, who is the General Manager of Distribution for MLC Life, welcome.

Russell Hannah: 01:10 Fraser, thank you, delighted to be here.

Fraser Jack: 01:11 Do you want to introduce our special guest?

Russell Hannah: 01:12 Yeah, I’d be delighted to, and it’s a real privilege. Chelsea Pottenger, welcome.

Chelsea Pottenger: 01:18 Thank you.

Russell Hannah: 01:18 Thank you very much for joining us. So, Chelsea’s a leading authority on productivity mindfulness, and also motivation. Chelsea also plays a really critical role in her ambassador capacity with R U O K, and also The Gidget Foundation. Really, really interesting story and background that you shared with us this morning, particularly with the backdrop of change and the need for resilience in our industry at the moment. And Chelsea, I know everyone in the room took enormous away, an enormous amount away from the tools and insights you provided this morning, so thank you.

Chelsea Pottenger: 01:54 Thank you Russell.

Fraser Jack: 01:55 Now Chelsea, would you like to give us a quick overview of yourself, what you’re doing now and your journey, your story of how you came to be?

Chelsea Pottenger: 02:03 Yeah, sure. So, Fraser, I was like people at AFA and that corporate space, and I used to do very, very long days. And I would usually take the edge off the stress with a little bit of alcohol at night, then on top of that I was an athlete, so I’d hit the pavement pretty hard in the mornings. I would rely on stimulants like coffee a lot to get me through the days, and that was kind of the cycle. And then, 2015 we were really blessed to have our daughter Clara, and that blessing actually kind of just threw a huge curve ball to be honest, in to our life.

Where I suffered severely with postnatal depression after giving birth to Clara, and I just found going through something like that with a mental illness, is that I actually never studied mental illness or anxiety or depression before I got served up a pretty severe dose of it, to be honest. I used to think I was immune from things like that, like I was immune from anxiety, immune from depression. But, when I got in to the research behind it, and going through my own personal story, is that, mental health does not discriminate. It could literally hit any single person, it’s a genetic predisposition. I had no idea it existed in my family, because a few people hide behind a mask.

And, the big thing is, is that if we can get on to it quicker, the quicker we can recover. And so, my story sort of ended with me ending up in a hospital fighting this big suicidal battle. But that intense adversity has led me to the most amazing trajectory forward. Because, in that unit, I met a great psychiatrist, and she taught me all these life skills and all about my body with fasting and meditation and mindfulness and gut health and the microbiome, and how it impacts mental health.

By the end of the five week stay when I was there, she said something that was really life changing, which was, “Chelsea, you’d be a really nice clinical psychologist.” And, as I was sharing with you before, in our industry, to become a psychologist, sometimes you’ve had to have seen one yourself. That’s kind of our joke. And I’m like, “Great, I’ve done that really well.” And I became an ambassador for RUOK, and also The Gidget Foundation. And, even though that was the most intense, darkest time of my life, the trajectory forward has been the most amazing growth for my personal journey, and being able to equip people in a national, and now global, level of taking care and being empowered to take care of their mental health.

Fraser Jack: 04:23 Yeah, your story gives me goosebumps. It’s those life changing moments in your life, and those simple, that simple words that your psychologist said to you, “You’d make a really good psychologist, or psychiatrist.” And to do that, and it’s just those moments that change your life, isn’t it?

Chelsea Pottenger: 04:38 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Fraser Jack: 04:39 Yeah. Now, we’ve just finished the presentation, amazing presentation. It covered some of my favorite things, which is the gut microbiome, which I’m about to do the test for, the fasting, which I do every day as well, and sleep and obviously a lot of other things about training your brain and the neuroplasticity. I also like the concept of the mental health, mental illness spectrum. It sort of implies that we’re all on it somewhere, and we can vary on that from day to day and moment to moment.

Russell Hannah: 05:10 Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 05:11 Russell, what did you think of the presentation?

Russell Hannah: 05:12 I’m blown away, to be honest. Fraser, I think when we reached out and connected with Chelsea in preparation for this, I probably couldn’t have imagined how timely the message was and how important the message was for our community. And I think the response of the audience this morning really does validate the important messages that we shared. And also, I think providing people with tools and support, to ensure that they’re able to help navigate and manage their own mental health, as well as being able to keep an eye out and sort of really make sure that they’re looking out for others as well. So, that was yeah, incredible, thanks you and Chelsea.

Chelsea Pottenger: 05:52 Thanks Russell.

Fraser Jack: 05:52 And the people that are listening to this probably missed the presentation, so let’s give them the cheat sheet, the notes, the cut down version of the presentation.

Chelsea Pottenger: 06:03 Okay, sure. So we’ll start from the top?

Fraser Jack: 06:05 Yeah, why not?

Chelsea Pottenger: 06:05 So, gut health, huge. And I’m just going to give you knowledge nuggets as we go through, to keep this nice and succinct for our time [inaudible 00:06:11] and time sensitive, so I like things delivered to me pretty quickly. So, gut health is directly correlated to mental health. And we know that if there’s something going on inside the gut, there’s something going on inside the mental health, because there’s a vagus nerve that takes everything up from the gut to the limbic brain. So, it connects the two together.

So, some really good hacks for people listening, is introducing a probiotic into your diet. So, we always go through to food, your yogurts, your kombuchas, anything that’s fermented. Your sauerkrauts, your kimchis, things like that. Even asking your doctor about a good probiotic that sits inside the fridge. We recommend 30 days on, 30 days off, so you cycle on a different strain. So what we’re doing, is feeding up that gut microbiome with so many different strains.

Two is around the fasting. So, clinically proven now, is that if you do a 16 hour fast, just only once a week, it actually increases what we call these telomeres, which sits at the end of your DNA code, and it’s responsible for aging of the brain. So, that will actually grow. So, number one, it’s antiaging for the brain. Two, the benefits of fasting for 16 hours is it’s antiinflammatory for your whole entire gut lining, because your T-cell junctions, when they get flared up and inflamed, when you give your body a break from eating, it enables them to seal over. And so you’ll become antiinflammatory, because we know that when you’re in a state of chronic inflammation as well, you also get a chronic illness.

And three, is the energy. The mitochondrial cells get a really good clean out, so the energy that you feel is incredible. So just remember, it’s just 16 hours once a week, so you stop eating at 7:00 the night before and you start again at 11:00 AM the next day. Fraser, what do you run, is it 8:00 to 12:00, or?

Fraser Jack: 07:46 I do. I’m not too fussed on the time.

Chelsea Pottenger: 07:49 Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 07:49 At nighttime, I just eat dinner.

Chelsea Pottenger: 07:52 Sure.

Fraser Jack: 07:52 But then, it’s midday the next day. It’s always midday. And I feel fantastic.

Chelsea Pottenger: 07:55 Yeah, good.

Fraser Jack: 07:55 Usually the time of the day where I have the least energy, is after lunch.

Chelsea Pottenger: 07:59 Yeah. No, it’s incredible. I just wish I knew about this at a younger age. So, fasting is really, I mean, try that. Another thing was around sleep. So, some sleep hacks out there, sometimes people are going to bed too hot. So, I recommend less gear on, try socks on your feet, the blood will get sort of charmed away from the body core. We need the body core dropping a couple of degrees Celsius, as well as the brain core temp. So, sometimes in Australia, we go to bed too hot, so less gear, socks on the feet, is the trick, it charms the blood away from the body core.

Two was the screens, get off the screens half an hour before bed. There’s so much evidence now out there in pub med, so much clinical evidence, showing it disrupts your circadian and melatonin production. Not only is melatonin so important for your sleep, but it’s also incredibly important for mood. So, if you’re switching that off, also we’re noticing correlations with mental health there. So, 30 minutes off the screens before bed, and do something more nourishing. This could be reading a book, this could be talking to your partner, this could be light stretching, having a shower, anything that doesn’t involve a screen. The next one was around really-

Fraser Jack: 07:59 So, just one-

Chelsea Pottenger: 07:59 Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 09:05 That I really took, one of the things that I really took away from that, was the concept that screen time tells your brain that it’s daylight, it’s daytime, it’s time to get up not to relax.

Chelsea Pottenger: 09:15 Correct. This is why there’s a huge issue with shift workers and things like that. For people who are finding it hard to get off in to sleep, we need the room super, super dark, we need the screens off half an hour before bed, to help that melatonin get produced. We need it cool, we need that room cool, and we also need it quiet. So, if you’re staying in a city where it’s really noisy, chuck on a calm app or something like that, that’s going to bring white noise, like ocean waves or raindrops, to drown out all that other residual sound, so you don’t get pulled out of this deep REM all night. Then let’s move on to the morning. We talked about, yeah, do you want to jump in there?

Fraser Jack: 09:51 We also covered drinking, two standard drinks.

Chelsea Pottenger: 09:54 Oh, yeah.

Fraser Jack: 09:54 Yeah.

Chelsea Pottenger: 09:55 That’s the important one.

Fraser Jack: 09:56 That was a big thing for me, I wasn’t happy to hear that. But, no-

Chelsea Pottenger: 09:59 I know, I know. It’s so funny, because I think people think I’m going to be a vegan that doesn’t drink alcohol or drink coffee. And it couldn’t be further from the truth, to be honest. I do like a grass fed steak, I wear leather pants, so vegan’s kind of out. And I love a good glass of Shiraz, and I do love a espresso in the morning. But what we definitely know with the alcohol stuff, is that if you have more than two standard alcoholic drinks, deep REM is cactus, it’s completely switched off. So, what happens with the brain, is that you get sedated for the first few hours, and then you stay light REM sleep.

So it’s really disrupted sleep that whole night. So we just say to you out there, if you’re going to have a drink, have a really good one. It’s all about high quality, less quantity. Now, if you do have a big night, you’re going to an event, you’ve got a party on the weekend, you know what? Just go for it. We just say, you know, you got to live, but just know that rule, that two standard drinks is kind of where it’s at during the week.

Fraser Jack: 10:49 And-

Chelsea Pottenger: 10:50 Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 10:52 And you mentioned the ring that you wear.

Chelsea Pottenger: 10:53 Yeah, it’s great.

Fraser Jack: 10:54 I’ve not heard of it. Can you tell us about that?

Chelsea Pottenger: 10:56 Yeah, it’s called an Oura Ring. So these Oura Rings, I’m always bio hacking my body, being in neuroscience now. We’re constantly, I think, data is king to be honest, and there’s nothing that pulls you up in mind more than what your data of your body is showing you. So, the Oura Ring is just a ring that kind of looks like a wedding band, and it’s got electrodes that pick up your deep and light REM on the inside of it, and it tracks your REM when you’re asleep. Now you can have the phone off the wifi, in the kitchen. So, we don’t really want the phones in the room, and it just, it will literally backdate the data for eight hours. But from a granular micro level, it will honestly show you what’s going on with your REM.

I’m always kind of testing out the research that comes through and kind of challenging it to see if it stacks up from an anecdotal point of view. So, with the Oura Ring, I did put this, sort of screen time, to the test. And for half an hour I was in bed, LinkedIn, Instagram, Share Market, WhatsApp, text, having a great time. I would go to sleep, but the data every single morning would show this: A, I was in bed and sleeping for long enough, so the quantity was there, eight hours. And I was going off to sleep really quickly, but what was missing, was the quality of it.

So, every night I could not clock one and a half hours of deep REM, and that’s all we need. That’s all we need, is 1.5 hours, to wake up feeling really good, like good energy, good verb, and sort of bouncing out of your bed. So, as soon as that kind of validated for me, the science behind it, it was back off the screens. And now, all the data shows eight hours, deep REM good, and I literally just bounce out of my bed in the morning.

Fraser Jack: 12:26 And then you sort of covered what you do after you bounce out of bed in the morning too, about what, that few, that moment is so important.

Chelsea Pottenger: 12:35 Oh, it’s really crucial. So, those first few minutes of the morning, whatever we’re really consuming in those very first few minutes, the brain goes in to kind of a theta brainwave state, where it’s super neuro plastic and malleable. So whatever we’re consuming, so think about that when you wake up in the morning, and you turn your alarm off, and you start scrolling through the phone. Now, I know for me, what comes up in that screen is a lot of negative news a lot of the time. So, if you’re doing that when you first wake up, and you’re checking that, what’s happening inside the brain, is that the brain gets alerted.

So if you see something negative, the brain gets kind of alerted and the amygdala will fire off. You’ll go in to flight fight mode, the cortisol will get released. The biggest thing, is that because the brain is neuro plastic, is that it starts mowing down neuro pathways for more fear, more paranoia, more worry, and we haven’t even said good morning to the person that we’re sleeping with, or actually popped our leg outside the bed. And this is huge in mainly athletes that we train, is that they’ll wake up in the morning and they’ll check their social media.

Now, they’ll have 400 positive comments, and they’ll have one negative one. Where do they go? They raise their [inaudible 00:13:36] right? On that negative comment. And it disrupts them for the whole day, because they keep thinking about it, and that’s how they set up their first morning to practice. So, we say they’re not allowed to check their comments anymore. Your brain is just so powerful, so just doing something more positive for the brain in those first few minutes of the morning.

We spoke about gratitude in there, and how then how that actually has a significant impact on a part of the brain called the insula. And the insula is so responsible for things like empathy and compassion and happiness. Psychopaths actually don’t have much of one, so hopefully there’s no psychos listening. But if you are and you are psychopathic, it’s okay, we can start from a level and build that muscle up.

Fraser Jack: 14:13 That’s actually our target audience, by the way, I just thought I’d let you know.

Chelsea Pottenger: 14:17 Well people say to me, “Chels, sorry if I’m the glass half empty type of person.” And I’m like, “You know what? Half a glass is better than no glass.” And we’ve got to kind of start from somewhere, right? So, that 30 seconds of gratitude, my husband used to be a skeptic banker, and he challenged me on this research going, “All the clinical trials that are coming through, all the FMRI scans,” and I said to him, “Darling, N equals one. You’re the best subject matter, go and try it.”

And two years ago, he started this practice. He’d wake up in the morning, just think about three things he was grateful for, journal it down. Two months after that, it had honestly changed the whole lens of his world. And especially through a time of Royal Commission right? This guy, my husband’s like the happiest banker walking around Sydney. I’m like, “What’s going on for you?” He’s like, “It’s that gratitude stuff you taught me.”

Fraser Jack: 14:58 And I like the fact that it’s not going to take a long time.

Chelsea Pottenger: 15:03 Totally.

Fraser Jack: 15:03 You took that 90 second feedback loop.

Chelsea Pottenger: 15:05 90 second feedback loop, honestly. And that’s it, just remember that, 90 seconds is how long emotions are going to turn up for you. That is such an empowering thing for you to know that, so think about that for the positive emotions. So, if someone gets a win, I want you to savior that. Think about all those kinds of stuff, but on the negative side as well. Just know that if you’re part of the grief insurance and you’re going, or you’re taking all these phone calls in about people who are really concerned about their retirement, they might be going through a divorce, they may have, even if you know someone who has gone through a terminal illness or they know someone who they’re caring for, it’s so crucial that we show empathy and compassion, but we don’t take that stuff on all day. Now, yeah, Russell?

Fraser Jack: 15:46 Now Russell, I’m going to interrupt here. Because this is really prevalent right now, obviously, in our industry. And as we go through a depression, and there’s a lot going on, and that 90 second feedback loop conversation, I think, is something that we really need to bring.

Russell Hannah: 15:59 I think one of the other key things that came through for me, was just the tips that were provided, Chelsea, were simple. Simple to implement, simple to adopt, so we’re not talking about a massive transformation of a way of working or our life in general, but it’s around being really targeted and really focused. And I think that was the point that gives people that hope they can take charge and they can make the necessary change in order to improve their wellbeing, and in particular, their mental health.

And I think with respect to the industry as a whole, we are seeing some really confronting articles and headlines around the impact of what’s being felt out there amongst the advisor community. And, one of the key things that we really continue to anchor back to, is making sure that we’re encouraging people to ask for help, look for support, and put up their hand and say it’s okay if they’re not feeling great, to reach out to a whole host of different support mechanisms, as well as Chelsea highlighted, giving them the confidence to empower themselves to be able to navigate their way through in this period of significant challenge-

Chelsea Pottenger: 17:12 Yeah.

Russell Hannah: 17:12 And disruption for all of us.

Fraser Jack: 17:14 And you mentioned that idea of, obviously, media. We’re all reading, there’s a lot of media going in, and that first 90 seconds of the day, is not the time to consume that media.

Chelsea Pottenger: 17:22 Absolutely. And back to these 90 second feedback loops, these are for the little things, okay? If you’re going through a mental health condition, absolutely, a lot of the time we cannot snap out of those 90 second feedback loops, and that’s further to Russell’s point. That’s where you actually need really clinical support around you, you need a really good team of a GP and a clinical psychologist, and maybe a psychiatrist, to work with you to get you through those periods of time. And I think that’s one of the biggest things though in terms of my story, is that, when I think about RUOK Day, I think of the word empowerment. Because, we are completely empowered to take care of our own mental health and physical health. B, to give people hope out there, that if you are going through something, I promise you, with the right support and things around you, you will get through this.

And the third thing is, the posttraumatic growth. That, things like this can make us stronger. I was always a happy person, but I’ve never been such a calm force as what I am now. And, you don’t even have to, when you’re going through these kinds of things, it’s the fact that you can bounce back, but you can actually go a step further than that and bounce forward. And I think one of the biggest things that keep me so strong, is then to give back, back in to that mental health space, and go, “Hey, I’ve been there. I promise you, you can get through this with the right support. Just hang in there, just hang in there and we’ll get you through it.”

But yeah, it’s so crucial. And to further to Russell’s point, and that’s why I was so grateful for MLC Life Insurance for being a partner of the AFA today, is that, you guys really care about the people here within the conference. And it’s that whole thing of trusting those gut instincts. That’s the big campaign this year, trust those gut instincts, trust the signs. If you don’t feel well, you know someone not feeling well, just go and ask them, “Hey, are you doing okay?”

Fraser Jack: 19:07 Yeah, let’s talk about that, because RUOK Day is on?

Chelsea Pottenger: 19:12 12th of September.

Fraser Jack: 19:13 The 12th of September, which is coming up fast. And, there’s going to be a lot in the industry going on in that space. What are some of the things that we can focus on, keep an eye on? We’re very good at working with our peers and helping our peers, so let’s do that. So, what are the things that we can work on?

Chelsea Pottenger: 19:31 Yeah, I think first of all, it’s trusting what those signs are. And just to give people some guidance around what that kind of looks like, noticing what people are saying. And you’re the best person that knows yourself and knows the people that you love that are around you. So, things that people might be saying are, a little bit more negative chat. They might be feeling like they’re a burden on you. You might notice behavioral changes, like they start isolating themselves, they cancel plans on you, they start talking about sleep disturbances, or that their stress levels are starting to get quite high.

And, the third thing to really notice out for, is for life changes, really big life changes. And this could be a beautiful one, like a newborn baby in to somebody’s life. Or this could be one where someone’s parents get diagnosed with a terminal illness. So, it’s really around watching what they’re saying, watching what they’re doing, and then also really noticing any kind of life adversity that’s happening in that person’s life at the moment.

Fraser Jack: 20:22 And I think when we opened the conference on day one, you really spoke to the importance of looking out for mates, but also then taking steps and looking out for yourself as well. And as we spoke about, really being comfortable in seeking help and supportive, if that’s necessary, and implementing some of these changes that can have such a positive and profound impact in a really short period of time as well. Like, just owning and then empowering the response.

Chelsea Pottenger: 20:51 Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 20:51 Yeah, the RUOK Day, are your friends and colleagues okay day as well? We’ll make that whole thing.

Chelsea Pottenger: 20:58 Yeah, awesome.

Fraser Jack: 20:59 I got off the topic of your presentation. There was a couple more things that we went through.

Chelsea Pottenger: 21:04 Yes, what else was there? There was the breathing.

Fraser Jack: 21:06 Yes.

Chelsea Pottenger: 21:06 The deep breathing.

Fraser Jack: 21:06 Yup.

Chelsea Pottenger: 21:07 The 90 seconds. So, that kind of coincides you know, with those feedback loops, just trying to keep you really nice and calm. It also works that if you’re feeling any kind of stress or you got a big pitch or you’re going to present to the board or you’re going to have this conversation or a view time, the 90 seconds of deep parasympathetic breathing, and you can literally just YouTube how to do that, it’s going to honestly change your state.

So, we know that if I came and felt your diaphragms, I could see who was actually stressed and who was calm. Even though you both look like swans to me on the outside, the diaphragm shows us, “Okay, if it’s going fast with the breath without exercise, there’s stress there. The heart rate is beating fast. There’s stress there without exercise. And if the brainwave is in constant beta brainwave gear, stress.” So one way we change that state, is through the breath. So just literally doing those 90 seconds of deep breathing will bring your cortisol levels, your stress hormone down by 25%, bring the limbic brain down, so then you respond in really rational, calm, focused way.

And if anyone’s out there and they got young teenage children, what an amazing technique to teach them, to bring them nice and calm so they can tap in to their longterm memory at times of exams, at times of sports, when they’re running out in to the field. Bio mechanically, they exist together, the amygdala, the stress center, and the memory center. You get highly stressed, the memory center will literally clock off. So, the-

Russell Hannah: 22:33 Sorry Chelsea, I was just going say, one of the points to that that I really enjoyed, was around swim in your own lane.

Chelsea Pottenger: 22:39 Oh, yeah.

Russell Hannah: 22:39 And I think that regardless of whether that be children or whether that be ourselves, it’s just swimming in your own lane. Would you mind just sort of elaborating further on that? Because I think that was really profound piece.

Chelsea Pottenger: 22:48 Yeah, sure. So what we were discussing around there, was that a lot of the time in society, that we get really hard wired to the external that makes us happy. And we think when we get particular things or items in our life that are materialistic, that we’ll get a lot of happiness then. And what happens, is that we get dopamine surges for 24 hours, and then we revert back to baseline. And, one your point Russell around that swimming in your own lane, we notice this a lot in society, social media had a huge impact on this in terms of, people are constantly comparing themselves to other people.

“What do they have? Oh, is that what success looks like?” And I find this is a danger for our younger girls who are following the wrong people on Instagram and Facebook, because obviously it’s people’s social highlights. And so, they’re comparing themselves to every single other person, besides from comparing themselves to them and who they were yesterday. And I think, if you’re making these little improvements and growing every single day as a human being, that’s amazing, right? And, I just think we need to really come back in within. Don’t live someone else’s story, live your own. Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 23:52 And I think on that note, that’s probably a very, very good way to end the podcast. I want to thank you both. Thank you Russell for bringing, and to MLC Life Insurance, to bringing Chelsea out. And obviously, thank you Chelsea for-

Chelsea Pottenger: 24:05 Thank you.

Russell Hannah: 24:05 Thanks Chelsea.

Fraser Jack: 24:06 Presenting to everybody. And also-

Russell Hannah: 24:08 It was awesome.

Chelsea Pottenger: 24:08 Thanks Russell.

Fraser Jack: 24:08 For chatting on the podcast, I appreciate it.

Russell Hannah: 24:10 Fabulous.

Chelsea Pottenger: 24:10 Thanks Fraser, it’s been a pleasure.

Russell Hannah: 24:11 Thank you.

Fraser Jack: 24:11 If you haven’t already, I’d love you to subscribe to the podcast on your podcast platform of choice. And to continue the conversation, head over to our social media channels. We’ll catch you next time.



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