Any candidate, for any role, within any organisation, could potentially be adversely impacted by the way they present themselves at each stage of the selection process.
This Adverse Impact is most pertinent when it has a negative effect on candidates of a protected class, namely: Age, Disability, Gender, Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Marital Status, Pregnancy/Maternity.
Adverse Impact can be felt even during apparently neutral processes, a measure of indirect discrimination.
An important aspect of indirect discrimination is that it is often identified statistically. The intention to discriminate is irrelevant. The output of the selection process is the most important factor.
It is worth noting that a policy is not indirectly discriminatory if the action is objectively justified in the absence of a less disadvantageous method of producing the same measure.
Although Adverse Impact can be measured during each stage of a selection process, a general rule of thumb is that the hiring-rate of each minority group must be 80% of the hiring rate of the majority group within that company. For example, if males comprise the majority class within the organisation and 90 males are hired from a pool of 100 then the hiring rate from each other minority group must be at least 72%.
How can we mitigate Adverse Impact in our hiring process?
There are a few general ways in which Adverse Impact can be reduced during a selection process. For one, regular monitoring of pass rates at every stage of the selection process will allow apparently neutral policies to be statistically explored regularly and often. The result is a process within which any indirect discrimination can be detected and rectified before it causes Adverse Impact for any particular class of candidate.
Another method of reducing Adverse Impact in a selection process is by focusing specifically on job-relevant competencies. These might be identified as a result of rigorous job analysis based on the job description, or can be more generic competencies specified at the beginning of the hiring process. The result of a specific focus on job-relevant competencies is to judge every candidate on the exact same competencies, regardless of their personal characteristics, thus removing irrelevant stages.
Related to this is the use of standardised interview techniques. Rather than having a more free-flowing personal interview where the interviewer’s personality and individual interests may be a source of unconscious bias, the interview will contain set questions designed to measure aspects of the job-relevant competencies defined at the start of the hiring process. In addition, constant monitoring of any assessors used within the selection process will serve to identify any unconscious bias creeping into any decision making process before it becomes an Adverse Impact. It also informs the focus on ongoing assessor training.
A final way to help reduce Adverse Impact in a hiring process is to make use of a diverse panel of assessors. This serves a myriad of purposes, not least to help reduce any unconscious bias present within any individual assessor. Introducing a wider diversity of thought will also help reduce any naivety that might occur in establishing the selection process.
The pandemic has radically changed the workplace. The way we work has been transformed and there’s been an inevitable surge of technology. For many years, we have discussed the fourth industrial revolution and AI’s impact in the workplace as a disruptive technology. A disruptive technology is when a technology completely transforms an established industry, examples of this include Uber and the smartphone. Machines and algorithms are expected to create 133 million new roles but will replace 75 million positions by 2022, according to the World Economic Forum.
On the platform, you can select the assessments that are relevant to your upskilling programme.Following this, you can simply assign the assessments to hundreds of employees at once.
Discover hidden talent
According to Mercer, 78% of employees say they are ready to reskill. The results of the assessments are not only beneficial to the organisation, but the individual. Each test result shows the employee’s skill level in comparison with the general Cognisess’ population. This experience allows the person and the business to have a better understanding of their abilities.
Additionally, their results may uncover hidden talents they didn’t even know they possessed. This may give them the confidence to thrive throughout the retraining process and move into a role they never expected to succeed in. For example, they may thrive in leadership, which LinkedIn identified this year as an in-demand skill. Discovering and investing in your current talent will also create engaged employees, who are more likely to stay at your organisation long term.
Evaluate the process
It’s important to establish a dialogue with employees before, during and after the upskilling process. A simple method of undertaking this is through our survey tool. It can be stressful for employees to upskill, especially if they are juggling a busy workload, their survey feedback will allow you to adjust the programme so your people can thrive. You could also create a survey so that employees can share what they would like to train in. Not only does this give them a platform to voice their opinions, but also gives HR valuable insight and recommendations for future training.
You can choose from our survey templates or create your own. The tool is simple and user friendly and allows you to send surveys to departments, individuals or the whole organisation instantly.
Upskilling your employees will ensure they’re ready for the future of work so your organisation can thrive. Our award-winning platform is ready to help you undertake this through our assessments and surveys. If you would like to find out more, please book a demo with our expert team today.
We live in a world where more and more companies are shifting their hiring processes online.
To protect candidates and recruiters during this time, many companies are choosing to conduct their interviews virtually. But with so many different platforms, which one is the best for you? Some companies choose a virtual meeting platform such as Zoom, whilst others opt for a video interview tool. In this blog, we will discuss which one is the best solution for your organisation.
Connection problems or pre-recorded answers
When you’re interviewing through a virtual meeting platform, Wi-Fi connection problems may affect the interview. This is frustrating for candidates, and it may affect the quality of their answers. They may be the best candidate for the job, but due to these issues the interviewer can’t properly assess them. Additionally, if the assessor is having connection problems, it can affect the candidate’s interview experience and their perception of the company.
The Cognisess’ virtual video interview tool allows candidates to pre-record their answers. This will enable them to fully communicate their experience and expertise without lagging or breaking up. The assessor can also review their answers multiple times. On some virtual meeting platforms you can record your meeting. However, the quality may be affected if you did have connection problems in the session. Additionally, because it records the full discussion (not individual answers like on Cognisess Pro) you may spend a lot of time trying to find a particular section of the video. This time could be more valuably spent elsewhere.
Extra tools to enhance your recruitment process
Our virtual interviewing tool not only helps you interview candidates efficiently, but also has an optional feature to enhance your decision making.
Our DeepLearnTM Video Analysis tool detects a candidate’s true emotion, instead of what they may like to present to an interview panel. This tool is particularly beneficial for sales positions where first impressions and body language is essential. Our Computer Vision technology can analyse from 27+ points on the face, searching for emotions such as positivity alongside other attributes relevant to the job frame by frame. As a result, a business can identify top talent from their entire applicant pool. This feature is not present on virtual meeting platforms.
How can you reduce bias virtually?
Every one of us carries a degree of unconscious bias. It’s the way our brains make quick judgements about people and situations without us even registering it. This is informed by our personal experiences, stereotypes and cultural context. Ultimately these inherent biases can impact decision-making in the hiring process. This can affect not only face to face interviews, but virtual interviews too.
Being unconsciously biased is an inherent part of being human – even if we try to avoid it or correct ourselves. Once we realise we can be prone to unconscious bias despite our best efforts, we should be turning to AI as a helpful tool to help keep us compliant and open up the recruitment process. Applying our video analysis tool will generate objective data that can support better decision making.
If you choose a video interview tool that also has an inbuilt ATS and assessments like Cognisess Pro, you can conduct the whole recruitment process in one place. No need to remember numerous passwords or open multiple tabs on your computer. This is convenient as you can track the entire candidate journey and review their progress at each stage of the process to make an informed decision.
Virtual meeting platforms and video interview tools will both allow you to interview your candidates. However, video interview tools have added features that can enhance the hiring process by reducing bias, avoid connection problems and allow you to organise your whole recruitment process in one place. All these features can be found on Cognisess Pro. If you would like to explore these features for your virtual hiring process, book a demo with us.
The coronavirus has changed the way we work. But what is the best way to keep your recruitment process moving whilst ensuring you are still hiring the best candidates?
At Cognisess we have spent a number of years building the best virtual recruitment platform possible. In fact, we have recently won an award for it. Below we explore how you can move your recruitment process online whilst also looking after your employees.
All of the tools featured in this blog exist on one platform, Cognisess Pro, which means you can do everything on one programme. There is no need to switch to another software to review a candidate’s results after sending out an employee feedback survey. Cognisess Pro can also be accessed anytime and anywhere, meaning your employees and applicants can access it from home. This allows them to give you feedback or apply for a job wherever they feel most comfortable during this time.
Accurate and Engaging Online Assessments
Perhaps an assessment centre day may not be suitable or possible right now. Moving an assessment centre online has many benefits. It saves money and it can be completed any time or anywhere. This makes it more accessible to candidates who may have not been able to attend in person due to distance or money.
Our award-winning online assessment tool has over 60 scientifically-backed games that are tailored to test the attributes that are important to the role you’re recruiting for. From emotional intelligence to mental arithmetic. Candidates typically find our assessments engaging and interesting, making your application process stand out. You can assign the assessments instantly to as many candidates as you want.
Currently, you may not feel safe meeting potential hires in person. Using an online video interview tool is a great replacement solution. It’s also a popular one too, according to the recruitment company Walters People, 67% of companies are now using video interviews to hire workers.
Finding the right online video tool is important. Our virtual interviewing tool not only helps you interview candidates easily, but also has an optional feature to enhance your decision making.
Our DeepLearnTM Video Analysis tool detects a candidate’s true emotion, instead of what they may like to present to an interview panel. This tool is particularly beneficial for sales positions where first impressions and body language is important. Our Computer Vision technology can analyse from 27+ points on the face, searching for emotions such as positivity alongside other attributes relevant to the job frame by frame. As a result, a business can identify top talent from their entire applicant pool and keep the recruitment process moving.
This is a difficult time for many and some employees may feel disconnected from the company if they are working remotely. Our platform’s not only designed to recruit the best talent, but also support your employees. We have several surveys designed to help you understand your people including:
Employer response to COVID-19. This template is for employees and relates to Covid-19 and working in a different way. Sample questions include: What policies/aspects do you feel have worked during this time? And what level of flexibility is provided by your organisation when it comes to getting work done?
Employee Surveys. Comprehensive employee surveys that deliver a thorough understanding of organisational culture, experience and engagement and links to business performance.
Daily Mood and Sleep. Daily monitoring of an employee’s mood and sleep, with an emphasis on Health and Wellbeing. You will be able to assess how your workforce is generally feeling, which can inform your general strategy moving forward.
Create Strong Teams
The people you work alongside can often affect your happiness or performance. By using our Team Fit tool you can check if each individual is in the right team. This feature collates and maps an individual’s assessment results via a user-friendly graph against the attributes of others in any defined team or group. The data is divided into two disciplines, social cohesion and cognitive fit. If an employee isn’t the right fit for a team, you can put their data into another group to predict if they would get on better in that team.
Having a platform that allows you to recruit and check in with your employees is essential during this time. Book a demo today to explore the tools that will allow your company to thrive.
The recent Black Lives Matter movement has created an awareness of the prominent racial inequality globally. In fact, last year the Guardian reported that black Britons and those of South Asian origin faced shocking discrimination at levels unchanged since the 1960s.
Perhaps your company wants to support this movement by creating a fairer recruitment process. Currently, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) applicants face an uphill battle in the hiring process. Applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds have to send 80% more applications than a white British person before they get a positive response from a company; according to a study by the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. Even if they progress onto an assessment centre or interview stage, black and ethnic minority candidates are 14% more likely to be rejected than white candidates.
But why is this the case?
Humans unconsciously process 11 million pieces of information per second. In order to manage this mass of data, our brains have had to adapt by creating ‘shortcuts’ to help us make decisions. Without this, we would be paralysed into making no decisions or just random ones. This is called cognitive bias. Every one of us carries a degree of unconscious bias and is informed by our previous personal experiences, stereotypes and cultural context.
Although we may not intentionally be applying bias, our brain automatically applies these ‘shortcuts’ to make decisions quickly. For example, Harvard Business School discovered employers aren’t prejudiced against women because of their gender, but because they have the perception that men perform better in certain tasks. Ultimately, these inherent biases can also impact decision-making for BAME candidates in the hiring process.
How can you rectify this?
Unconscious bias is an inherent part of being human. Once we realise we can be prone to unconscious bias, despite our best efforts, we should be turning to AI as a helpful tool to help keep us compliant and open up the recruitment process.
Creating a fairer recruitment process is simpler than you think with an AI-driven recruitment platform such as Cognisess Pro. Our AI can assess and objectively identify the best candidate by purely focusing on skills and abilities. By combining this with blind recruitment you will create an overall fairer process. Information such as age, gender and race is hidden from assessors and is never taken into account for Cognisess assessments. These details may unconsciously influence a hiring decision. This is called ‘blind recruitment’ and focuses purely on the attributes that matter when hiring a candidate, for instance, emotional intelligence, task switching and resilience. This process provides decision-makers with an in-depth understanding of a candidate’s suitability for the role – regardless of background.
Cognisess Pro was recently awarded best AI product in HR by CogX. The platform is data-driven with 50 assessments to choose from measuring over 120 attributes. This range of data has been proven to assist companies like AB InBev and IHG make better informed and fewer bias decisions about recruitment and assessments. For example, hotel giant IHG has recently eliminated potential bias by 93.75% using Cognisess Pro, enabling a fairer and more accurate approach to talent management compared to their more traditional recruitment processes.
We have been recognised as a global leader for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in HR by the CogX 2020 Awards. It celebrates the best emerging technologies in different sectors and industries, the CogX Awards handpicks winners from entrants from around the world.
“We’ve experienced significant global expansion over the past year, both in terms of the number and scale of our clients, as well as the capabilities of our products. So it feels great to be recognised by the world-leading CogX awards, that especially focus on accelerating the ethical and safe adoption of AI.
AI is a rapidly evolving science with enormous potential, and our values are closely aligned with CogX when it comes to the responsible use of AI. Our goal is to democratise human capital and remove any bias from people management – helping businesses to identify, nurture and retain the best talent regardless of ethnicity, gender or social group”
The CogX award is symbolic of the major successes and developments we have experienced over the past year:
A growing relationship with InterContinental Hotels – with 5,656 hotels in nearly 100 countries – where employees will use the Cognisess platform for performance and talent management.
The global roll out of the Cognisess recruitment platform by AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, supporting tens of thousands of candidates to apply for roles at all levels.
Increased use of Yondur, a free careers and talent assessment app for job seekers, students and career movers, into new markets including Australia, Singapore and The Netherlands.
The translation of Cognisess assessments into 11 languages.
Advances in video analytics that read facial micro-expressions, irrespective of culture, to help recruiters make better informed and more accurate recruitment decisions.
The CogX Awards are judged by a panel of tech and global innovation experts from the Office of AI, University of Cambridge, PwC, Sodexo and others. Cognisess is joined on the list of this year’s winners by The Gates Foundation, King’s College, The Alan Turing Institute and the BBC.
The coronavirus is affecting the way we hire. Many HR recruiters are now working remotely and are reaping the benefits of video interviews. In fact, 67% of companies are now using video interviews to hire workers according to the recruitment company, Walters People.
In this blog, we will explore how to successfully conduct a video interview and the differences between face to face and video interviews.
How to set up a video interview
This interview may be a candidate’s first verbal interaction with your company. Here’s how to make a great first impression.
Pick a suitable environment
Select a room which will be quiet and free of disruptions. Once you find a place, look behind you, this is what the candidate will see during the interview, remove anything you wouldn’t want the candidate to see.
Additionally, choose a place in the house where you have a strong internet connection. Lag, video freezes or the call dropping will disrupt the interview.
Test your webcam and microphone
If your webcam isn’t built-in, place it on top of your screen so you’re eye level with the applicant. Most video call providers allow you to test your webcam before a call. In this mode, ensure that you can see your whole face and check if there is light obscuring it.
It’s also important to test the audio. If you wear headphones check if they have a microphone, otherwise the applicant won’t be able to hear you.
Why video interviews are different
This study found that interviewees who have technical difficulties are often perceived poorly by the assessor. This means the best candidates may not get hired due to a bad internet signal. Instead, ask the candidates to record their answers to give everyone a fair chance and eliminate the possibility of a great answer being ruined by the call dropping.
Lack of non-verbal communication
Many interviewers may say they have a good gut instinct. Gut feeling is a great resource, but it is the imperfect and human equivalent of processing lots of data (such as the applicant’s body language and communication) and coming to a conclusion. However, a lot of these decision-making factors disappear in a video interview.
This may seem problematic, but by using technology to enhance your decision making and assist you with these potential ‘blind spots’ will allow you to hire the most suitable candidates.
The solution: Cognisess’ Video Analysis
By using our DeepLearnTM Video Analysis tool our technology will be able to detect a candidate’s true emotion, instead of what they may like to present to an interview panel.
Each candidate records themselves answering several key questions that have been set by the company. Our Computer Vision technology is then able to analyse from 27+ points on the face, searching for emotions such as positivity alongside other attributes relevant to the job frame by frame.
As Cognisess Pro isn’t human, so it has the capacity to be completely objective (read our blog on unconscious bias in humans here). As there isn’t any human involvement in the analysis process, it supports a less bias hiring decision. Our tool isn’t programmed to see race, age or gender – it is purely assessing what an applicant is non-verbally communicating. This becomes a vital tool when companies are pursuing policies of inclusion, diversity and fairness.
A sample of the emotions the tool can identify
Confidence and control. When customers are interacting with your business, they want to talk to someone who is in control of a situation and confident in their abilities. You can now measure this before you hire an applicant.
Positivity. An upbeat employee not only improves morale in the workplace but their positive nature will help them successfully communicate with clients. For example, if a client sees a sales executive who is sincerely positive about a product, they are more likely to buy it.
Expressiveness. Some people make everyone they talk to feel like they are being truly listened to. A high level of expression (within reason) is seen in western cultures as a sign of high levels of engagement in the subject of the conversation.
Resilience and grit. This allows a person to maintain the discipline and optimism to persevere, despite rejection and a lack of noticeable process over a period of time.
As a result, HR professionals can draw conclusions from their expertise and the data presented to them. They can listen to the content of the answer (verbal communication) as well as understanding how candidates are feeling (non-verbal communication).
Technology can help us navigate through the rapidly changing world of work. Using our video analysis tool will allow you to hire confidently and remotely. Knowing that you’ve given every candidate a fair chance, whilst finding the best fit for your company. Book a free demo today to explore how you can enhance your video interview process.
All around the globe the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away lives and jobs, damaged industries and enterprises, and turned the unimaginable into the usual. A return to normal, whenever it comes, will be a different normal. What we do right now will define the future, and yet making decisions and acting with assurance has never been more challenging.
Communication is key
Be aware that what leaders think they’re communicating isn’t always being perceived the way they intend. Research shows that 74% of executives say they are currently helping their employees learn to work in new ways, yet only a third of surveyed employees said the same: a 36-point gap. Moving forward, feedback loops need to be built into all interactions with employees.
Creating a feedback loop
Sustaining communication, collaboration, capabilities and culture in a virtual operating model is now the work of HR leaders. How are they shifting to a full “work-from-home” model that keeps the workforce engaged and productive, setting up virtual agents, keeping track of essential workers in the midst of a crisis, and standing up a robust online learning platform, all while simultaneously planning for re-entry and an unknown new normal?
In response to this, we have created survey templates so you can create this feedback loop. Example templates include quality of life, coping in a new world, leadership check in and working as a team. Alongside these sets of questions, you can add your own, allowing you to ask the questions that are valuable to your organisation.
Smarter workforce planning
This rapid change means it’s now time to plan accordingly:
• Strategy and company policies that support remote anddistributed work, with specific guidelines and rules in place.
• A culture that applies the underlying principles of agility across all aspects of the business, enabled by strong digitalcommunication methods, tools, and ways of working.
• An accelerated online, personalised skills and developmentstrategy for employees to adapt to new needs and reshaped business. This can be successfully executed on our online platform, Cognisess Pro – find out more here.
• A renewed vision of talent sourcing, and how work gets done in a remote environment where all resources are now equidistant and accessible digitally. For example, job sharing, crowd-sourcing and distributed talent sourcing
The future is here. By planning and adapting with the current climate you can ensure your employees feel supported during these are uncertain times. Our expert team can assist you with this. Contact us today to discuss how our platform can be your solution.
The coronavirus outbreak has transformed the way we work. More employees than ever are working remotely. For some, it may be another challenge to navigate alongside the outbreak. In this blog, we will explore how to stay productive outside the office environment.
Get a consistently good night’s sleep
A good night’s sleep is key to a productive day. This study found that U.S workers who sleep less compared to the rest of the workforce have “significantly worse productivity, performance, and safety outcomes”. They also estimated a $1,967 loss in productivity for each employee from their lack of sleep. However, if you are feeling particularly stressed about the lockdown it can be hard to fall asleep. This becomes a vicious cycle of needing sleep but not sleeping, causing you to become more tired and stressed. This limits how productive you can be throughout the working day.
Creating a bedtime routine will help you sleep better. This includes avoiding electronic devices an hour before bed to meditate or read a book instead. The NHS website also advises keeping your bedroom as a place to only sleep in, as there is “a strong association in people’s minds between sleep and the bedroom.”. If you are working in your room, move your desk to a different space to create the ideal environment to sleep in.
Work with the right people
Perhaps you are a manager trying to not only manage your productivity, but your team’s too. It can be hard to feel united as a team when you are not in the same room. Team composition can greatly impact on performance. A Bandran Hall Group survey reported that 72% of all organisations viewed team performance as having a positive effect on overall productivity. Cognisess Team Fit can support managers with the evaluation of their teams. For instance, if a sales manager notices one of her teams are not working well together she can use Team Fit from the comfort of her own home to diagnose the imbalance and apply an informed solution.
Team Fit is a tool to help organisations create diverse and high performing teams. Learn more about Team Fit here. If the right people are working together you can ensure that they will be productive without a manager constantly checking in on their progress.
Based on our analysis of self-reports from employees, teams that have gone through a guided Cognisess Team Fit exercise tend to communicate in a better and more constructive way.
Take a break
Research conducted by the Draugiem Group found the employees who where the most productive didn’t work longer hours. They took regular breaks, for every 52 minutes they spent working they took a 17-minute break. These breaks were usually taken away from the computer, for instance, taking a walk, reading a book or talking to coworkers (not about work).
This schedule can easily be performed at home. Taking regular breaks may make you feel more relaxed and in a positive frame of mind to tackle any tricky tasks.
Although we are in the middle of a pandemic, working remotely doesn’t need to be a challenge. By getting enough sleep, working with the right people and establishing a routine where you take regular breaks will ensure that you are reaching your full potential. If you would like to discuss how our platform and expert team can help you during this challenging time, please contact us.
Monica Durigon explores how we can combat stressful thoughts. She is a qualified nutritional therapist and member of BANT (British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine). You can view the original post here.
I have written on the topic of immunity before. Still, I feel compelled to do it again as the current Corona Virus infection has reached pandemic proportion, and new research and data are emerging daily.
We receive constant updates on vaccines developments, the number of infections and deaths, government debates about the best strategies for containment and endless reminders of the symptoms and actions to take to prevent and cope with the virus.
We are constantly reminded that the most effective way to avoid infections is by washing our hands with soap ( often and thoroughly), avoid touching our face ( where the virus can gain access to our mucosal cavities and enter our body ) and social distancing and isolation. This is valid and standard advice applicable to any viral and bacterial infections.
How can we support our natural immunity?
What has been mostly missing from big media is information on how we can support our natural immunity. There is no cure for this virus; however, we can influence the way our immune system responds to it and as a result, possibly alleviate its presenting symptoms and support a quicker recovery.
The constant bombardment from the media with the statistic of infections and death, criticisms to the government interventions, stories about European isolation and discrimination, doomed opinions from experts and far too many non-experts … pointless polemics …are enough to drive a sense of worrying and anxiety even in the most relaxed and zen-minded of us.
We all understand from a logical perspective that, worrying does not change the situation…and, in this current situation, worrying is not only pointless but plainly counter-productive for our health because of its effects at the biological level.
There is a whole relative new science, psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) which studies the complex communication between the brain and the immune system and their implications for health.
However, there has been minimal discussion about the effects that stress, fear and anxiety can have on the immune system. The psychological stress that many amongst us are experiencing at the moment induces the same release of chemicals in our body that other type of stressors would.
Negative thoughts and worries about what has happened and what might happen in the future produce a physical change in the body. I recond that it is essential to be aware of this, to understand how this happens and to adopt behaviours which can modify these adverse biological outcomes.
In straightforward terms:
1) You worry- feel stressed, anxious, powerless, fearful …
2) In response, your brain releases the hormones CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), ACTH ( adrenocorticotropin hormone ) and ß-endorphin
3) These hormones travel to your adrenal glands and initiate the release of cortisol and catecholamines ( adrenaline and noradrenaline).
This “communication route”, called the HPA axis ( Hypothalamus- pituitary-adrenal axis ), produces the “fight or flight” response.
How the cascade of hormones involved in this axis can affect the immune response
Cortisol and the catecholamines can directly suppress the actions of some immune cells, ( T lymphocytes and macrophages) which produce and release cytokines ( chemical messengers ) such as interleukin -2, interferon-Y, interleukin 12( and many more). These molecules are pro-inflammatory, and some of them pyrogenic ( which means they induce a fever) and are needed to fight viruses. Elevated levels of cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenalin, suppress the production of these pro-inflammatory cytokines and the immune responses to viruses are compromised.
What can you do to decrease your worrying thoughts and maintain a calm and rational mindset in the current situation?
To help you stay calm and rational in this current situation, consider including in your daily routines, some rituals or activities which enable your nervous system to have a break and reset. Yoga, breathing exercises and medication are effective and proven methods to recalibrate your stress response. I use an online platform called Gaia https://www.gaia.com to practice yoga at home, and I find the following apps helpful to maintain my meditation practice: Headspace https://www.headspace.com and Insight Timer https://insighttimer.com.
A simple exercise such as deep belly breathing for few minutes can reduce your stress response and bring you back into a parasympathetic response (the rest and digest mode of the nervous system vs the fight or flight mode).
You can use these tools whenever you need to check out of your head during the day, but I also recommend that you make them part of your day in a more structured way. Add them to your routines, perhaps the easiest way to have them to follow a well-established habit such as brushing your teeth in the am and pm. All you need is a few minutes per day to reap some benefits.
Another tool that I found extremely helpful in keeping in the zen area is a daily gratitude practice. I would recommend that in the evening you close your day by listing a few events, small gestures, acts of kindness that happened in your day. Gratitude is the mother of all good feelings, and God knows we need them now, and we need to remind our self of the kindness and beauty that is still present in our life.
What supplements can we take?
From a nutrients point of view, I found that L-theanine is a helpful supplement to relax. If taken in the evening to facilitate relaxation before going to beds, L-theanine and lemon balm combined are even more useful. L-theanine is an amino acid that is found in high concentration in green tea and can modulate inhibitory neurotransmitters, selective serotonin, and dopamine (your happy and calming hormones) to bring about anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) and calming effects. L-theanine can also improve cognition and attention, perhaps due to changes in alpha brain wave activity. Research shows that an effective dosage is between 200 to 400mg per day.
Another nutrient which might be used to decrease anxiety is magnesium. Research has demonstrated that magnesium attenuates the psychological response to stress by modulating the release of ACTH ( in the brain) and cortisol ( from the adrenal glands). It has a relaxing effect on the musculoskeletal system as well and improves cardiovascular function by reducing high blood pressure which goes hand in hand with anxiety and elevated stress. 5,6,7
You can add some powdered magnesium to a cup of well-stewed chamomile tea for even more calming and soothing feelings. Avoid magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate formulas as they are less bioavailable. Choose a bisglycinate or mixed formula. I use a variety of magnesium supplements ( not at the same time ): High Potency Magnesium by Viridian ( 1 x day ); MAG365, natural flavouring formula ( 1 heaped teaspoon mixed in hot water or chamomile) or a complete formula called MegaMag Calmeze which includes amino acids ( L glutamine, L theanine and L taurine ), vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6and vitamin C, nutrients which have been proved to help modulating the stress response. Be aware that if you have impaired kidneys function, you should not take more than 350mg of magnesium per day.
From a general nutritional perspective maintaining balanced blood sugar levels is essential for having stable moods. Constant spikes and drops of glucose in the blood due to a diet rich in refined carbohydrates ( and perhaps also under-optimal in terms of proteins, fats and essential nutrients) lead to irritability, cravings, dips in energy and initiate a stress response.
Adrenaline and cortisol are some of the hormones that help maintain blood sugar levels. They, along with glucagon are called “stress” or “gluco-counter-regulatory” hormones – which means they make the blood sugar rise. Elevated cortisol secretions, as previously explained, will interfere with the immune response and long term high amount of glucose in the blood leads to insulin resistance, the step which precedes the development of diabetes type 2.
Finally, I just wanted to conclude this blog by offering you a song which I find soothing and deeply relaxing for the body and the mind. I first heard it in one of my yoga classes a month ago, and it has become my regular soundtrack while I get ready to go to sleep. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.