Insights: The Mindful High Performer – Notes from the Book

11th June 2023

Posted in: Insights

Chelsea Pottenger tells the story of how she went from a high achiever, higher performer and high stress executive to the lowest of lows and what she has learned in terms of recharging mental health, preventing burnout and performing at your best both at work and at home.

As someone who considers myself a higher performer, perhaps even over achiever it was a useful reminder to help me stay at my peak.


So what is a high performer?

Someone who cares about reaching potential.

But being a high performer doesn’t mean you are protected more than any others when it comes to mental health


Like a car your mental health needs to be maintained and serviced and this book is a reminder that we all have the capacity to strengthen resilience as well as mental and physical strength any time we want.


Step 1.  Be aware of how you are currently feeling?

Tip: Keep a diary and ask questions see a doctor if you aren’t 100%

Action plan

  • blood test
  • hormone check
  • assess gut health
  • therapist if you need it

Moderate your triggers (common triggers include)

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Social media
  • News
  • Emails
  • Toxic people

Prioritise sleep

  • Swap TV for book (especially at night)
  • Leave phone outside bedroom
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Eye mask and ear plugs
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol

Nourish body

  • Drink 2l water
  • Spend 10-20 mins in sun
  • Priobiotics
  • Limit processed foods
  • Long bath with epsom salts

Move your body

Acknowledge emotions

  • journalling
  • music
  • meditation
  • cry or be angry
  • Write a letter (you don’t have to send it)

Self care

  • massage or facial
  • read a book
  • garden
  • movie or play

Connect with friends or family

  • hug
  • Compliment
  • Walk with a friend
  • Look at photos

Connect with self

  • set intentions
  • Gratitude journal



Your mind

-You brain has 3 areas

  • Primal brain- basal ganglia or reptilian brain- regulates temperature, releases hormones and helps us survive.
  • Emotional brain- limbic system or paleomammalian brain – feel fear, love and pleasure.
  • Rational brain- neocortex and neomammilian brain- critical thinking, rational response and behave productively.


Neuroplasticity– making of new synaptic connections.

As we age we let go of old info to make room for new stuff.

Stress can decrease cognitive function, impact memory and atrophy brain.


Self efficacy– judgement about ourselves and our ability to perform well in a certain area. What we believe we can and can’t do.

  • People with high- approach things as challenges to be mastered.
  • People with low efficacy tend to avoid challenges and take fewer risks.

Building self efficacy:

  • Personal attainment- success breeds success.
  • Social modelling- find others with similar skills who have achieved
  • Verbal persuasion- hearing positive info from someone you admire
  • Emotional state- mood


Growth mindset v fixed mindset

Some people are excited by challenge whereas others shut down, and stop trying when they hit a setback.


Victims v survivors

  • Why doesn’t anyone help me, can’t help themselves, don’t have control of fate, success is for lucky people
  • How can I help myself, hard work can over come everything, will make mistakes but will persevere, learn from peers don’t feel threatened.

Doesn’t mean toxic positivity but does mean approaching setbacks with open mindset and growing resilience.


Reframing– intentionally shift your mindset to gratitude, growth and resilience.

Focus on progress and process

  • Progress reward system refers to things we are grateful for Eg family. Expressing gratitude releases serotonin and oxytocin
  • Process reward system – pursuing a goal and celebrating efforts – releases dopamine


The power of get– change the words have to.  To get to….

The power of yet– add yet to things you can’t do. And identify ways you can overcome the challenge


Is this helpful or harmful?

Question each of your thought, behaviours and mindsets. This puts you in control and more aware of how you are feeling.




Your purpose 

The things that are important in the way you live, work and show up in this world.


Strengths and Talents


Boundaries – learn to say no sometimes

Tips for saying no

  • Thanks for thinking of me but…
  • Share what’s already on your plate
  • Explain its not no forever
  • Reframe your perspective- I’m making space for me time
  • Role play saying no with a friend


Your goals 

  • Smart
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

Determine how you want to feel and let it become your theme for the year

Overcome limiting beliefs

Set smart goals in all 7 areas of life (health/wellbeing, relationships/family, finance, community, education, fun, purpose).

Create new habits and reward progress

  • Build in short term rewards Eg massage after 3 days of running
  • Pre commit and find an accountability partner
  • Finding your why – intrinsic motivation
  • Visualising your goals- process and outcome
  • Vision board


Morning Routine

  • identify which parts are helpful or harmful Eg phones
  • Include gratitude in your routine
  • Set your intention
  • Brush your teeth with your non dominant hand – increases mindfulness
  • Hydrate-
  • Take a gut probiotic.
  • Get some sun
  • Cold shower
  • Meditation
  • Exercise/ breathe
  • Focus on your goals
  • Breakfast


Movement and energy


  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Prevent diseases
  • Enhance cognition
  • Strong bones/ joints
  • Improve mobility

Suggested options

  • Stand up desk
  • Take a break every 90 minutes
  • Walking meetings
  • Walk while on the phone
  • Use stairs
  • Activity tracker


1 Start with incidental exercise

2 Find something you enjoy doing

3. Get added benefit of nature – outdoors

4. Schedule in your calendar

5 Factor in rest and recovery

6 Challenge yourself

7 Set smart goals

8 Plan ahead

9 Get a workout buddy

10 Don’t get hung up on weight

11 Articulate your why

12 Dress for success- good shoes



Your sleep

Sleep cycles

  1. Drifting off to sleep – beta waves are being replaced with alpha waves. Easy to rouse but starting to relax
  2. Theta wavelengths but interrupted by high frequency sleep spindles. Brain processing and filing memories from the day,
  3. Deep sleep of delta wavelengths- prefrontal cortex lights up and sleep spindles are less- hard to wake up
  4. More delta wavelengths, relaxed body and parasymthethic nervous system slowing everything down.
  5. REM- need 1.5 hours per night- dreaming. Consolidating memories and making synaptic connections

Sleep deprivation reduces brains operating capacity.

Caffeine, alcohol and screens are culprits of bad sleep


Your Mindfullness

Meditation 101

1 Find a time

2 Find a vibe

3 Find an app or voice

4 Take a seat

5 Relax your pose

6 Expect your mind to wander


Use meditation as a transition



  • controlled breathing activates parasympathetic nervous system which creates calm

Box breathing- 4 secs at time – in nose, hold, out mouth, hold, repeat

Psychological sigh breathing- reduce anxiety and stress – Two in through nose ( first deep and extended) and e responded loud out breath through mouth


Tackling anxious thoughts

Ask questions

  1. Is it realistic?
  2. Is it happening now?
  3. Is it within my control?
  4. Will it matter in ten years?

9 out of 10 won’t answer yes to all


Hobbies that create mindfulness Eg puzzles, colouring, knitting, puzzles

Mindful eating – without distraction, take note of colour, texture, aroma and taste. Thank your body and brain by giving it nourishing food.



Each day think, say or write

  • Someone you are grateful for
  • An opportunity you’re grateful for
  • Aspect of health your grateful for

Self compassion

  • Be kind to self
  • Compassion meditation
  • Random acts of kindness

De clutter your home/ space, helps de clutter mind

Digital detox-


Gut health

Micro biome- regulates mood, immunity, cognition, inflammation and appetite

100 trillion gut bugs


  • Eat 30 different plants in a week
  • Brain foods include – avocado, eggs, blueberries, broccoli, dark choc, green leafy veg, nuts, pumpkin seeds, salmon, turmeric, water.
  • Eat good fats
  • Cut back on processed sugar
  • Alcohol kills gut bacteria
  • Probiotics and prebiotic come from foods not just capsules
  • Intermittent fasting increases telomeres in brain- 16 hours


Your connections

Connecting with self

  • Self esteem and not taking personally
  • Criticism actually helps you grow as a person
  • People are allowed to disagree with you
  • Tour vale’s and beliefs are not objective truths
  • Just because your not invited to everything doesn’t mean you are not loved and adored
  • Your value is not determined by the people you don’t match with
  • There is more to you than the part that was rejected by someone else
  • Try to reframe so not always apologising.
  • Wary of empathetic overload

Connecting with others

  •  social network audit – who do spend most time with and are they good for you?
  • Celebrate wins as well as support through the tough


Connecting with colleagues

  • Build rapport
  • Establish boundaries
  • Acknowledge and celebrate wins
  • Resolve conflict diplomatically
  • Don’t be the workplace therapist


Beware the energy vampire!

Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to relationships that no longer serve you – they can be for a reason, a season or a lifetime. And that’s ok


Shield yourself technique-   Visualise an enveloping white light around your body. Think that light shield you from negativity and discomfort but allows positivity to filter in.


Connect with nature- 

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers blood pressure and stress
  • Improves mood
  • Increases focus and energy
  • Improves empathy
  • Improves sleep

Grounding technique – bare feet to earth


Your productivity

Boosting creativity and motivation

  • Expose yourself to diversity of ideas
  • Detox from technology
  • Find a mentor

Restructuring your day for productivity

  • Start the week with a plan  – priorities and how to breakdown each day and prioritise
  • Complete most important task first thing
  • Celebrate when you hit your goals.
  • Work in 90 minute cycles

Overcome procrastination

  • Ask the one key question – do the most important task first
  • Pre commit – public declaration
  • Accountability partner
  • Get a good why
  • Make a list and break it down
  • Reward yourself along the way
  • Minimise distractions
  • Minimise multi tasking
  • Take a break
  • Practise mindfulness

Multi tasking increases stress and anxiety.

Takes 23 minutes and 15 secs to get back into flow when we are distracted


Tips to reduce distractions:

  • Take a break
  • Traffic light system
  • Turn off notification
  • Make a list – so you don’t forget
  • Minimise tabs on computer
  • Schedule time for yourself



  • Schedule time for checking email
  • One touch rule – do it, delete it, delegate it
  • Keep emails short
  • Should I just pick up the phone instead of emailing
  • Check who needs to be cc’d
  • Keep the heading relevant and show importance
  • Keep personal emails separate
  • Answer emails in batches
  • Inbox 0 should be a requirement not a goal
  • Unsubscribe and mark as spam



  • Set time limit
  • Who needs to be there
  • What is on agenda and what shouldn’t be
  • What questions should be prepared in advance for pre prep
  • Clear etiquette expectations
  • What are we trying to acheive
  • Circulate a clear agenda
  • If meeting gets off track- end and reschedule



Chronic stress impacts on

  • Memory
  • Cognitive function
  • Immune system
  • Gastro function
  • Cardio health
  • Immunity


Tips for dealing with Stress

  • Don’t talk over your stress in head as that makes it much longer than if you move on- 90 secs
  • Label your response – acknowledge, accept and digest feel it only for 90 secs
  • Deep breathing
  • Journal
  • Gratitude
  • Walk in nature
  • Focus on senses over morning tea/ coffee
  • Meditation
  • Remove or change cues
  • Treat worry as just a passing visitor
  • Don’t identify with worry – not your personality, just a state
  • Adopt a helicopter perspective- self distance
  • Picture your best self
  • Try cognitive behavioural therapy



  •  Set clear boundaries
  • Don’t overbook yourself
  • Eat well
  • Deep breathing
  • Plan regular breaks
  • Serene work environment
  • Surround workstation with photos of nature
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Walk outside
  • Playlist that gives you energy
  • Meditation and gratitude
  • Grounding technique or visualisation


Your support

What to look for to know if there may be something more serious:

Words- moody, unable to switch off, feeling like a burden, lonely, lacking self esteem

Actions – withdrawing, starting confrontations, isolating, appearance dropping, sleep changing, sedentary, manic exercise

Situations- relationship issues, health issues, work stress, loss, financial problems


Author: Donna Bruce