How Your Brain Works at Work: Part 3 The Limbic System

Wellbeing, Health and Safety: How Your Brain Works at Work – Part 3, The Limbic System

In Part 2 we discussed the importance of saving mental activity for important tasks by avoiding other high energy consuming conscious activities such as emails – e.g. do the important tasks first, when you’re at your best.

Here in Part 3, you will learn about the Limbic System what happens when you become over or under stimulated – in other words, stressed or bored.


The Limbic System

* It’s very skittish
* Drives your behaviour – quite unconsciously
* Constantly on the lookout for potential threats
* Makes decisions every moment about how you interact with the world
* It puts you in a toward state or an away state
* Physiologically, in the past, hunter gatherers, those with the best threat system lived the longest
* The limbic system gets over-aroused and decision-making capabilities go out the window
* Peak mental performance requires just the right level of stress – not minimal stress
* Peak mental performance occurs when you have intermediate levels of 2 important neurotransmitters – norepinephrine and dopamine – they relate to alertness and interest


Actions you can take to get the most out of your brain


* Be aware of whether you thrive on the pressure of a deadline, or crumble under the stress. Whether you love getting a project done early, or find it boring
* Take breaks! That mid-afternoon banana, juice or tea increases your glucose levels and helps your mind get back on task
* If you’ve got a difficult task, clear your mind of internal distractions before you start
* Remove all external distractions completely when you need to focus – sometimes it’s best to support someone in working from home as there are less distractions than in the office
* Talk a walk when you’re stressed – it activates a different area of the brain
* Even tying your shoelace or getting a cup of tea gives your limbic system a chance to settle down


If you’d like to chat about anything I’ve mentioned here, or to provide psychology or neuroscience training to your people, drop me a line at and I’ll get back to you!


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