Monday, November 24, 2014

Inside a Nervous Breakdown

This post appeared in U.S. News & World Report on November 14, 2014.

Full article can be accessed here -
written by Amir Khan 

It’s another late night at the office – you’re going on 60 hours this week. You’re working on a project you know your boss is going to throw right back into your face. You finally make it home, only to pass out on the couch, wake up and repeat your own hellish version of "Groundhog’s Day." And somewhere between all the meetings, revisions and stress, you snap.

It’s called a nervous breakdown, and though it’s not an officially recognized diagnosis, clinical psychologist Denee Jordan says it’s a perfect descriptor of what the body goes through.​ “It’s similar to running a car without stopping or taking care of it until it just breaks. Our system shuts down due to the mounting stress,” says Jordan, director of mental health services for the Exceptional Children’s Foundation, an organization that helps children and adults with emotional or developmental issues.

Stress has become such a part of our lives that we often think it’s normal to feel that way, Jordan adds, and it keeps building until we can’t take it anymore. “We’re bombarded with impossible expectations,” she says. “We’re encouraged to be​ burnt out. The employee that works 17 hours a day is the one who gets the employee of the month award, but then feels ashamed when he can no longer keep up the pace.”

Recognizing the Warning Signs
Nervous breakdowns don’t sneak up on you, unless you let them. There are warning signs and symptoms that you’re pushing your body too far, says Jonathan Jackson​, director of the Center for Psychological Services and Field ​​Training at Adelphi University in New York. “It means quite a number of different things to different people, but there are some common experiences that we can identify,” he says.

Some people show symptoms that can seem like the symptoms of a severe mental illness, Jackson says. “They can experience an inability to distinguish what is real from what is imagined, including delusions and hallucinations,” he says. “These symptoms can be so disruptive that the person who is suffering them is unable to perform ordinary activities. It's pretty easy to identify people who are in the midst of this sort of breakdown, because they can't manage their distress, so they can't hide it.”

others, it’s much more subtle. “It could be a depression that takes hold slowly at first, and builds to the point that the person has lost interest in life, feels hopeless and has no energy to perform ordinary activities,” Jackson says. “This presentation is not as easy to identify because it comes on slowly and because people who are suffering this way often hide or deny it.” 

When you deny how much stress you’re under and let it build, the symptoms can get worse, Jordan says. “The more stress we encounter, the higher our baseline gets,” she says. “We begin to tolerate more and more stress in our lives, and it just spirals from there.”

Find the rest of the article here -

Monday, October 27, 2014

Reducing Hierarchy for More Innovation

by Katherine Lewis 

Leaders who want their workforces to innovate must give up the notion that they can predict or control the outcome.

The secret to business innovation and sustainable social entrepreneurship lies in complexity science, according to Jeffrey Goldstein, Ph.D., a professor at the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business. One of the most important ideas of the field is emergence: when new unexpected patterns arise in a complex system. “Social entrepreneurship is the emergence of a new kind of structure” and a new kind of business strategy, explains Dr. Goldstein, who, with Adelphi colleagues James Hazy, Ed.D., and Joyce Silberstang, Ph.D., organized a social entrepreneurship conference and wrote papers and a book about the resultant discussions.


According to complexity theory, emergence relies on the combination and recombination of different elements, with an unpredictable result. Since you can’t control the outcome, you can only try to create appropriate conditions that aim to create an organization or community that is adaptable, no matter what the path forward turns out to be.

“When you think about social entrepreneurship, it’s different social groups coming together,” whether bankers, business leaders, investors, non-governmental organizations and government, Dr. Goldstein says. “It’s a complex interrelationship of subsystems at different levels of the hierarchy…People who have business knowledge, people who have knowledge of the local conditions. You’re going to have people with all different skills.”

Similarly, leaders who want their workforces to innovate must give up the notion that they can predict or control the outcome, and instead focus on two simple goals: (1) creating conditions that encourage social interactions where new ideas are combined and recombined; and (2) building an adaptable organization. That means encouraging the exchange of information across the company and across levels of hierarchy, and social networks that will facilitate open communication.

“The people on the factory floor: they’re the ones that have the new ideas,” says Dr. Goldstein, who with Dr. Hazy has conducted relevant business case studies. “We want organizations to learn from each other and then turn around and do what they need to do” in their own organizations and communities, says Dr. Goldstein, adding, “Get the engineers in with sales people, finance people.”

This piece appeared in the Erudition 2014 edition.