There is a continuous digital inter-activity these days, that, if left to spiral uncontrollably, affects our ability to process what is going on around us, make decisions and react proportionately. At the heart of the problem are the chemical reactions our body naturally makes to a digital stimulus versus face-to-face, human interaction; the former often leads to ill mental health and the latter very much positive.
In some of us, a ping from our mobile can trigger an increased alert stimulus because, that ping might represent an unwelcome complaint, or perhaps some bad news regarding the economy, or it may signify that someone has left a potentially negative comment on a business review page. As such, as this potentially involves an increased risk to your business and its reputation, your body raises stress levels with the release of 40 or more hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. This instant, uncontrolled reaction can occur even in a lesson, say if your phone is in the glove box, but you forgot to put it on silent. The consequence is that without really giving this seemingly trivial event any conscious thought, your body has already started to increase stress levels with all the knock-on effects that bring. One reaction that can occur is the release of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) which if allowed to act, can reduce the levels of cortisol and offer the body a chance to respond proportionately to the trigger. If this opportunity is squandered though, then the cortisol levels are given free reign and stress continues to build. There can be a lag of some hours between an initial trigger, the recognition of no real threat and a corresponding reduction in stress hormones. All of this is going on inside your body, while you are busy attempting to provide driving training.
One of the unique aspects of our job as driving instructors is the fact that we are also susceptible to stress triggers when we feel our safety is put at risk from the actions of our pupils at any time, or indeed other road users. When we sense these triggers our pre-frontal cortex of the brain that normally provides focus, logic, and planning (all very handy cognitive skills to adopt on a driving lesson) is instantly bombarded with this seemingly more urgent need to choose to fight, flight or freeze. It is very unhealthy because contrary to popular belief, this multi-tasking that is needed increases cortisol and adrenaline. So, the anticipation of an increased risk ahead, followed by your choice of verbals, the potential use of the dual controls or even leaning over to control the steering wheel, might on the face of it, make you very pleased with your ability to muti-task, but all of this comes at a cost – your stress levels.
When you also consider that all of us crave social acceptance, another basic human instinct, and one of the key ways we currently choose to measure that acceptance is the collection of “likes” then a phone ping might also trigger off a pulse of the pleasure hormone, dopamine as we interpret this a reward. Now, this particular aspect need not be business connected but it could be. You may regularly post on a Facebook page for driving instructors and crave to be “liked”. Your business might receive interactions from customers on social media platforms. Just in the way that these irregular dopamine hits affect us in the personal interactions we have on social media, their addictive notifications also can lead to a sense of satisfaction of increased ‘authority’ by your peers. Therefore, just in the way that dopamine results from the use of amphetamines, cocaine, nicotine and alcohol and this can often lead to addiction, so it is the case with our digital interactions. All of this was brought on by one simple ping of your phone during a driving lesson.
Our body is reacting in a very unnatural way by being in this constant state of alertness, attempting to anticipate and manage perceived risk or reward, immediately. We weren’t built to behave in this way, it is not natural. The system that puts us on an increased alert state was originally designed to manage life-threatening situations. It isn’t designed to trigger when we feel this need to tirelessly compare ourselves to others or worry that we might be missing out on something. These days, we are constantly on edge. So strong is the fear of missing out for some of us, the last thing in the day that we look at before sleeping is our phone and the first thing when we wake from sleep.
This is why the BIG TOM franchise is so beneficial to your mental health when you run your own driving school within our franchise. You do not have to concern yourself with being constantly, immediately available to customer enquiries. In fact, all interaction with customers is handled by BIG TOM Admin. Your bookings are arranged on your behalf, and your invoices and customer payments are collected automatically. Any resources sent to customers are done without you lifting a finger. It really is the gold standard of franchisee care. You do not need to worry about any digital interruptions. Test bookings are done for you. Customer surveys are conducted on your behalf. Initial enquiries for courses in your area are handled without you even knowing it. As you would expect from a responsible franchisor, all of these actions are fully transparent and available for you to track if desired.
We value positive mental health, and we have worked very hard to create work practices and systems that are conducive to stress-free working. This means that you can turn off any alerts or notifications, and rest assured that your administration is being handled expertly without your involvement. This provides you with uninterrupted time to do the more stress-free activities of a slower pace of life, like calm breathing, meditation, light exercise, and being outside – all the things that do not involve digital interruptions.