Seventy-seven percent of Americans are reporting that they’re burnt out. And 95% of our workforce is saying they’re considering a new job. Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away from the major source of stress for American adults and it is escalating. Increased levels of job stress as assessed by the perception of having little control but lots of demands have been demonstrated to be associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders. Stress causes fatigue, burnout, depression, irritableness, insomnia, stroke, and even early death.
It’s no secret that times are tough right now on our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Many are wondering, ‘how much longer can I go like this?’. While this is clearly a huge opportunity for us collectively, it’s an even bigger opportunity for us individually. When you can become the inner leader of your sense of alignment, purpose, energy, and wellbeing, you’ve reached a new level of mastery in this game of life. Enter: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the intentional act of curiously investigating the present moment. There’s no judgment or pain when you’re being mindful. You’re simply being more aware by observing what’s happening instead of being swept away by it. When you’re mindful, you’re not thinking about what didn’t get done yesterday or how much you need to complete for tomorrow; you’re just focusing on this present moment and are deeply tuned in to all that it has to offer.
Health-care company Aetna conducted a study with Duke to determine the return on investment of its mindfulness programming. Aetna figures that the productivity gains alone amounted to $3,000 per employee, an eleven-to-one return on its investment. In short, there is an incredible return on investment both personally and collectively as a team when mindfulness is taken seriously at work.
Here are four ways you can start to eliminate burnout and ignite balance in your everyday work life through simple mindfulness practices.
- Give yourself permission to be human.
To give permission to be human is to have radical compassion to exist as you are, not who or where you want to be. When we mess up, we have to forgive ourselves. When we do well we have to believe we’re worth celebrating. And when we are going through the daily stressors of life, we have to have grace for how complex and difficult it can be to be a human. Meet yourself where you are, giving yourself full permission to be human and get help from someone who embodies the type of calm you want in your own life. I developed a “Permission to Be Human Pledge” to remind myself of this opportunity each day:
I promise to honor what makes me perfectly imperfect.
I promise to meet myself where I am, not where I want to be.
I promise to suspend judgment and ignite compassion.
I promise to set healthy boundaries to protect my energy.
I promise to prioritize my well-being by embodying my values.
And in doing so, I promise to give myself and others permission to be human.
- Start meetings with intention.
Consider setting intentions for your meetings so you can pause to ground in the present moment instead of rushing non-stop from one to the next. Take 30 seconds to 1 minute. Close your eyes and take deep breaths while reminding yourself of why this meeting matters and what you intend to feel as a result of it. For example, “This meeting matters because it’s a chance for me to get on the same page with my team members after being away on vacation. I will feel reconnected and rejuvenated as a result.” Allow those feelings that you intend to create to wash over you as if they already happened. Then use that intention to get clear on when you’re on or off track during the meeting itself.
- Use mantras.
Mantras are words or short phrases said (silently or out loud) repeatedly to help you focus. Mantra means mind technique. The mantra “Just this” is a wonderful tool to help you close down the multitasking and focus on just what you have in front of you. Just this meeting. Just this email. Just this conversation.What might be possible in your life if you focused on just this?
- Spend time in nature.
As humans, we are an expression of nature. Being one with nature is innate to us, yet many of us have become completely disconnected from that truth—especially when we live in places like bustling cities that don’t have a lot of accessible nature nearby. Perhaps you’d consider an outdoor walking meeting instead of the usual office space? Or maybe you can take your lunch to a park and eat there by yourself or with others—it’s always your choice how you use your breaks.
I have a really fun if-then policy. If a meeting gets canceled, then I go spend time in nature. Because I live in the city, that is usually a walk to my nearby park and back. While I’m there, I make a point to admire the trees and critters running around, take in the fresh air, and sometimes even take my shoes off and plant my feet in the earth for some grounding. So if an hourlong meeting gets canceled, I take a fifteen-minute walk in nature and still have forty-five more minutes to get back to work with greater clarity and focus after connecting with the wisdom of Mother Nature.
- Take a technology detox.
We must disconnect from technology to reconnect to our humanity. Truly. We’re not built to be staring at computer screens for extended periods of time. We’re not built to be on Zoom all day long or scrolling on social media for hours on end, comparing ourselves to others. We must draw a hard line in the sand to determine what we need as individuals to be well and not consumed by technology. Perhaps you want to find a quitting time each day, where tech is off at 5:30 p.m., no exceptions! And especially not work emails when they are truly not an emergency. Or maybe you don’t start to look at your phone until after you’ve been awake and taken care of your own needs for an hour. Maybe you’d want to take it a step further and take retreats or vacations where you commit to divorcing from your tech while you’re away.
So consider this: what’s one thing on this list that you might try today? What’s the first baby step you might take to own your power and shed what doesn’t serve you? No matter where you are in your journey to creating a sense of wellbeing in your life, know that it starts by making another choice for yourself. When you make these changes in your own life, the ripple effect is significant in yourself, your team, and the community at large. Just remember to go one step at a time, without judgment of pace.
Written by MaryBeth Hyland.
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