A new survey, from FlexJobs and Mental Health America (MHA) taken last year reported that 75% of workers have experienced burnout, and 40% of those polled said it was a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. We all know we’re stressed, but what do we do to change that? It’s not like we can make the laundry list of tasks, the pandemic, potential financial insecurities, and collective uncertainty just go away. But mindfulness experts have a solution that doesn’t require that our problems disappear, just that we change how we respond to them.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgmentally. A simple mindfulness practice is this: when you notice stress creeping up, pause, breathe, and bring the attention to the body. This could be by focusing on the breath, or any body sensation. You can close your eyes or not, it’s just about redirecting the attention to the body.
The mind is constantly trying to bring you into the past or future, but the body is always in the present moment. When you can detach from your thoughts and instead bring your attention to the sensations of your body, then you’re able to become present. You’re able to interrupt the current loop of stress and give your system the opportunity to calm down. We all know that stress decreases our quality of life and that it has significantly increased among every age group in the last year. Think of it this way:
“Stress was never meant to be a 24/7 experience. As Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky explains, you’re really only supposed to feel stressed in the five minutes right before you die. When you are being chased in the savanna by a wild animal, your stress response is supposed to save your life—it mobilizes your attention, muscles, and immune system to get you quickly out of danger. When animals escape, they come right out of fight-or-flight mode and into “rest-and-digest” mode, where the parasympathetic nervous system is working to replenish their resources. That stress response is supposed to be short-lived because it wears down your body, your health, and your energy. It also impacts things like your emotional intelligence and your decision making. When you’re tightly wound up, you are more likely to react to situations than to respond with reason.” -Four Ways to Calm Your Mind In Stressful Times by Emma Seppala, Psychologist at the Stanford Center For Compassion and Altruism Research and Education
If we can learn to hone this skill of moving from a stressful sympathetic state to a restful parasympathetic state, not only can we become happier, but we’re also increasing the capacity to access the parts of our brain that make us better decision makers and creative-thinkers, something that most companies value in their employees.
THIS is why more and more companies are introducing stress-reducing practices for their employees like mindfulness training, yoga, game rooms, or gyms. At Lender Toolkit, we recently introduced a weekly guided group meditation that has received such positive feedback that we’re now doing it bi-weekly. I believe that every company needs to start prioritizing stress-reducing techniques, because the collective burnout isn’t going to change until the culture around stress changes. We have a lot of work to do, but I think it’s possible.
Have you experienced any mindfulness or stress-reducing practices at work? If so, what were they and how did they work for you?