Last month I presented my first wellness in the workplace seminar since the onset of the pandemic.
I could not help but begin my seminar by addressing the stress and uncertainty people have endured for the last 1.5 years on some level, myself included.
There have been layoffs, business closures, kids needing to be homeschooled while both parents adjusted to working from home full-time, constantly changing mandates, and dwindling hope for this whole thing to be over and done with anytime soon. Plus, there’s been a lack of something that is very important for our mental health and the health of our immune systems- human connection.
It’s no surprise the term burnout is gaining popularity.
The World Health Organization defines burn-out as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
Frankly, I disagree with this solely relating to one’s job as I take a holistic view and see that burnout is prolonged stress and stress is rarely limited to just one stressor or source of stress, it’s many stressors/sources of stress compounded overtime. We reach the state of burnout when we continue to “push through” even when there are warning signs to back off.
First burnout may knock, it may be a few nights of troubled sleep before full on insomnia, it may be occasional joint pain before it’s debilitating, it may be feelings of negativity, apathy, or anger before it’s full blown anxiety, depression, or decline in job performance.
I’ve discovered common themes that lead to burnout, chronic aches and pains, and lack of fulfillment.
Not living in alignment with nature and universal law: We are designed as part of nature. Modern day life is characterized by processed food versus seasonal and local produce, concrete sidewalks over rugged terrain and vegetation, pollution and smog over fresh air, and artificial lights over daylight.
Recommended reading: The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease by Daniel E. Lieberman
Untrained mind and body; unattended heart: Our bodies work on a very simple principle of use it or lose it. If we don’t actively move through full range of motion we lose that range of motion over time as the body gets better at repetitive motions like sitting in chairs or looking down at a cell phone. Just as our bodies de-condition due to lack of use so does our mind. If we don’t’ practice focus we lose it. Meditation is not only the answer to increasing focus, but also accessing the wisdom of our own hearts.
Lack of community & connection: All life is relationship. Three keys to healthy relationships are authenticity, communication & compassion. Through mindfulness we can discover our authentic selves, bring our whole selves to work and life, communicate from our hearts, and see and accept others as they are.
Stagnation: Breathe deeply.
Busy schedules create busy minds. Busy minds are usually accompanied by stifled and shallow breathing. Our bodies thrive in an alkaline oxygen rich environment. Deep breathing detoxifies the body and illuminates the mind; clearing out stagnation.
A Return to Balance: Self-Care Practices to Shine Brightly
I use the word balance with caution, because balance is often confused with harmony. Balance is yin and yang, night and day, shadow and light; we need both for there to be harmony, which is when the mind, body, and soul come together to create optimal health and well-being. Harmony is what we desire, but balance is the process of getting there. It is like a counterpose in yoga; a backbend to expand and open countered by a forward fold to ground and contract. You need both.
Often times we favor one side of the body, one way of thinking, or one element in nature versus seeing how the full spectrum is necessary for the orchestra of life to play out harmoniously.
If you’ve trained yourself to go, to do, to push, and to succeed constantly, then slowing down and relaxing may not come easily, but it’s what you need for wellbeing. If you favor the highs in life there can be a desire for more dopamine to flood your system so you can stay up versus feeling what’s below the surface and driving that desire.
To shine brightly is not to be happy all the time, but to be aware. It is the ability to keep the light of awareness burning brightly so you notice when you’re imbalanced and what you need to restore it. It’s only with awareness that we can feel and accept all emotions, which leads to contentment and good mental health overtime. Self-care is the positive action and hopefully the practice that stems from being self-aware.
Here are a few practices to integrate into your day:
- Conscious Breathing: Balancing the breath balances the mind and helps you feel calm, centered, and focused.Try this exercise: Breathe in for a count of 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. Begin to lengthen inhales and exhales until you reach a count of 8-10 seconds or maybe longer, but don’t strain. Simply observe the breath as it is.
- Gratitude + Affirmations: There’s always something to be grateful for, but it’s so easy to forget to take time to recognize and appreciate the simple things in life. Gratitude is a practice that is most beneficial when practiced with enthusiasm daily. Try starting and ending your day with gratitude + affirmations.
- Sleep: Consistently getting an adequate amount of sleep helps you manage a healthy weight, think clearly, perform optimally, and have energy
for the activities and people you love. Create a sleep schedule: Aim to go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time daily. Unplug from electronics at least 1-hour before bed.
- Hydration: Our bodies are made up of more than 70% water. Aim to keep a reusable water bottle with you and sip on water throughout the day.
- Mobility: Proper posture and alignment allows breath and energy to flow with ease and allows movement to be light and more effortless. Throughout the day include mobility exercises, yoga poses, and stretches to connect to your body and your breath.
- Exercise: Exercise is essential at any age for a healthy body and mind. If you’re just getting back in the habit of daily exercise start with the basics like walking and bodyweight moves. Consistency counts. Even if you can only exercise for 10 minutes it’s better than no exercise at all.
- Spend Time in Nature: Nature is the ultimate alchemist. Natural environments have a unique way of absorbing negative emotions and putting you in touch with your true nature and the interconnectedness of all life. Walk barefoot on the beach or beneath a forest canopy to feel the effects.
- Eat Real Food: Food plays a major role in how we think and feel. Read nutrition labels. If it has a lengthy list of ingredients, particularly ingredients you can’t pronounce, it’s man-made not nature made. Skip it. Aim to eat mostly foods that don’t have a shelf life and don’t require a label like fresh vegetables, fruits, hormone free meats, nuts and seeds.
- Set Priorities: In today’s world full of constant stimulus and distractions, it can be easy to feel busy, but not actually get a lot accomplished.Each day bring awareness to your top 3-5 priorities. What MUST get done today to feel satisfied?Schedule 30-90 minute focus blocks to work
on a specific task. At the end of the block period take a moment to move, stretch, practice conscious breathing, or get outdoors.
- Meditation: The mind is constantly producing thoughts. Continuous fluctuating thoughts prohibit us from experiencing ourselves on a deeper level. Meditation is an invitation to take a break from the incessant flow of thoughts. It’s in the state of pure awareness that we heal, rejuvenate, source creativity, and connect to our true nature.
- Reflection: Experience is the best teacher. Reflection helps pull the life lessons out of the experience.Tip: At the end of the day ask yourself, “What went well today and where is there room for improvement?”Acknowledge what went well and give yourself a pat on the back. Come up with a few action steps you would like to implement the next day to improve and see if you get different results.
These practices are guidelines for getting started. If you’re interested in wellness in the workplace seminars, coaching, or customized fitness and wellness programs send me a message. I’d love to help you forge your own unique path.