What is the right time for your body-scan today?

What is the right time for your body-scan today?

Lying on your back, you are your own guide and bring your attention to every part of your body – scanning it from toes to head. Such a simple practice helps to reconnect with your body, release physical tensions and quiet a busy mind. It is also a very effective technique to strengthen attention control.

So here is a resilience practice we invite you to cultivate this week:

I take a few minutes every day to do a body-scan.

How about bringing a “week-end feeling” into your week? Solutions to apprehend your week more serenely

How about bringing a “week-end feeling” into your week? Solutions to apprehend your week more serenely

Originally published in the HuffingtonPost on October 4th 2019

The weekends are supposed to be our intentional break from work. When you’re burned out, you can forget what a break actually feels like.

Burnout is a real occupational hazard, and it does not disappear when the workweek is done. The tired, snappy, apathetic employee at the office is the same person who still holds those grudges at home. 

According to the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, the main criteria for burnout isn’t necessarily being overworked. It can also come from being under-challenged. Burnout is chronic workplace stress that can result in feelings of being drained and being increasingly disengaged and cynical about your work.

When you are experiencing burnout from the stress of your job, you can forget what time off is supposed to feel like. You can even develop bad habits on the weekend that are making you feel even more drained and overwhelmed on Monday morning.

Psychologists and career experts shared weekend habits that can contribute to burnout and offered solutions to combat it.

 

You live too much for the weekend.

There’s a difference between having something to look forward to on your days off and having that be the only part of the week you live for. That’s when this all-or-nothing thinking can be a sign of underlying burnout. “When people say, ‘I hate Mondays,’ or ‘Thank God it’s Friday,’ these are cute little sayings, but what you’re telling yourself is, ’80% of my life sucks,’” said clinical psychologist Ryan Howes.

“When people split their week up and start thinking of work as bad and the weekend as all good, that contributes to the problem,” Howes said. “They spend all weekend dreading going back to work on Monday and griping and complaining about it.”

 

Solution: Bring your weekend into your week, and find engagement elsewhere.

“If your weekends are filled with connecting with friends and getting some rest and going on little adventures, fantastic. How can you make that part of your workweek?” Howes said. Examples Howes offered are getting breakfast with a non-work friend or going to a bookstore on your lunch break.

When your work is draining the life out of you, “people have to feed their soul,” said Adriana Alejandre, a licensed marriage and family therapist. She said that surrounding yourself with people who are funny can be helpful and that trying something new can invigorate curiosity.

When you feel like your job isn’t challenging enough and you’re burned out from being under-challenged, you can also find fulfilment elsewhere, said Melody Wilding, a licensed social worker and executive coach. “That weekend time can be really valuable for starting a side hustle or volunteering or doing an artistic project. Something that makes you feel more engaged,” she said.

You can’t stop thinking and venting about work.

Constantly complaining about your terrible colleagues and your overbearing boss on the weekend can feel like a stress release in the moment, but in the long-run, this rumination can make you feel even worse.

When you can’t get the feelings off your chest and keep expressing these negative emotions, Howes said, “you’re not venting, you’re ruminating, you’re dwelling on it, you’re holding a grudge, and that means that the venting isn’t effective.”

 Solution: Gain self-awareness and reframe your thinking. 

 

“What can I do about this?” is a reframing question Howes said employees can ask themselves to redirect their complaining energy into something productive. “Venting should be the beginning of a problem-solving process, not an end to itself,” he said.

Wilding said a “brain-dumping” ritual of using reflective questions to think about your workweek can provide you the necessary closure to move on to your weekend. “I find a lot of people crash into the weekend and they don’t really have this time to decompress,” Wilding said.

Wilding added that some questions you can ask yourself for this ritual are ones that help you reflect on what did go well, such as, “What did I accomplish this week? Where did I make progress? What would I like to improve?” or ones that have you looking ahead, like, “How can I learn from this going forward?”

By giving yourself emotional and mental closure, you don’t let your work thoughts “leak over and be this pervasive thing that haunts you all weekend,” Wilding said.

 

You’re completely checked out, even in your free time.

When you’re experiencing burnout, your tunnel vision of work, work, work can lead to trouble engaging in the world outside of it on the weekends.

“I see a lot of times where people are so overwhelmed with the sheer amount of life things they have to do or want to do that they just check out over the weekend, so they’re not even spending that time in a restorative way,” Wilding said. “They’re sort of just numbing out with Netflix or bottomless brunches and things like that to escape everything and avoid it.”

 Solution: Be intentional. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t relax on your couch and watch movies, but be thoughtful about this plan. “It’s fine if you’re going in for a Netflix binge for the right reasons, and you know what you want to get out of it,” Wilding said. “As long as it’s a personal choice. But if your reasons are, ‘I just want to turn everything off, I just want to go into my cave and hide from the world,’ then it’s not with the healthiest intentions.”

 

Technology controls you and not the other way around.

When your phone is nearby, you can feel like you are on-call to your boss, even when you’re officially not. You may even find yourself checking email apps and work notifications mindlessly to check in.

First, recognise where this need to be available may be coming from. “Usually, that’s all based in fear. That’s why it’s stressful, because they’re afraid. ‘I’m afraid I’m going to miss out on something. I’m afraid I’m going to get behind. I’m afraid I’m going to come back and be unprepared,’” Howes said.

 

Solution: Create boundaries about when you’re available, and share those expectations. 

If you are driven to stay on-call by a fearful urge of “what if they need me?” self-reflect on how this thinking can perpetuate the burnout cycle. “If they’ve always depended on you and if you reply to them or engage with them on your time off, you’re enabling them to continue relying on you. Fighting against that anxiety is really important,” Alejandre said.

Even if you need to be reachable, you can be intentional about how much work you allow to take up your weekend, Wilding suggested. “Yes, you need to be reachable and you need to put parameters on that,” she said.

Once you make boundaries for yourself, you can share what your parameters are to others. “Be clear around your working hours, when you will be available, when you won’t be available, and the timeframe in which you’ll get back to someone,” Wilding said.

 

Burnout is not always your problem, but you should feel empowered to change what you can.

Of course, some of the contributing factors of burnout ― demanding bosses, unreasonable deadlines ― are outside of your control. But this can also be a signal that you need to change what is not working. When you trace your burnout to a systemic toxic source, you need to decide whether staying at this job outweighs what it is doing to your mental health. You may need to have a conversation with your boss about work expectations or get real about your career priorities.

But in the meantime, reclaiming your weekend is possible. But it does take work to cure the stresses of work.

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When is your next micro-break?

When is your next micro-break?

A micro-break, from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, offers your body an opportunity to release built up tensions and reduces the risk of keyboard-related injuries. It helps combat tiredness and has a positive effect on productivity, problem solving and creativity.
So here is a resilience practice we invite you to cultivate this week:

I practice rejuvenation during my workday by taking regular micro-breaks.

Making Sure Your Stress Isn’t Contagious

Making Sure Your Stress Isn’t Contagious

Stress doesn’t feel good to have, nor does it feel good to be around. Eighty percent of Americans say they feel stress during their day. In many organizations, stress feels baked into the work culture, even as everyone wonders what to do about it.

Like a contagion, stress spreads. We literally catch the stress of others. Simply watching someone else tense up can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol in our own bodies. When I conduct interviews as part of my coaching work, I hear stressed-out colleagues described this way:

  • When he gets stressed, I try to avoid him.
  • Everyone knows when she’s having a bad day. It’s all over her face.
  • When he gets spun up, he gets everyone else spun up. It’s exhausting.
  • I’m seriously worried about her health.

Most of us think about the damage that stress causes us. Yet, few consider the negative impact of their stress on others. And it’s most certainly negatively affecting others, especially if you’re a manager. In fact, a leader’s stress is felt acutely as it impacts the emotion of an entire group.

People avoid stressed-out colleagues for their own psychic protection. If people don’t want to be around you, if they don’t find you energizing or rewarding to work with, you will be far less effective. After all, who wouldn’tprefer to collaborate with people who seem sturdy and resilient?

To stop your stress from impacting others (and wearing you down), consider these steps to better manage it.

Pinpoint your true stressors

When people talk about what stresses them, they tend to describe generalities like “my job” or “unrealistic deadlines” or “the new boss.” We don’t typically dive deeply into the triggers, because we’d rather not wallow there. However, we can’t solve what we don’t truly understand.

Try this: keep a stress journal for one month. At the end of each day, jot down when you felt stressed, including details about the specific situation and what was happening at the time. Reflect on these questions: What conditions caused me to feel stressed today? What about the situation felt important at the time? How was the situation meaningful to me?

One consulting client who tried this strategy learned that her hands-off management approach — which was meant to reduce her workload — was actually worsening her stress because she lost visibility into how projects were progressing. Worried that she’d end up in a fire drill at the last minute if the work wasn’t correct, she spent lots of time running through possible scenarios. She was still feeling the stress even if she wasn’t doing the work.

By uncovering what’s causing you stress, you can develop workable solutions to address the sources and not just the symptoms.

Change your reaction first and the workload second

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson describe in their book It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work how excessive workloads are touted as badges of honor in many organizations, even as employees complain about how overwork is detrimental to their well-being.

In fact, the top goal of many of my stressed clients is to get a handle on their workload by finding strategies that reduce the amount of work, such as better delegation or expectation setting. It’s not that this isn’t helpful, it’s just rarely enough. You can make adjustments, but there will always be more work.

You’ve probably seen how the very same job, with the very same workload, will stress one person while not bothering another. A salesperson I worked with marveled at how her colleague, Raj, never took rejection from clients personally. Rather, he’d say it was “part of the game.” She ended up adopting Raj’s mantra when she found herself agonizing over what more she could have done. Her work didn’t change, but her attitude toward it did.

Create pockets of sanity

Every job has busy periods when the best strategy is to hunker down and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. But this becomes soul-crushing when your work never lets up.

If your job doesn’t have natural breaks, create recovery periods for yourself. These can be organized around common stressors like business travel or key meetings, or spaced at regular intervals. Be as vigilant (and guilt-free) at scheduling activities that relax you as those that are work-related.

One client who felt drained from excessive business travel restructured his time to build in rewards. He selected hotels with spa services and booked massages during his stay — something he never found time to do at home. When possible, he extended his trip an extra evening to visit friends in the area and committed to not working during the flight home. He also made sure to keep the first day back relatively free from meetings so he could catch up.

You don’t have to make big moves to create space for yourself. Setting aside one half-day a month for reflection time can help to redefine priorities and reduce stress. Even micro-moments of sanity, like taking a walk to lunch, can offer a needed break.

Don’t just say you’re stressed; share how you’re working to manage it

Because stress is so prevalent at work, we talk about it — a lot. While sharing our stress can make us feel better momentarily, we’re actually contributing to a stressful culture because emotion spreads. In short, saying “I’m so stressed” increases stress for other people. Plus, what we focus on gets stronger, so we can even increase our own stress by talking about it.

This doesn’t mean that you should be inauthentic. A more helpful approach is to share that, while work is stressful, you’re trying to manage yourself so it has less of an impact. By sharing strategies you’re employing, you model for others that it’s acceptable to push back against stress instead of accepting it.  As a bonus, if you state what you’re doing out loud, you’re more likely to follow through on your commitments.

When Daphne, a leader of a lobbying group in a tumultuous industry, announced to her team that she was trying to stay off email over the weekend to get a break, she found that others were relieved of the pressure to respond. Her entire team exercised more caution about sending emails on the weekend, clearly marking what was truly urgent, and people started showing up to work more refreshed on Monday.

Plan for stress by planning around it

While most of us have accepted the idea of stress at work, we still feel surprisingly besieged by it. We can even have meta-stress — where we stress about having stress. Perhaps a better solution is to consider it the norm and plan for it. Jobs are stressful, industries are turbulent, and there are rarely enough resources or time. If that’s the case, how can you keep from adding to the churn and swirl? What are ways you can sustain your own energy and that of others?

We’re not as helpless as we might think. By exercising your own sense of agency, you can reduce your own stress and show others how to do the same. You might just shift the culture. Because while stress may be contagious, so is calm.

Harvard Business Review

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Why stress is contagious (and 4 steps to mastering stress for high performance)

Why stress is contagious (and 4 steps to mastering stress for high performance)

While stress cannot be completely absent from a business workforce, resilience can help channel stress into creating a better work environment and fostering a sustainable high-performance business, writes Stuart Taylor

It’s a scenario we’re all too familiar with – you’re feeling really good about your work day, until a colleague comes into the office in a huff, worrying about a client issue, or stressing about their ever-growing list of responsibilities. And suddenly you find yourself agitated, anxious and stressed out too.

While we’re all aware of the effect that stress can have on our mind, body and performance, what you might be surprised to learn is that stress is much like the common cold – it’s highly contagious and easy to ‘catch’ from other people.

And while healthy levels of stress can be beneficial – helping you to stay on your toes, alert and agile in the face of pressure – there are times when it can trigger negative distress responses and impact on mental and physical wellbeing.

As it stands, negative stress in the workplace is said to cost the Australian economy $14.1 billion per year. Our Global Resilience Report of over 26,000 professionals found that 55 per cent of us worry excessively, 50 per cent are hyper-vigilant, 45 per cent experience distress symptoms, and 35 per cent are unable to relax. A separate workplace study found that employee stress levels have risen nearly 20 per cent in three decades.

And the dynamic nature of the modern workforce indicates that there’s no sign of this slowing down –– employees, and the organisations they work for, are more vulnerable than ever to the challenges of workplace stress.

The good news is that while everyone mimics the emotions of others to some extent, how intensely you pick up on some else’s stress depends on a lot of factors, and you can actually strengthen your emotional immune system to master negative stress, by building your resilience.

“Learn your personal emotional cues to identify negative behaviours and shift your energy into something more constructive”

To build your personal resilience at work, and mitigate against the negative effects of second-hand stress, try practicing the following:

  • Funnel negative stress into something productive. Too often, we let stress overwhelm us and prohibit us from doing our best work. Learn your personal emotional cues to identify negative behaviours and shift your energy into something more constructive.
  • Tackle the cause of stress. Many people think that stress is caused by the level of pressure we are facing, when it’s actually caused by how we view that pressure. As a result, we are quick to make a forecast in our mind of how we will handle this pressure, however it is simply a forecast, not a reality. To reframe our thinking; catch, check, then change (reframe) negative thoughts. One of the most effective things we can learn is how to reframe our thinking to avoid falling into thinking traps that lead to unhelpful responses to stress.
  • Protect yourself. Before going into work, try calming your mind and body. Make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep, aim to do 30 mins of exercise per day and get some fresh air during your break. Aim to stand up from your desk at least every 30 minutes, even if it’s just for 10 seconds.
  • Redirect the other person’s stress. If a colleague is exuding stress, rather than engaging in the negativity, listen with empathy and then direct the conversation away from the emotional high stress into something practical. For example, if someone is complaining about a long list of responsibilities, perhaps offer some practical ways in which they can prioritise their day or delegate their tasks accordingly to take the pressure off.
  • Take time at the end of each day to celebrate the positive things that happened in the day. This will allow you to leave negative work stress at the door and focus on nurturing personal wellbeingand relationships. This kind of self-care is important for coming into work relaxed and ready to take on the day.

Looking beyond the individual, organisations also have a duty of care to create work environments that foster resilience, trust, productivity, and positive mental wellbeing for employees. And it all starts from the top, at executive level.

“Excessive stress is prolific in CEOs who feel that they carry the successes and failures of the business on their shoulders”

When the executive team aren’t modelling resilience, that’s when employees are most likely to catch second-hand negative stress symptoms.

1. The executive team should lead by example
Unsurprisingly, excessive stress is prolific in CEOs who feel that they carry the successes and failures of the business on their shoulders. But one of the real problems with management stress is that it’s often transferred, meaning that managers who feel stress tend to pass it on to their employees by their own high-tension behaviour. To prevent this, executives need to dispel this toxic workplace culture and invest in building personal resilience and wellbeing to reduce their own levels of stress in the workplace.

2. Model and encourage wellbeing practices
While stress can be contagious, the converse is also true – when one member of the team experiences the positive effects of well-being, the effect can spread across the entire team. It’s for this reason that organisations should encourage staff to take time for exercise and other renewal activities like mindfulness activities and healthy eating. Such initiatives that promote overall health and wellness, act as a preventative measure against stress in the workplace, are cost-effective for businesses and can even be tax efficient.

3. Build a culture of trust
If you’ve been following the gist of recent news stories, you’ll have noticed that the theme across Australia’s business landscape is trust, and for good reason. When it comes to minimising stress in the workplace, leaders should aim to build a trust-based culture rather than a fear-based culture through steadiness, integrity, compassion, connection and engagement. In trust-based organisations, employees are less stressed, happier, and more productive therefore translating into better business outcomes.

4. Foster the contagion of positive stress
To encourage positive stress, leaders need to focus on skills and training in the workplace that not only enhance the social climate (creating a calm, supportive work environment), but also develops our response to stress, for example resilience building activities. The most obvious way to train our responses to stress in the workplace is to address the main drivers and gradually train employees to master these points of contention through one-on-one coaching and empathetic leadership.

While stress cannot be completely absent from a business workforce, resilience in business provides an essential framework for people and at an organisational level to protect against negative stress in the workplace, and channel it to create a better work environment that fosters sustainable high performance at all levels of the business.

Inside HR

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