Stress has always been in my life. I convinced myself I liked it; it motivated me, allowed me to make deadlines, and accomplish goals. Those are the benefits of eustress! However, over the long term, stress was no longer that extra buzz to stay up a little longer to finish a task. Chronic stress became my enemy, draining me of energy and affecting my health. When I became in-tune to its effects, I noticed more how others around me seemed to be debilitated by stress as well, from friends to co-workers.
At work, I distinctly saw the effects of stress- increase turnover, sick days, and negative attitudes while decreasing motivation and problem-solving ability. The negative impacts of stress piqued my interest in human performance and how to overcome common issues we all face. In my personal life, I practiced meditation and started to see the link that certain forms of meditation are 'focused attention techniques.' These techniques could be a method to retrain the brain to think about stress differently.
At the peak of feeling burned-out, I took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course with goals to deepen my meditation practice and learn skills that could be applied at home or in the workplace to reduce or eliminate stressful moments. The impact of this training affected me the most in these five areas:
5. Mind/Body Connection: I knew stress gave me tension headaches, sometimes migraines, and would mess with my digestive system. However, I also learned I carry tension in my chest too. Learning how to pay attention to the body in moments of disagreement and scanning the body at the end of a long day allowed an awareness and connection I never experienced before. Knowing my body's 'trigger points,' I can use simple techniques to return to a calmer place, avoiding both health issues and making a poor decision out of stress. I've also been able to use mindfulness meditation to recover from or eliminate physical pain, especially headaches.
4. The Present Moment: I've generally lived my life stuck in the future, always planning what is next. Thinking about my to-do list, my next goals, and how I am going to accomplish them were always on my mind. Goal planning, along with critical thinking, are essential skills to have and very necessary in the workplace and life. However, living in the future deprives you of feeling accomplished because you are never 'done,' there will always be more to do. Mindfulness taught me to be more present, not to live goal to goal but to be in the moment. Practicing these skills, I have become a better listener, can accomplish tasks faster, and reduce the pressure of anticipating what is next.
3. Non-Identification/Compassion: I recall a few years ago driving to work and getting ready to exit the highway and wondering, how did I get here. Meaning physically- I had no memory of getting in my car, driving to work, and here I was almost there. At that time in my life, I was barely sleeping- I had a new child, my Dad diagnosed with cancer was given just months to live, and I was under stress at work. I remember looking around at all the other cars on the highway wondering- who else is driving and not aware, who else is not sleeping, who else has cancer, who else is struggling with a new baby, who else has too much pressure? As people, we are all carrying around 'baggage' that affects our mood and decision-making ability. Difficult issues often unconsciously make their way into how we interact with other people and perform at work. Mindfulness training reminded me that we could transform our relationship with difficult issues through compassion both for ourselves and for others.
2. Kinder to Myself: We can go through life being hard on ourselves, regretting past decisions, and feeling guilty. For many people, putting themselves first or even accepting a compliment can be difficult. I struggled with 'Mom Guilt' after returning to work following the birth of my child. I would feel guilty that I worked or traveled for work, that I never took the time to do things for myself. I let relationships and hobbies go because I could not find the time. I worked, and I had a kid- that consumed my life. So while there can be an illusion of 'having it all,' we are left with choices. Mindfulness training taught me not to judge my decisions or how I balance my time. It showed me how to be kinder to myself, to say good-bye to guilt and social perceptions, and pursue the things that make me happy.
1. Finding the Gap: There is this space, it may only last a split second, where you can decide how to react to a situation. Many times we react out of habit, our primal responses trigger us to fight, flight, freeze, or faint. In the workplace, this may come across as being submissive, an avoider, a fighter, or a creator of issues. My natural reaction tendency is to 'fight' or stand up for what I believe is right. Thus out of habit, I tend to speak up right away or can become defensive. Mindfulness training cultivated an awareness of 'the gap' where instead of always reacting out of habit, I can more appropriately choose my reaction and make sure it best fits the current situation.
These transformations were just the start of years of studying and practice. I designed The Evidence Within Lab with essential teachings and action items to get you to the next level so that you can show up as your best self instead of your stressed self. Set up a discovery call to learn how Mindgen's experts can support you and your organization.