Engaging the community: well-being tips for work and life
Modern life has its impact on us all and, with several reports reaffirming high levels of stress, I believe we cannot afford to sit back any longer. The labour force survey reported that, in 2015/2016, 37% of work-related ill health was accountable to stress. Leaders also are "suffering" with a sense of having to curb emotions including feelings of stress.
People are seeking "success" (and less stress or suffering) in relationships, work, business and life yet success inevitably ties in with well-being - they are intertwined.
Modern life, with workload pressures, extra responsibilities and expectations, social media distractions, social fears and challenges, pressure to be taking luxurious holidays or to look and behave in a certain way, can take its toll on any one of us. As we know, one in four individuals will, at some time, experience some mental health challenges and so we cannot ignore the importance of well-being. Business owners, busy mums, young adults, even students - everyone wants to have an improved life experience and the definition of success is therefore potentially changing. It has to. When unhelpful stress seeps in, initially perhaps with little notice to it, it goes on to potentially have a huge adverse impact on us physically, mentally and emotionally. As a result, it affects our clarity, behaviours at work, communication in relationships and how we treat ourselves. Modern life has led us to regard stress as normal but instead, we should be thinking that a high level of well-being is normal.
I would like to share three beginners tips for managing stress at home and in the workplace:
Breathing - find some uninterrupted time, in a quiet space, and settle down with your eyes closed but sitting upright; observe your breathing just as it is for about a minute. Then, more consciously, still with your focus on your breath, breathe in for four counts and breathe out for six counts. Continue for five minutes. The mind may wander, this is entirely normal; accept this and simply bring the focus back. Extend the time to suit you. When you are ready, cover the eyes with your hands and slowly open your eyes. Remove your hands after a few seconds and come back to the room. Continue with your day.
Mindfulness - mindfulness is about being in the present moment. It is about bringing ourselves to the now. Minds do wander, as is normal for all of us, but we gently bring our minds back to the activity we have chosen to be more mindful with. We often think about the past or even the future and that takes us away from the here and now. It takes us away from savouring what it really going on. Mindful breathing is as above. To try mindful eating, bring your focus to your breakfast (or other meal) wholeheartedly. With conscious awareness, be mindful as you prepare it, taking in what you are preparing, how you are preparing it, what it feels like as you do this. Consider the texture of the food you are eating, savour the flavour as you chew slowly. Ask yourself how it feels in the mouth and consider the sensations around your mouth and throat as you swallow. Mindfulness is about bringing your full attention to your activity, consciously. Try mindful walking, paying particular attention to your feet on the ground as you walk, how they feel, how the legs feel, what sensations are going on in the body. Perhaps even observe with heightened awareness, the sounds and smells of nature.
Journaling - writing can be very therapeutic. Writing about the positive things of your day, however big or small, can be effective for a healthy mind as we are less focused on the negative, the thing that risks bringing us down. This may be a pleasant thank you from someone, the joy you get from helping someone, achievements from the work day or accomplishments at home. There are no rules as long you focus on the positive. At first, this may seem unusual and even silly but, after a month of committing to writing three things a day, you'll have up to 100, or even more, amazing things to look back at. How would that feel?
It is important to understand your own triggers for stress and only to embark on these simple exercises if you are otherwise well. These exercises do not replace medical advice or guidance and you are advised to consider medical advice if you are worried about your stress, anxiety or other medical concern.
If this is for you, observe yourself for a week. If we learn to be in tune with our mind and body this will enable more of us to take the steps we need to in order to effectively manage stress in modern life.