The first Choice Conference, held in Madrid October 18-19th at the IED Innovation Lab, included a session on reducing the stress of management decisions. The logic of the session was simple and the topic critically important because the future of companies worldwide and the mental-emotional-social health of all depend on it. That may sound dramatic but it is far from it given the ridiculously high rates of mental health issues being reported. Each statistic has a family behind it.
What is included in conversations about reducing stress?
It is one thing to be stressed out and another to know when you are. Most people do not know when stress is running their lives nor do they see the downward spiral into depression. Decisions suffer; actions become half-hearted or going through the motions. You have most likely read a lot about the cost of stress, the impact on wellbeing and if you’re reading this you care enough to find better ways to work with adverse conditions. The simplest way to track emotional wellbeing is to monitor the state of your thoughts. Are they focused on the negative? Or positive? Physcially it can show up as digestive problems, nauseousness. Mentally, the signals include cognitive overwhelm as the weight of pressure stretches the conscoius mind beyond capacity. Have you ever snapped at someone you love lately and instantly regretted it? Noticing your response to pressure is the first step toward working with it as your teacher rather than foe. Me? I get grumpy and far too mentally focused.
Self-regulation and Self-care
First, not all stress is ‘bad’. Kelly McGonigal talks about eustress as the kind of stress that is actually good. McGonigal reframes that as the belief that stress is bad is what people suffer from. If this info is new to you, see her TED talk below.
Why is Self-care so important now?
This was one of the questions we discussed during the workshop in Madrid. The answer reflects the reality that humans are complex. Know it or not, each person is energetically sensitive to a greater or lesser degree. Similarly, awareness of how much social and emotional data is being picked up from your working environemnt is on a sliding scale. The more attuned you are the better able you have access to that data and are able to self-regulate.
Many workplaces are run on fear today. Running on a high level of fear of not making the next quarterly targets, or fear of losing one’s job to robots or fear of losing your job sucks the vitality out of conversations, and key relationships. The potential for learning and growth is compromised unless you reclaim control over your health, your choices and what kind of workplace you want to work in.
In the workhop, I was asked how I exericse self-care. My response was incomplete and misleading. I stated that I did not do a very good job. That is only partly true. When I am writing and working to a purpose driven goal that has a hold of me and will not let me relax, I forget to pay attention to me. I consider myself still in training.
What keeps you or I in balance is simple:
Time in Nature: By far my go-to place for renewal, rejuvenation. I happen to live near the mountains and the ocean so it isn’t hard to find a place to count waves or walk in the company of large trees. Parks work just as well. The less manicured and tamed the better.
Time with Dogs or Horses (cats if they agree): Nothing gives me more joy than playing with a dog or horse. It is a non-verbal form of communication that is based on cooperation. Because of that, you need to be present and that is precisely what helps restore balance. Training the brain to be in the moment, over trying to be in the past-present or future all at once.
Yoga: I wrote Decision Making for Dummies by doing yoga daily. In the last few years, I had gotten out of the practice. Two nights ago I attended a restorative yoga class and was reminded of how out of touch I was with my body. This is what yoga does apart from stretching and loosening stiff joints. It brings you back into your body. Very restoring.
Decision Making for Dummies, by the way, has a heart centerd practice from the HeartMath Institute that anyone can use to restore coherence to the heart before making an important decision. It is a practice that can set you apart from the unskilled approach to decision-making so prevalent in business today.
Choose something that restores your heart’s vitality and creative expression, that brings you back to the present moment. Photography, art, walks. Keep the body moving. In these times of confusion, an abundance of negative news crossing your mind and workplaces that are adjusting to uncertainty, self-care is what you always have control of.