Languishing, mental health, mental resilience, self-care. These may be words and concepts that we were not familiar with in the past, but for so many, the last couple years have intensified feelings of stress, social isolation, and anxiety. Let’s think about what we personally do in order to shield our mental health and take care of ourselves. Do we set priorities? Do we take a break from technology? Is there a balance between our personal and professional life? Do we exercise, are we getting enough sleep and do we maintain a proper diet? Do we have healthy relationships? Can we set boundaries and how easy is it for us to say no? The questions are many. But are they easily answered?
Remember that even for a big change, you have to start with small steps. To protect your mental health and well-being and to be able to take care of yourselves, the following Thrive Microsteps are designed to help you:
- What if you could increase your performance by 29% just by sleeping?
- How many hours of sleep per night do we actually need to perform at our best?
- How long does caffeine live in our system?
- What do you feel like when you’re fully rested and getting good quality sleep?
- How do you feel physically when you aren’t getting enough sleep?
- Are you able to do meaningful work on 4 hours of sleep?
- Did you know that if you do meditation, you fall asleep 2x faster compared to non-meditators?
- Did you know that sleeping 6 hours per night yielded the same impaired function as staying up for two days straight?
Sleep is an essential and active function that we can’t shortchange. If you want to perform at your very best, from your judgement, creativity, resilience and productivity at the office to your mental and emotional well-being, you need to start thinking of sleep as the best performance booster at your disposal. We’ve all had days when we’ve sacrificed sleep to check a few more items off our to-do lists. But once you understand how important sleep is, and that getting enough isn’t as hard as it might seem, you’ll never look back.
|When you do not get enough sleep, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol – stress hormones – and your body’s natural defenses are reduced.
Make sure you sleep 7-9 hours a day and be mindful of your sleep quality.
|Getting enough sleep keeps your mind and body healthy.To repair your body from daily stress, you should not neglect resting.
|Minimize caffeine after 2pm
Minimizing caffeine in the afternoon can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Caffeine has a half-life of five to six hours, which means it takes a full twenty-four hours to work its way out of your system. Having a large dose of caffeine in the afternoon means that the stimulant will still be in the system as you close in on bedtime. Minimizing caffeine in the afternoon will help the body relax and unwind at the right time.
|Create your ideal sleep environment
Light: Light suppresses the production of melatonin, which signals us to sleep. So, we should take steps even before we climb into bed to turn down the lights and make our bedroom the kind of calming, quiet, dark space that will coax us toward sleep. A black sleep mask is another way to further suppress light, especially when traveling.Temperature: According to a study by researchers from the Clinique du Sommeil in Lille, France, the ideal sleeping temperature is 60 (15C) to 66 (18C) degrees Fahrenheit. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 65 degrees and suggests that sleep is disrupted when the temperature rises above 75 (24C) degrees or falls below 54 (12) degrees .
|Turn devices off 30min before bed and charge them outside your bedroom
The blue light from a screen impairs the secretion of melatonin in your system which helps us to fall asleep; when we look at devices just before bed, we are sending a signal to the brain that it’s time to wake up. Should we wake up in the middle of the night and check a device we do the same, which then impacts deep sleep.
|Create a bedtime ritual
Consider instead spending the device-free time before bed reading, journaling, meditating or doing some focused breathing, or talking with your partner or significant other—you might find it’s easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can also be a great way to connect with yourself or a loved one.
NUTRITION & HYDRATION
- How do we make healthy food choices that support a thriving life?
- How do you feel physically when you aren’t eating at your best?
- Did you know that there is a 66% increased risk of productivity loss due to eating an unhealthy diet?
- Did you know that there is a 14% increase in productivity if properly hydrated?
- Did you know that women should drink on average 5,3 water bottles per day and men 7,3?
On busy days, healthy eating is often a low-priority (right after answering that non-essential email that’s been staring at you from your inbox for two weeks). But a mountain of research shows that, as the saying goes, we really are what we eat (and drink). If you want to stay productive, maintain your energy and focus, and keep your brain and body healthy, you have to move proper nutrition higher up on your to-do list. Stress combined with a packed schedule is a recipe for less-than-healthy food choices. (Who hasn’t reached for a sugary energy bar during a hunger emergency?) But when you’re armed with the knowledge and strategies you need to make nutritious choices, eating well becomes easy.
|A diet rich in fruits and vegetables shields your body’s defenses and improves your immune system.
Proper nutrition is an ally of your health and well-being, so be mindful of the “fuel” with which you supply your body.
|Do not skip breakfast.
Breakfast is the most important meal – it can either make or break your day.
|Eat healthy wholesome meals & snacksOne micro-step is to begin making better choices in what we eat. Choosing more healthy, wholesome meals and snacks can provide nearly instantaneous changes in mood, energy, and performance at work.
|Drink a glass of water when you wake up in the morning Drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning immediately hydrates the body and prevents us from starting our day in dehydration.
|Keep a water bottle next to your desk throughout the dayNot only will you remain hydrated and be reminded to drink often, you will have to use the bathroom more often, which encourages more movement as well.
|Sit down when you eat, even for a few minutes.Eating on the run can make us feel like we’re being productive or saving time. But mindless eating while we are multitasking can lead us to consume more calories and is more likely to lead to bloating and indigestion. Instead, make it a meal – you’ll be less tempted to snack afterward.
- How are you sitting now?
- How do you typically sit at your desk?
- Do you have a “text” neck?
- How do you feel physically when you aren’t getting regular exercise?
- Did you know that 7 years of healthy life are lost due to sitting 6+ hours per day for 10-20 years?
- Did you know that the 4th leading risk factor for death is physical inactivity?
- Did you know that there will be a 70% improvement in ability to make complex decisions over sedentary peers?
Making time to exercise, or even incorporating short bursts of movement into our day, can feel challenging, but it’s actually much more doable than you think. And once you make a few small changes, you’ll see how easy it is to feel that much more energized during your day.
|Practice stretches for sitting, posture, and back
For example, every hour or two, consider performing one set of each movement. Toward the end of the work day, it’s possible to complete several sets of exercises to improve mobility and postural strength.
|Schedule well-being practices and get support from a workout buddy
As important as calendaring these practices is finding someone to help support these new positive behaviors. Find a workplace buddy to hold you accountable—this person can help you and him or herself by joining you on these new positive micro-steps.
|Schedule a time for exercise, and treat it like any important appointment.
Advance planning helps you shift your mindset about exercise and prioritize the time for yourself.
|Turn a sedentary activity into an opportunity for movement.
If you’re sitting in a chair watching TV, stand up during the commercials and walk in place or walk around your home. Even a few minutes makes a difference.
- Does multitasking really work?
- How focused are you and how much clarity of mind do you have?
- Did you know that there is a 40% decrease in productivity when switching from one task to another?
- Did you know that you need 25 minutes to return to a prior level of focus after being interrupted?
- Did you know that 28% of the average work day is consumed by interruptions and the requisite recovery time?
Most distractions come from outside sources (like your inbox, or the push notifications you don’t remember signing up for), which means we often feel helpless when we face them. We can’t control all that’s coming at us, we tell ourselves, so we have no choice but to surrender and be reactive. But we have more power than we realize, and when we’re able to consciously focus, minimizing distractions becomes much easier.
|Clear your mind (write it down!)
One of the reasons we interrupt ourselves is because we keep remembering the things that we were supposed to do that we didn’t do.Consider making a list at night before bed of the top 3 priorities for the next day and tackle them early the following day. Or, do it first thing in the morning upon arriving at work.
|Do your thinking time in the morning
Schedule your most mentally taxing or creative work in the morning. Our best brain power occurs in the morning. Our prefrontal cortex is responsible for high-level cognitive tasks and processes information related to ourselves and our experiences. Our prefrontal cortex is like a battery—a good night’s sleep recharges the brain and the prefrontal cortex is at its highest functioning in the morning hours. This is a great time to do your deep thinking and most creative or higher cognitive tasks.
|Allow yourself to do one thing at a time.
Multitasking has a negative impact on efficiency and concentration. Monotasking will help you stay focused and give the task you are doing your full attention.
- Did you know that 78% of employees would work harder if their efforts were better recognised and appreciated?
- Did you know that meditation boosts your health and your productivity?
- Did you know that 43% of Psychology Today study’s participants felt stronger and more energetic after helping others?
- Did you know that 96% of employees say that volunteer programs enriched their sense of purpose in life?
- Did you know that go-getters are good, but go-givers are better?
- Why would we say: “meditation is the key to inner wisdom?”
- How can you take a more positive perspective on what brings you stress?
- How purposeful do you feel?
- How generous, giving, and kind-hearted are you?
- What is one aspect of your job that brings you stress and drains your battery?
All around the world, organizations and individuals are raising awareness about the scope of our mental health crisis. This mental health crisis is also directly tied to the stress epidemic. While stress in itself isn’t bad, it’s when stress becomes cumulative that it takes a toll on mental health. The trouble is, the hyper-connected, always-on way of working and living is practically designed to heap negative stress. We’ve been conditioned to power through, never taking a moment to recharge ourselves. We’ve built our entire definition of success around it. It’s a definition of success that works for a while — until it doesn’t. That’s why learning to build self-awareness is so important. When we know ourselves — the sources of our stress, how we respond, and what actions help us recharge — we’re far better able to minimize the damage. We can’t eliminate stress, but we can learn to manage it. And we can do the same with mental health challenges.
|When you feel overwhelmed, focus on your breathing instead of reaching for your phone.
We often use our phones to distract us from challenging moments, but this often leaves us more stressed and more disconnected from what matters most. Allow yourself a moment to turn inward instead and focus on your breathing.
|When you feel overwhelmed by a problem you face at work, identify the smallest possible step you can take to address it.
As you face incredibly complex challenges, practice breaking them down into small, manageable steps by asking yourself, “What’s the smallest step forward I can take at this moment?” This increases your sense of control and self-efficacy.
|Right now, identify your top “stressor signals” that remind you that your battery is running low.
Learning how to listen to your own particular signals is an important way to guide your microbreaks throughout your day or your shift. Common signals include rapid heart rate, strong negative feelings, difficulty thinking clearly, unnecessary risk taking, and social conflicts. When you notice your signal, take a brief pause to reset so you can be your best at helping others.
|Keep a nightly gratitude journal.
Writing down things you’re grateful for builds a gratitude practice, which can help you feel less numb towards the joy in your life.
|Do one small thing each day that typically brings you joy.
By seeking out tiny moments of happiness, you’ll build up strength, resilience, and fight off burnout.
|When you’re stressed, think of a specific time when you overcame an obstacle.
When you remember that you’ve made it through challenges before, you’ll feel more resilient.
|Next time you reflect on a failure, ask yourself what you can learn from it.
Instead of blaming yourself or someone else, which is unproductive and can lead you to see yourself as a victim, ask what changes you can make or what skills you can develop to succeed next time.
|Take better care of yourself.Now more than ever, you need to take care of yourself. Self-care enhances your health, your well-being and the way you manage stress.
|Giving makes us feel happy, improving our mental health and emotional well-being.Try to volunteer at an activity close to your heart. Giving to others can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose.
|Before you go to bed, make a list of all the things that you are grateful for.This will reduce your stress levels, help you relax and improve your sleep quality.
|Schedule time to go outdoors.
Even just a few minutes will help you recharge. Vitamin D from the sun is critical for our immune system health and overall mental well-being.
|On your break, take a few minutes to go outside.Even a short walk outdoors will help you recharge. Outdoor light is crucial for resetting our internal circadian clocks. Vitamin D from sun exposure is also necessary for our body.
- How can we reframe and change our perspective?
- Did you know that you are 31% more productive when the brain is in a positive state?
- Did you know that by finding something to focus positive energy on, you can change your point of view?
- Did you know that practicing awe and wonder improves mental and physical health?
When you’re committed to seeing the world beyond yourself, and to rethinking situations after your initial, in-the-moment reaction, you’ll find there are wide-ranging benefits for every aspect of your performance. For example, asking yourself “what’s the worst that could happen” isn’t being pessimistic—it’s an effective way to zoom out and put a tough moment in perspective. Then there’s the time-tested method of asking yourself how you’d advise a friend in the same situation; chances are you wouldn’t be as tough or unforgiving with them as you tend to be on yourself. With practice, you can reframe the challenges that come your way and become more resilient, more productive and make better decisions as a result. A few small steps in the right direction will yield big improvements in your productivity, performance and mood.
|Try 3-5 minutes of meditation or deep breathing per day
One micro-step we can consider is practicing meditation or simply deep breathing for 3-5 minutes per day.
|The next time you’re in a stressful situation, take 10 deep breaths before responding.
This might take a bit of energy to pause and not react to the stressful event. But, take notice of how you feel after those 10 deep breaths and how differently you respond to the situation.
|At the end of each day, take one stressful moment from the day and reflect on how you could have reframed it.
Taking the time to reflect on the day’s activities and learn from our mistakes, setbacks, or life events could help strengthen our ability to reframe in the moment.
|At least once a day, try reframing a situation at the moment.
Much like taking 10 deep breaths in a stressful moment, this will require much energy at first. But over time, this “reframing muscle” will strengthen and it will become second nature to take a more positive perspective.
|Next time you’re grappling with a negative self-judgment, reframe it in your favor.
Instead of telling yourself “I can’t” do something, switch to “I am able to do everything that needs to be done.”
|Now is the time to set life priorities.Remember how important family is, volunteering, reading a book, talking to a friend!
|Get rid of negative thoughts and words and replace them with positive ones.This will help you create a new, more optimistic way of thinking.
- What are some ways we can create connection through practicing gratitude?
- How inspired or connected are you to yourself and others?
- Did you know that people whose opinions are valued and who are listened to, are more productive, innovative, and display increases in cognitive performance?
- Did you know that social exclusion negatively impacts self-regulatory behaviour and happiness?
- Did you know that empathy is directly related to improved job performance?
- Did you know that 98% of people have the ability to empathize wired into their brains?
- Did you know that people who read and people who meditate perform higher on measures of empathy?
- Did you know that only 15% of us say thank-you at work?
- What happens when people are excluded?
Empathy lifts everyone — there are no losers when people challenge themselves to see a situation through another’s eyes. As you build your empathy muscles, you’ll be more successful and more fulfilled. You’ll also be better at navigating conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings when you’re able to step outside yourself and consider the feelings and viewpoints of those around you.
|Show your concern to others without offering advice.
Research on “invisible support” shows that people benefit more from emotional support when they don’t realize they’re receiving it. Instead of asking “How can I solve this person’s problem,” ask yourself “How can I be there for them at this moment?”
|When you come across something that makes you laugh, share it.
Spreading humor and joy is a great way to transcend the challenges of this moment.
|Try to get in touch, daily, with your loved ones.
Isolation and loneliness negatively affects your mental health.
|Cultivate your empathy, through daily communication with all your team members.
By doing so, you will show them that you care about them on a personal level.