As a mindfulness-based educator and workplace wellness consultant, I’ve witnessed remarkable strides in the number of organizations and businesses that offer Eastern healing modalities (yoga, reiki, Tai Chi, meditation, among other self-healing practices) to their customers, teams, and associates.
Most participants were so busy helping others get well, they’d failed to notice their own escalating stress and fatigue.
At a recent mindfulness-based caregiver retreat, I asked the group of massage therapists in attendance if they themselves received regular massages. Not one hand went up. I then queried the dozens of health promotion experts, caregivers, and healing arts providers gathered about whether they had put together a plan for their own self-care.
Less than 10 percent of the room responded affirmatively.
Whereas almost everyone in the room appreciated the value of self-care to reduce stress, prevent burnout, and shore up costs, most participants were so busy helping others get well, they’d failed to notice their own escalating stress and fatigue.
We’re making progress in promoting these and other mindfulness-based practices to others, we don’t often practice what we preach. If healing arts practitioners aren’t practicing self-care, just how bad is it?
The Crisis: Unhappy Employees, Skyrocketing Health Care Costs
A recent study suggests that 70 percent of employees are both unhappy and disengaged. Over a million people miss work daily due to burnout and unmitigated stress. With more than a third of our lives spent at work, we devote almost 47 percent of our time thinking about something other than the task at hand.
In healthcare settings, burnout has reached epidemic proportions. It’s gotten so bad the doctors and nurses are eschewing the term burnout altogether and replacing it with “moral injury.”
Yet, many Americans who are among the 43 percent who say they have health insurance avoid seeking medical attention when they desperately need it due to high deductible costs.
So, what can you do to either prevent burnout or keep it from happening in the first place?
Stress is a part of life and every type of stress isn’t bad. In fact, the type of motivational stress that urges you to complete an important project, simply kill it during an audition or interview, or complete a marathon? Well, that’s good stress, otherwise known as eustress.
However, bad stress is the kind that pumps you full of too many chemicals like an over-toxification of cortisol and adrenaline. That’s the kind of stress that if left unchecked can create any number of chronic conditions, diseases, and debilitating health problems.
If you have decided to combat the unhealthy levels of stress that may lead to burnout, follow these simple guidelines to get started.
1. Make Yourself a Priority
Whereas it’s so tempting to put the oxygen mask on someone else before yourself, you can’t help another person if you yourself can’t breathe! That’s why learning burnout prevention and treatment techniques for every aspect of your life is so important. You must put the mask on yourself first.
Researcher Catherine P. Cook-Cottone defines self-care as “the daily process of being aware of and attending to one’s basic physiological and emotional needs, including the shaping of one’s daily routine, relationships, and the environment as needed to promote self-care.” She concludes that a “steady and intentional practice of mindful self-care is seen as protective by preventing the onset of mental health symptoms, job/school burnout, and improving work and school productivity.”
Learning to take care of ourselves and put ourselves first, can be hard at first, particularly if we’re used to ignoring our needs. However, by beginning to adapt daily stress reduction techniques like meditation, acupressure, progressive muscle relaxation, and simple breathing exercises into your daily lifestyle, you will see immediate results and improvements. In addition to consulting with a counselor and a stress reduction coach, you can also commit to walking more and taking short breaks after every 90-minutes of intense work.
2. Forget Work-Life Balance, It’s All About Integration, Baby
The first thing you can do is to understand that every person has core emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. These core needs don’t stop at home, they extend into work because we’re one complete person. There’s no point thinking that you can leave home at home and work at work. You can’t. The answer lies in resisting seeing work and life as a dichotomy, but rather, understanding that work and life are integrated. The key then is to figure out how to best integrate your work and life, so you can find peace and prosperity in everything that you touch and do.
3. Make it Fun & Profitable
Find an easy, fun, daily workout that you enjoy. No matter what you choose, commit to a self-care regimen that isn’t location-dependent.
To get off that hamster wheel of unrelenting stress, practice mindfulness in which you’re aware of thoughts, feelings, sensations, tastes, and sounds moment-by-moment. Whether it’s attending to your mental, physical, and/or spiritual needs, mindfulness allows us to pay attention to what’s going on inside of us and all around us with increasing appreciation, less judgment, and greater awareness.
Not only is mindful self-care good for your health, but it’s also good for business. The ROI on mindful self-care yields an amazing 316% increase in productivity!
That’s great news for any of us who wish to start living mindfully and reaping the rewards in every area of our lives.