Arriving at the JetBlue counter, I ask if they can add my TSA precheck. I’m met by a blank stare, followed by, “I’m sorry. You are at the wrong airport.”
Wrong airport?! I return an equally blank stare.
Taking a deep breathe to calm myself, I watch my mind processing the options like an analytics program processing a complex set of parameters. I choose the “pay the change fee and fly out of the wrong airport” option since I know that frantically trying to get to the right airport in time for my flight would not bode well for my mental state. I am proud of making that small decision to stay, even while distraught with the original mistake that resulted from not supporting my own mental state.
I wonder if you also know what you should be doing to prioritize your mental health, your personal wellness, but then watch life take over while all your knowing goes by the wayside. You lose your identity being your kids’ personal chauffeur, handling aging family members’ affairs, and falling prey to work’s increasing demand to be plugged in at all hours.
In my life, falling back into old patterns of being often means letting busy-is-better suck me way too easily into its stress-filled vortex. Busy is my choice of drug as it comforts me by keeping me from facing the grief of my grandmother’s transition, the sadness of the constant gun shootings in schools, the uncertainty of our nation.
I type mental health statistics into the Google search engine, and find I am not alone in my distress. According to the latest “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation” survey, the most common sources of stress are:
- 63%: The Future of Our Nation
- 62%: Money
- 61%: Work
- 57%: Current Political Climate
- 51%: Violence and Crime
Eight years ago, I made it a priority to focus on my mental health and personal wellness. At the time, I was successful at work by many definitions of word. But I was not leading our organization to our best potential. In 2010, with our company’s turnover rate at 33%, I knew that even in the midst of financial gain, those numbers did not represent true success. Over time and with the support of our CEO, I was able to integrate mental health and wellness practices into the rest of the organization. This resulted in six daily principles that have given our company the space to create and maintain a thriving organizational culture—a culture that has led our company to drop to less than 1% turnover from 2016 to the present.
The six principles are:
1.Breathe: Use Your Breath to Self-Soothe
In times of stress, we can turn to our breath. It is free, accessible to us at any time, and a powerful antidote to anxiety and the physical symptoms of stress. This, in turn, can clear our minds and help us make better choices. If I had not taken the time to simply breathe at the wrong airport, for instance, I may have made the mistake of trying to get to my original flight.
2.Move: Utilize Movement as a Tool to Shift Your Mood
Movement is another way to care for your own well-being. When I cannot easily access the answer to conflict or when a team member, friend, or loved one comes to me in a state of confusion, my go-to response is to encourage them to take a walk or move in some fashion to clear the mind. From experience, I know that the best ideas don’t generally come from sitting in front of a computer or endlessly rehashing an issue. When I take the time to move is when the answers magically surface.
3.Nourish: Check In with Your Emotions before You Make Food Choices
It has taken me years to realize that during emotional turbulence, focusing on healthy and balanced food choices will support a healthy mental state. Now, I simply pause before making an unhealthy choice, and I ask myself what the underlying unmet need is—what is it that’s turning me to my comfort foods of ice cream and cookies?
The shift in my approach is not in depriving myself of the emotional eating; it’s simply in bringing awareness to it. And in that process, sometimes I still eat ice cream for dinner with the awareness that my food choice is because I am upset or stressed. But most of the time, I pivot to a more balanced healthy choice of protein and fruits and vegetables. The key is allowing the healthy choice to at least be placed on the mind’s table.
4.Communicate: Listen to Understand
One of the most vital aspects of success in our personal and professional relationships is communication—the thread that connects us together. We are often so focused on talking that we forget to listen to others first. We miss out when we don’t listen, because taking time to listen sparks creativity and boosts esteem.
5.Challenge: Pause to Pivot to a Positive Possibility
Years ago, I started using the 3P Method as a guideline for handling conflict, and now I encourage others to think through these steps when negative emotions arise. This works because I recognize there are always going to be challenges. If you take a moment to allow the feelings with the intention of moving to the positive, it saves energy by not spinning into the negative.
6.Routine: Do Something that Inspires You Each Day
One of the first questions I ask when faced with my own personal stress or someone coming to me in distress is, ““What are you doing that inspires you each day?” Then I encourage making a list and completing one activity each day that the person loves. When I’m feeling down or stressed is often when I’m forgetting to focus on my inspirations such as cooking and spending time with my kids. Having this downtime from work supports my success.
Keep Moving Forward
It takes diligence and awareness to stay on track to be our best personally and professionally. I must continually remind myself of these six principles to find the balance that supports my well-being. Each time I stop focusing on the principles, I too easily fall off the wagon of self-care and find myself not moving forward. When I stop using these tools, I make silly mistakes, forge ahead with less-than-best business decisions, and stop giving the gift of focusing on my loved ones with my presence.
The good news is that the tools are always there at my disposal. Because of them, I know what feels best, my standards for quality of relationships and work product are higher, and I can always choose to keep moving forward.