I’m writin’ y’all from the Quarter in Nawlins’ (that is, the French Quarter in New Orleans for you Northerners).
The Crescent City is a place of myth, and bon temps rouler party culture with a magical undercurrent. Did you know, it’s said to be the most haunted city in America and one of the most haunting cities for those who fall under its spell? I am one of those people! It’s also a city of friendly people, the finest Creole food, some of the world’s best music, ghosts, witches and all things mysterious. I even met a self-described “Vampire” shop owner the last time I visited. We turned down her invite to a secret jazz club. I’ve watched Vampire Diaries and read enough Anne Rice to smile and move on while the sun is up. My husband is attending a conference for a few of the days which means I get to explore on my own before he’s free to join me. This could lead to all sorts of shenanigans but also means reconnecting and checking-in with the yoga community I was lucky enough to join during my last visit. If I am going to be somewhere for a few days, the first thing I like to do (after meeting up with mythical creatures) is look for the yoga studios closest to me, take a peek at their schedules/class offerings and then get a pass or swing by to get my 'OM' on. In the process, I usually make a new friend or two. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mindfulness. I was at the Yoga Conference in Toronto last month and we are focusing on mental health and Mindfulness at my Firm for the month of May. It seems to be a focus in a lot of areas in my life. How about yours? Work? Home?
Awareness of mental health and well being couldn’t be more prevalent on the social agenda, we’ve got the Royals heading up MIND campaigns and other stars opening up about their mental health. But what is Mindfulness, and how does it actually help with stress, depression and other mental health issues?
Mindfulness is a well-respected and comprehensively researched technique which has been clinically proven to help reduce depression, anxiety and stress. The technique involves simple meditation practices which, over time, can bring about changes in mood and increase a sense of well being. Being a practitioner of Mindfulness meditation, I can vouch for it 100%. There are many definitions out there but here’s the one I like best: "Mindfulness is knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment." It is about being in the NOW! Let’s face it, today it’s easy to stop noticing the world around us when we are wrapped up in so many projects at work, busy home schedules and the feeling that we are never going to get to everything on our never ending to do lists. It’s also really easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living completely ‘in our heads’ – caught up in thoughts (and sometimes negative patterns) without stopping to notice how those thoughts are influencing our emotions and behaviour with our friends, colleagues and families. A really important part of Mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and its sensations. This means waking up to all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. It could even be something as simple as the smell of that chicory coffee that’s coming my way in about two minutes!
Another important part of Mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. Allowing ourselves to see and be in the now. When we do that, it can positively change our outlook personally and in the day-to-day.
You may be thinking, that’s great Michelle, but what about Mindfulness in our Firms? Will it work there? Or am I one person in my home life and a completely different one at the Firm? I am sure you all know that mental health issues are on the rise. It should be no surprise that many businesses are turning to Mindfulness/Meditation and Yoga to support their employees to reduce work related stress and improve well being. Did you know Google offers its employees meditation courses including; “search inside yourself” and “managing your energy,” while other companies have meditation rooms with pillows and flowers or even a “yoga room” (I am seriously working on this for my Firm). Universities are also introducing Mindfulness to classes and in fact so are Elementary and High Schools in an attempt to develop leaders who are “self-aware and self-compassionate” with the outcome that people switching off will power up and power forward in a kinder fashion.
Unfortunately, it’s not a magic wand for everything. Bringing Mindfulness into the office will not prevent conflict from arising. HR and Managers will all still have to contend with that. I will let you know when I stumble across something that gets rid of all conflict! However, when difficult issues arise and there is Mindfulness in place, people are more likely to be skillfully acknowledged, held and responded to by the group. Over time with Mindfulness, we can learn to develop our inner resources to navigate through the difficult, stressful situations we encounter with more ease and grace. Becoming more aware of your own emotions as they arise gives you more choices in how to deal with them. And we all like choices. Mindfulness helps you become more aware of an arising emotion by noticing the sensation in the body. Then you can follow these guidelines: Stop what you are doing. Breathe deeply. Notice how you are experiencing the emotion in your body. Reflect on where the emotion is coming from in your mind (personal history, insecurity, etc.). Respond in the most compassionate way. Have I got your interest? Are you thinking you may want to put in place a program at your office? For your team or just for yourself? First, turn off all the lights and light 10 candles (just kidding). If the answer is yes… here are a few tips to try:
BREATHE – Yep, that’s right… just take a moment and BREATHE!!! Life is hectic, phone’s ring, texts chime, emails swish in, our devices vibrate with notifications and alerts from apps like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc., and it’s non-stop. What to do first, read the email? Check your Facebook likes? Answer the text? Check the calendar? No! Just stop! You heard me… STOP. Be still – practice having a moment or two without any distractions and especially the electronic kind. Take a moment and just stop, breathe, think about breathing (focus on the inhale and then the exhale) and let go of everything. Pause after each activity without rushing to the next and consider what you have just achieved. We all know it’s easier said than done with our Managing Partner’s on the phone and staff emailing, husband texting but take a moment after each activity – even if it’s just after you’ve taken your coat off and switched your desk light on and be in the present moment and nothing else.
Reconnect – Enjoy the little things, the moments everyday that joy brings. Sometimes it may seem hard to find but it is there. Look out the window and see how Spring is finally making her presence known. Say hey to a colleague you’ve not spoken to in a while, enjoy the conversation in the kitchen/lounge, maybe make plans for lunch rather than eating in front of your computer. Our working relationships strengthen when you feel engaged and connected with your peeps.
Keep it Simple – Concentrate on one thing first and worry about the next activity once you have achieved the first one. By simplifying our task lists and concentrating on one thing at a time, we are more likely to focus and perform better than juggling three or four things at once.
Don’t worry (so much) – Everyone is guilty of worrying and stressing about everything from forgetting to turn off a light at home to not immediately responding to an email. By instilling a mantra of concentrating on one thing at a time, mistakes and forgetfulness should start to reduce. If mistakes are made and nothing can be done to rectify them, then don’t worry about what has been done, you can only effect what you can do. Think about what happened, use it to learn and build upon. Sometimes our stress about the small things gets out of hand, especially when issues are minor and have no real impact on the overall business.
Go for a Stroll – As work piles up and pressures mount, the first thing we do is skip lunch, and therefore there is no break away from our desks. Take a walk during your day – even if it’s for five minutes around the block or to visit a colleague on a different floor. Walking can act as meditation and can do wonders for the body, mind and soul. It's a simple technique to introduce a Mindfulness approach to the workforce. It also helps get our steps in so we can get those little fireworks on our FitBits. I don’t have a FitBit but my device sends me a message telling me I am awesome or a star when I hit my steps for the day, drink all my water, go to yoga etc.
Eat – It sounds simple, but keeping nourished and hydrated at work is uber important! Your mind will be sharper if you’re not thinking about food all the time. So, instead of thinking about cramming in the spreadsheet, memo, FTE report, etc. over lunch and swallowing a sandwich to get by, actually stop and enjoy the meal and forget about everything else. After all, Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, so enjoy your sandwich and finish the memo afterwards.
Enjoy the Wins – Whatever size or impact your achievements may be, reflect on them and accept them. Take the moment to enjoy a job well done, the compliment from your colleague, the appreciation from a team member before rushing on to the next task.
As a Manager of people, lead by example – if you adopt a Mindfulness approach to work, take lunch, go for walks, take a breather after each activity, then your people will surely follow suit. If you are drowning in work and continue to skip lunch for work and sit at your desk all day, then work-related stress will soon creep up on you and it probably won't make you the most pleasant person to be around or to work for. Do you remember Tweety Hyde? (Tweety Bird drinks a potion and his sweet little self is changed into a scary bird. Google "Tweety Hyde" and see for yourself). By changing a few small habits and working behaviours (such as skipping lunch) and adopting a mindfulness approach to work, you will be more focused, less stressed and less likely to suffer work related stress and other mental health illnesses. BE WELL! Maybe think about whether you’ve had a chance to connect with your TLOMA friends in the last while. If not, perhaps one of the dates for an upcoming SIG will give you the perfect chance for a walk, a nice lunch, where you can enjoy a presentation and reconnect with your colleagues. With that in mind, here are a few to choose from:
TLOMA's upcoming events for May and June 2018:
The top item on many of our agenda’s for May will be the Survey. If you're responsible for your firm's compensation programs, please plan to attend the launch meeting either in person or by way of webcast. Also consider bringing along your Director of Student and Associate Programs, CFO and/or the individuals responsible for compensation and total rewards programs in your firm. There are a host of new and exciting items covered this year so don’t miss out and remember: Every participant improves the quality and the validity of the results. Your company's participation can stimulate others to participate. In other words, if nobody puts data in, nobody gets data out.
If you can’t make it out for a SIG but do want to make time to reconnect, don’t forget about CONFERENCE! Early Bird Registration is open until May 31 for our 2018 TLOMA Conference. Make sure to register before the Early Bird deadline to receive some great extra savings. Conference is being held from September 26 to September 29 in Niagara-on-the-Lake at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa. The line-up of speakers is exceptional. You won’t want to miss it! It’s a great few days away from the office. There are always opportunities to network with other members, make new friendships, share ideas over a bite to eat or make new connections while mingling later in the evening at one of our social events. It is also an excellent time to meet new Business Partners and find that product/service your firm has been looking for.
Anyway, it seems my chicory coffee and ‘right out of the deep fryer’ beignet dusted with icing sugar (forgot to mention it above) have arrived. This is your Pres, signing off and looking forward to seeing you soon.