Last week we introduced resiliency as an individual and organizational aspiration. The goal for both is to be agile when confronted with stress. When people and companies can healthily respond to stress and rapid change, their resiliency grows. This isn’t to say chronic stress doesn’t impact them, it just doesn’t derail them. For example, an employee can approach changes in a company as a new challenge that they collectively find creative solutions to, versus seeing something new as one more thing to do. The difference in perspective shifts the person’s beliefs about the task itself. The positive perspective keeps the person engaged and interested versus activating the sympathetic nervous system (the body’s alarm system). Activation of the sympathetic nervous system will cause the person to attend to their individual bodies including thoughts versus the actual project at hand. This creates a complete loss of focus in the company’s interest, due to lack of resiliency.
Many of us have grown up within a society that has firmly taught us work, work, and work some more until you have nothing else to give. What this has led to are epidemic burnout and compassion fatigue. In fact, this phenomena has been taken to a different level in Japan, according to Karoshi – “death by overwork”. Employees feel l stressed, overwhelmed, distracted, irritable, depressed, and anxious. Many of these symptoms come directly from worry, unrealistic demands, lack of sleep and the ensuing mental and physical issues that are created within non-optimal and/or non-staff considerate practices. Some of these practices are not even known to the organization and unintentionally impact the employee who with proper support could function productively.
Working hard should be something we all strive for but while working hard we want to maintain our highest levels of performance to be the best at whatever we are doing. Work smarter, in essence. If someone can respond to stress with tools that help them handle their thoughts and emotions about the perceived negative circumstances they are experiencing, their resiliency increases. However, not all tools work for each individual so testing out multiple options is important for people to develop their own individual toolkit for handling stress.
For people to be resilient, on a micro-level, the organization must have a simultaneous organizational strategy that supports its staff in maintaining their individual resiliency. For example, an organization that encourages people to take self-care breaks responsibly, as needed, allows staff to have permission to handle what they are thinking and feeling in real-time. The overall foundation of a successful resiliency philosophy and organizational culture change is building trust between the organization and its employees. Trust is something built over time. An example of a trust-building organizational activity is democratically including employees in policy and procedure development that support those areas staff have said are needed. Resilient organizations’ understanding of efficiency comes from not only streamlined processes but practices.
A consistent mindfulness practice would be one of the best tools for self-care that organizations could put into place to support employees. Mindfulness is simply allowing your mind to be aware of the present moment. It’s the notion of being present where the person calmly takes stock of their body and mind in the now. Not recalling yesterday or earlier today nor thinking of the future later today or tomorrow. Thoughts of past and future are not helpful to the present time and definitely not for accomplishing a calm state of mind.
As the individual practices mindfulness, therapeutic benefits can occur in as little as 8 minutes. The American Psychological Association( APA) has empirically supported mindfulness for therapists and those receiving counseling showing the benefits are reduced rumination and stress, increased working memory and focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, increased relationship satisfaction, increased information processing speed along with numerous health benefits.
Ajivar presents individualized mindfulness tools during ongoing interaction with the App. This gives individuals multiple opportunities to develop tools that specifically work for them in different situations. It’s important to be patient with yourself. Mindfulness rarely comes naturally to people in the Western culture because of our focus on performance and achievement. It takes time and practice for the mind to monotask as many of us have become accustomed to multi-tasking.
We are also very used to responding to external situations that it may at first seem foreign to go within yourself. It requires practice and patience for mindfulness to become a habit. Stay with it, don’t give up and trust that along the way, no matter how distracted you were throughout the exercise, each attempt made will pay dividends in the end with accumulated effort. Much like studying, you may not remember the information the first time you read it but with ongoing study, you will integrate what you have learned.
As individuals have support to practice mindfulness and are encouraged to take time to ensure they are keeping their mind and body at a calm, responsive level, organizations will begin to see mindfulness as essential as healthcare coverage. Staff need tools to function optimally and long term will result in less sick-time requests with better work performance.
From a leadership development perspective, mindfulness is equally important as communication, using data, managing up or project management seminars. Mindfulness is an underutilized, easily accessible, and cost-effective tool to decrease individual stress and thus improve overall organization effectiveness and staff retention.
In colleges and universities, similar benefits of mindfulness can be achieved. The University of Cambridge conducted a study showing promising results over 8 weeks of mindfulness in college students at exam time. The study showed decreases in accumulated stress. Knowing students increasingly prefer tech options, mindfulness apps like Ajivar offers an accessible and personalized option that aligns with student choice.
Whether you are a student, worker or organization, most of us want to be engaged in meaningful work that challenges us to grow and contribute. Mindfulness is a minimal daily investment in your ability to remain responsive, efficient and healthy – true resiliency. You will notice a holistic impact within your life extending well beyond work and school to your personal life and body.
Want a true culture change for your organization for optimal support for your members? Check out https://ajivar.com/ to learn more.