Dealing with Stress & The Art of Mindfulness
Globalisation, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, environmental concerns and the war in Ukraine. The executives of today are faced with a truly unique set of challenges. Paired with the stress of running a company, these hectic and volatile circumstances are undoubtedly resulting in physical and psychological burnout for business leaders across the globe. We explore some of the best ways of combatting burnout below.
The practice of mindfulness and emotional cultivation is a proven cure for people who are on the verge of burnout. It offers a durable means by which business leaders can not only alleviate their experienced levels of stress and psychological suffering but also colour their broader lives with indelible happiness and real meaning. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. It is often described as a state of observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Dating back to ancient times, the practice of mindfulness involves neither the cessation of thoughts, nor the retreat from everyday existence, nor the possession of any special skills or subscription to any theological beliefs.
Rather mindfulness involves tools and techniques which allow us to observe our thoughts, feelings and experiences as the capricious phenomena they are. Just like changing cloud formations which float across the ever-blue sky, our perceptions, thoughts, emotions and experiences float across the ever-present wellspring of peace within us. The practice of mindfulness helps unveil this deep and stable reality within each of us.
The benefits of mindfulness are countless. At a fundamental level, mindfulness is about developing our most crucial faculty – our mind. The apparatus through which all our experiences – thoughts, loves, goals, ambitions, attitudes, concerns, career, family, interests, tastes, sights, smells – are mediated. Hence, as the mind is superordinate, we must develop it in order to change how we perceive and experience the world.
We’re faced with constant stress in our hectic and busy world. This constant pressure can lead to chronic anxieties, worries and fears – or psychological suffering, which inevitably has negative downstream effects on our physical health, career performance and personal relationships. The truth is that no one is immune to this – not even big and powerful CEOs and business leaders.
Mindfulness gives us the means to simultaneously rescue ourselves from the insidious wildfire of negative thoughts and all associated emotions whilst, simultaneously, bringing our minds into a state of focused positive calm. As we develop our level of mindfulness, we become ever more rooted in this ground of calm, remaining there even as we continue to operate within the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. The result? A healthier and happier internal mental and emotional landscape, increased energy, improved focus, wholesome relationships, and enhanced productivity and performance.
One way to practice mindfulness is through intentional visualisation. Where the mind goes, the person follows – or we become what we routinely think about. When waking up in the morning, try to set some time aside to intentionally visualise the kind of person you wish to be throughout the day. Close your eyes for a couple of minutes and think about a clear image of how you would like to face each challenge, setback or joy that you face during the day. Try to be as specific as you can and be fully honest – there’s no audience, you’re only doing this exercise in front of yourself. You can do this anywhere and it shouldn’t take you more than 3 – 5 minutes. The important thing is the “intentionality” involved. It will help you to paint a clear and deliberate picture of who you wish to be and will predispose your intent to meet events with emotional equanimity. As you begin to practice this habitually, your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours will gradually begin to line up with your vision of the person you want to be.
Another useful exercise is the 60-second time-out. Find little slots during your day to simply close your eyes and stop for 60 seconds. Keep your mind wide open and don’t try to stop your thoughts – embrace them. With your eyes closed, bring your full attention to the sensation of your breathing. Breathe normally and if you find yourself going back to your thoughts – don’t fight it but try to slowly bring your attention back to your breathing. After 60 seconds, open your eyes and go back to your day. Try to do this as often as you can and feel the need to. Punctuating your day with time-outs helps to re-centre your calm and stability. By focusing on the sensation of breathing, you concentrate on the here and now. There is always peace and power in the “now”. Regret, or backwards-looking, and anxiety, or forward-looking, don’t exist in the “now”. Employ this simple technique and see how it refreshes and energises you.
There is an abundance of online resources which can help you practice mindfulness. These include apps like Waking Up, Calm and Headspace as well as The Art of Breathing book by Dr Danny Penman and the Being Aware of Being Aware book by Rupert Spira.
However, there’s nothing quite as effective as working on your mindfulness with an experienced professional. As champions of mental and emotional wellbeing, The Odissean Experience offers bespoke programs that are specifically designed to help busy people ease into their being, amongst the day-to-day challenges of professional life.
The Odissean Experience’s celebrated mindset specialists and world-class partners provide an array of completely tailored mental wellbeing, emotional health and high-performance coaching services geared towards helping you think clearer, focus sharper, stay calmer and perform to your absolute best. And – most importantly – feel good about yourself as you do so.
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