How many of you have experienced some level of stress in the last week? Most of us, I bet. Whether it's an ever-growing inbox, back-to-back meetings, your family responsibilities, or a tense encounter with a colleague, client or spouse ...stress affects almost everyone. And, unfortunately, we often don't have the tools or resources to manage stress.
The Australian Financial Review recently reported that the fallout of not focusing on our wellbeing is apparent in the increasing prevalence of workplace burnout and mental health. A report by The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners found anxiety and depression are now more common than colds and flu. So it's time we rethink how we care for our mental wellbeing.
What can we do? Practising mindfulness can be an invaluable tool for leaders. There's good reason it's becoming mainstream as a simple, yet profound, tool to reduce the effects of stress for the very reason that the science is really compelling!
In 2015, after my own burnout from stress, I embarked on a journey to practise and study mindfulness and emotional intelligence backed by neuroscience – and became a certified teacher of the famous Search Inside Yourself program, developed at Google. So in just a moment, I'll invite you to join me in an experiment ...a very short attention training practice, called Mindful Breathing. The research points to two benefits of this practice:
1. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress; and,
2. Activating the brain networks for executive function - specifically the PFC – for greater focus, clarity and decision making.
So for the next 45 seconds, let's give it a try. I'll keep an eye on the time and guide you through a short practice:
Find a comfortable way of sitting that's both relaxed and alert at the same time. You can choose to close your eyes if you wish or just look down with a soft gaze. Whatever is comfortable for you. (pause)
Let's begin with three slow deep breaths. (pause)
Noticing the inhale, noticing the exhale. And the spaces in between. (pause)
Bringing full attention to our breath. And when the mind wanders, which it will, it's totally ok, just return your attention to your breath. That's the practice. (pause)
And as we begin to close, just notice if you sense any changes, or not, from this short practice. (pause)
And when you are ready you can open your eyes.
Thank you for your attention. And thanks for giving it a try. This week, I'd invite you to try one minute of breathing each day. Just notice in the laboratory of your own experience, if this short mindful breathing practices starts to invite some calm in your busy day.