Tag Archive for: well-being

Fostering Well-Being in Times of Mental Fatigue – The Authentic Way

Brenda is a project manager at a large financial services company. For the past year, she has been leading a team tasked with developing a new product line on a tight deadline. She’s been working 60-70 hours/week, constantly juggling demands from her team, executive, and her clients. She has had to make numerous high-stake decisions under immense pressure. And she is a parent of three school age children.

She now feels completely drained, both mentally and physically. She’s having trouble concentrating and remembering key details. Simple tasks that were once easy now seem overwhelming. She’s getting cynical and detached from her work. She’s getting irritable with both her team and her family and lashes out at them over minor issues. Her sleep has been almost non-existent, and she relies on caffeine and energy drinks to get her through the day. And she’s on prescription muscle relaxants and pain medication for her headaches.

She’s starting to dread going into the office each morning and has considered quitting her job entirely, despite having worked so hard on this project. While this is likely an extreme case of chronic overwork, I hear versions of this story from many people these days.

What’s going on, and what can we do about it?

With fatigue and burnout, we see symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, impaired judgement and decision-making, increased forgetfulness, irritability, decreased motivation, increased mistakes, headaches, cynicism, changes in sleep patterns (e.g. insomnia), and increased absenteeism. I suggest five strategies for dealing with it:

  1.  Recognize. It takes courage to step up and be accountable. However, don’t confuse courage with the temptation of martyrdom. It takes humility – a true evaluation of conditions as they are – to truly be strong. Honestly acknowledge if you have gone from a healthy sense of tiredness that you recover from on the weekend, to real exhaustion. There’s no shame in recognizing that you are burned out. It can happen to anyone who is conscientious and loses touch with their values. Remember: self-centered, lazy sloths don’t get exhausted.
  2. Reach Out. Carrying other’s responsibilities often comes with accountable people. However, it’s not sustainable. The lone-warrior model of leadership is, in the words of Ronald Heifetz, heroic suicide. Each of us have blind spots that require the vision of others. Reach out for help from a guide.
  3. Relate. This may sound strange, but you can make friends with your exhaustion. It’s not your enemy. It’s here to teach you. If you stop long enough to get your bearings – away from the demands of the world – you can befriend your exhaustion and ask it, like you would a friend, what advice it would give you. Write down the guidance you get. It’s possible to create a relationship with, and learn from, your exhaustion.
  4. Reflect. Exhaustion means you have lost connection with your values by allowing yourself to be suffocated by the expectations of others. Getting your bearings includes reconnecting with your values. Make a list of things that are important to you. Now arrange the items in descending order of their importance. Notice where you’ve placed inner peace, well-being, or whatever you want to call it. How important is this to you? What comes before it on the list? Many responsible people don’t make themselves a priority. The way you see yourself is reflected in how you treat yourself.
  5. Renew. You don’t have to change yourself. Living authentically means simply coming home to yourself. It’s that simple and it’s that complex. The healing journey isn’t an overnight venture, but it does start with a single step. Ask yourself, “What do I need to STOP, START, and CONTINUE doing to live a life that is aligned with what truly matters to me?” “What one small decision would make all the difference?” Reflect on how you can make yourself a priority – so that your caring and commitment to others comes from overflow, not emptiness. What agreements will you make? What actions are needed? What support do you require?

Four Ways to Protect Your Well-Being In Colder Months

I love this time of year. It’s my favorite season. I call it “late summer.” The crisp air in my morning walks, the dropping temperatures, and the leaves beginning to turn remind me of going back to school, my days of harvest on the farm, starting a new year of teaching, and beginning a new business cycle.

And even though there is a lot that seems different this year with the pandemic, I’m still embracing the emerging fall.

Here are four keys to protect your mental and physical health heading into colder months:

1) Get outside. I’ve learned in my life that the way to grow through discomfort is to move toward what ails you, not away from it. There’s no growth in the comfort zone, so if you are going to grow and flourish, move toward what ails you, not away from it. The weather is the same way. If it’s windy or cold or stormy, put on the clothes that match the weather, get out and enjoy whatever is there. Pushing yourself through a little discomfort is good for both the mind and the body.

2) Don’t purchase collective disease. I’m hearing a murmuring of voices these days that say, “we’ll get another wave of COVID when the days get colder and flu season hits,” but I’m not allowing it to frighten me. I am embracing life too much right now to let any cynic bring me down with more depressive thoughts. They don’t serve me well and I don’t think they serve the world.

3) Live with purpose. A purpose or vision is a powerful force in one’s life. My purpose of making a difference in people’s lives through teaching and writing was shaken last March when people immediately stopped hiring speakers. When the pandemic hit, I faced depressive thoughts, self-doubt, and fear. I temporarily lost my purpose, but after facing the dark night of my soul and considerable reflection, I began to realize that my purpose lay not in what I do but who I am. With a steadfast purpose to continue to teach and a vision to shift my work to an online format, we developed a three month virtual Authentic Leadership Development Masterclass: https://ally-stone-9892.mindmint.com/landing_page_8o9taxbvabex0il3g7b4

While self-doubt, fear, and depressive thoughts still surface at times, having a renewed sense of purpose dissolves the negativity and empowers me with regenerated energy.

4) Don’t be distracted by the detractors. It seems to be human nature to succumb to negativity, self-pity, and self-absorption by binge watching Netflix or endless internet surfing. Rising above what is easy and comfortable by responding to a vision of possibility is where self-respect is born. Envision yourself as healthy or create a business that will make the world better or learn a new skill that will challenge and inspire you. Then turn off the TV, set your devices down, unplug the news, and go get some exercise, sign up for an online class that inspires you, check out a recovery group, or pick up a book and start studying. Stop complaining about the world and start doing your part to make it better. Do this not because it will make you better than others but because of what it will do for you.

I have always loved the words of the great Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, when he said, at the age of ninety-three, This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”