Our mind is our most valuable resource, yet we take very little time to take care of it. Everyone understands the importance of being healthy, yet many of us prioritize our physical health over our mental state. We are more concerned with how we look than how our mind feels. Your mental and emotional health affects every aspect of your daily life, whether you realize it or not.
Maintaining your mental health requires a dedicated effort on a daily basis. A small amount of effort each day can reap a lifetime of rewards for your body and mind. But what about when life's waters get choppy?
For entrepreneurs, choppy waters become all too familiar. Just when you emerge to take your next gasp of air, you can get pummeled by the next wave. As a leader, the issue of stress and anxiety can quickly become systemic and poison your company.
I asked clinical psychologist, Amber Jenkins, Ph.D. for her advice on how to deal with setbacks and disappointments in order to stay mentally fit even in tough times.
"It's important to try and strike a balance between giving yourself enough space and time to feel whatever emotions are coming up and staying productive in your daily life. In tough times, we often have an urge to let go of our routines. We stop exercising, eating healthy and our sleep schedule goes out the window. We essentially stop living our lives and get stuck in our pain. So while it's important to acknowledge and validate the pain, it's also important to continue to do what you would typically do to be productive."
Dr. Jenkins also mentioned that it is imperative for us to come to terms with our own imperfections around the concept of balance. Realizing that when we are upset, normal routines may be more difficult, performance may be altered and our expectations can be lowered. The key is to find an effective balance and when we are confronted with rough waters to acknowledge them and ride the wave.
Mental and emotional health is hard to manage in a busy work environment even when the waters seem calm. The acknowledgment that perfection is not the only path to being healthy has been a key piece for me in understanding how to optimize and prioritize each day. The reality is that for many of us, work and the stress associated is not confined to our office walls and often follows us home.
One method I wanted to try was meditation. Recently Harvard neuroscientist, Sara Lazar, found that meditation was not only good for reducing stress but could also strengthen your brain. Personally, I have always been good at prioritizing exercise to relieve my stress, yet I realized that my brain never turned off.
A friend suggested I try one of the new meditation apps that cater to beginners. I found the experience easy and non intimidating. That being said, I failed 3 out of my first 10 tries, jumping up in the middle of the 10 min session because I had cleared my head enough to remember I had something else to do. Regardless, I still saw the usefulness and I started to feel the positive mental impact.
After experiencing the value of taking small steps to improve my own mental health on a routine basis, I asked Headspace CEO, Sean Brecker, how to prioritize mental health in the workplace.
"Employees around the world break up their busy days by spending ten minutes on social media, but that's like eating chocolate cake in the middle of a triathlon: good, but not good for you. Stress decreases and happiness improves when we rest the mind with wellness breaks; small efforts, such as going on walks outside, meditating between meetings, or even making a sandwich in the office helps calm and reset the mind."
Experts agree that prioritizing mental health on a daily basis is key to preparing yourself for life's choppy waters. Small efforts each day can have a big impact. When you do get thrown off course, balance being productive with acknowledgment of your own feelings and discomfort.