Raising Robust Employees in Challenging Times

As the days draw-in and sunlight is waning (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), you may notice a drop-in your energy levels, motivation and mood. This most often rears its ugly-head in the workplace.  Maybe it is a missed deadline, a skipped meeting or lack of follow-through on a commitment.  Maybe it is increased anxiety about job security due to your poor performance. However it is showing up for you, it is a problem and you may not be able to solve it on your own. According to the Washington Post[1] depression and anxiety cost the global economy over $1 trillion in lost productivity. In the USA alone that is upwards of 200 million lost work days every year!  With numbers like this, everyone will benefit from workplace wellness initiatives that respect and create a work-life balance.

As an employee with autonomy and self-agency, there are simple ways you can increase your energy, commitment and focus in the workplace and beyond.  Having worked through this topic with so many clients, I would like to offer some tips on this subject. 

Firstly, no matter what, take a lunch break every single day. This is paramount. During your lunch break take a walk outside. No matter the weather conditions or environment, the fresh air, natural light and physical movement will provide you clarity, focus and fresh perspective. During this time, be as present to the moment as possible. Leave your device in your pocket as it will only serve as a distraction. When you are able to stay focused in the present moment, rather fixating on the past (e.g. what went wrong already this morning) or focusing on the future (e.g. what will be requested of you at your next meeting) you allow yourself to feel peace and calm. If your day simply won’t allow for a lunch break, fit in a break somewhere, whether it is mid-morning between conference calls or 30 minutes before you head into your commute home. You deserve it and your productivity will increase; not decrease!

Secondly, set yourself regular working hours and stick to them. In this 24 -hour world, we can easily be persuaded to work around the clock from the car, our bed and even vacation. Being realistic and discerning, prioritize your deadlines and commitments. With this in mind, only respond to urgent matters outside of your working hours. This is called setting healthy boundaries and creating a work-life balance for yourself.  Set expectations with your peers and clients so that they understand your commitment to a healthy work-life balance.  Many professionals have forgotten that not every email, text or call is urgent.  Again, use your discernment, intuition and expertise to determine if you must work outside of your normal business hours and respond accordingly.

Thirdly, create a practical, achievable and sustainable routine for self-care. This will depend greatly on your areas of interests, passions, and abilities.  Self-care is a huge factor in defending against career burnout.  Some ideas may include: journaling, jogging, attending a pilates class, reading scripture, joining a prayer gathering, free-writing, creative dancing, cooking, investing in musical lessons, walking your dog or volunteering a homeless shelter.  Create a list of accessible activities that you can engage in if you have 10 mins, an hour, or a full-day to dedicate to yourself. Creating this list ahead of time will prevent you from the paralysis you may feel if you find yourself with a precious, but unexpected, unscheduled window of time. Self-care, like all worthy pursuits, takes time and dedication.  If you don’t commit to caring for yourself, you will likely stop prematurely and regress into old, familiar habits.

Fourth, learn to meditate.  Meditation is the simplest and most accessible ways for anyone to create a sense of calm within themselves.  Anyone who can breathe, can meditate! Meditation requires practice and discipline but it’s not about achievement. It’s about being present, calm and open to your experience in the world. Meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time, so there are no excuses. Harvard Medical [2] studies confirm that adults can increase gray matter in 4 regions of the brain (including the frontal cortex) and reduce size of the amygdala (aka ‘fight or flight’ command center) after just 8 weeks of 27 mins per day of meditation practice.  If that doesn’t excite you, you can stop reading now!

Below I have provided a simple meditation that can practiced anywhere. To do this brief meditation, you only need to stop where ever you are and use your 5 senses to ground yourself in the moment. By grounding in the present moment, you allow yourself to be open to the experience of life that is unfolding in your very presence. The point is to stay focused on each of your senses as you move through this exercise. This meditation can be done in a just a few moments or stretched out when time allows. The important thing to remember is that you are sending calming signals to your brain’s amygdala as you meditate and therefore you are eliminating anxiety. Repeated practice of such a meditation will allow your mind easier access to its calmer side. 

Five Senses Meditation

Imagine you are sitting in a coffee shop on your lunch break… With your eyes you will take in the colors of the food in the display counter, the patterns of the shirt of the barista and dried-up spilled milk on your table. Stay there a while, observe and notice what you can only using your sight. With your ears you may hear the sounds of the espresso machine brewing, the chatter of the adjacent table or the honking horns of the cars outside. Stay here and take in all the sounds and notice how each feels to you. Close your eyes to deepen the experience. With your nose smell the bold scent of roasting coffee or the sweetness of the fresh baked pastries. Can you smell any specific ingredients like cinnamon, butter or fresh berries?  Maybe the scents are mixed together and you are intrigued by the combination of coffee and sweets.  Stay here, what else do you detect with only your nostrils? With your skin you may detect the heating blowing against your skin, the softness of your cotton shirt or the heat coming off your coffee cup. Stay here. How does each sensation feel and is there anything you can do to make yourself more comfortable with this new knowledge? With your tongue observe the taste of your coffee and how each sip differs from the last- is the coffee hot, cold, strong, mild, bitter? Does the second sip taste as good as the first? Can you taste the cream and sugar? Stay here and notice if there are any lingering tastes in your mouth such as your minty toothpaste or this morning’s everything bagel? Engage in each sense individually until you are fully present in your body and the experience.

As a life coach, I love helping transform and change. I am guided by my clinical training, expertise in human relationships and my well-honed intuition. I especially enjoy working with people in major life transitions such retirement, separation, or loss. If you would like to know more about how professional life coaching can benefit you, please reach out.  You can find all of my contact information on my website: www.curiositylifecoaching.com or at https://www.linkedin.com/in/carriecmead/. The consultation is always free, so you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/brand-studio/kaiser-permanente/the-economics-of-workplace-wellbeing/

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/