Resilience makes us tougher. But developing resilience is even tougher. So if you want to enhance your resilience, give your mind the chance to recover. One of the best ways to do this is by switching off from the stresses and strains of work.
Being a self-starter means staying on top of a lot of things at once. Like corresponding with your clients. Liaising with subcontractors or suppliers. Managing your admin and finances. Email and social media mean you are always on. Always contactable. Staying aware of potential problems and challenges your business might face in the future.
Being constantly tuned to the ins and outs of your everyday uses up a lot of brain power, and that’s before you even have time to think about your personal life or check the last hour’s worth of notifications on your smartphone or social media. But there are things you can do to help.
In an article on The Conversation, Dee Gray (Visiting Research Fellow, Liverpool John Moores University) says that how we give ourselves space from thought and give ourselves space to switch off is just as important as how we approach problems when optimising our resilience at work.
“Mental breaks can increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity,” says Gray.
“So instead of pushing our brains to find solutions, if we allow our brains time to rest, they will be able to solve problems more quickly.”
Switching off brings with it plenty of other tangible benefits for self-starters. Like reduced anxiety and increased happiness, more rewarding connections with your colleagues, and an enhanced ability to live in the moment and truly enjoy what you’re working on.
Outside of work it leads to better sleep, and more time spent enjoying life with your partner, family, pets and friends.
How the brain responds to stress
The body’s automatic stress response is controlled by the two divisions of the autonomic nervous system – sympathetic and parasympathetic.
The sympathetic system is the one that drives our “fight or flight” responses, while the parasympathetic system works to return our stress levels to “normal” after we go through stressful situations.
According to an article on The Conversation written by Michaela Pascoe, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Exercise and Mental Health at Victoria University, stress is common, and ongoing stress can contribute to the onset of a range of psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety.
She says “meditation and yoga have been shown to reduce people’s self-reported levels of stress”. This is likely due, at least in part, to the effects that meditation and yoga have on the brain’s stress response system.
Switching off to help strengthen resilience to stress isn’t about another to-do list you need to check off daily. It’s about setting time aside for small things that can make a big difference.
Here’s three simple things you can try:
- Write a diary of your goals for the day when you wake up, then add your reflections on how successful you’ve been before you head to bed.
- Take a walk around the block using mindfulness techniques to keep your brain from being back at work.
- Set a time you’ll switch off your work phone, email and social media, and stick to it.
Doing any of these won’t stop problems from occurring, but over time they’ll change the way your nervous system reacts to issues. This means you can make better, smarter decisions about how to respond to challenges or in stressful situations.
Doing a digital detox
The constant bombardment that smartphones and social media brings to our lives is a key factor in the difficulty of developing and maintaining resilience. Mindfulness is all about presence of mind and awareness of patterns of thought and emotion, and how they affect us.
When we’re busy answering emails and texts and watching YouTube on top of all the work we have to get done, we’re not giving our brains that chance to rest and relax. We’re being encouraged to, though.
The National Day of Unplugging was created by Reboot, a US not-for-profit Jewish community GROUP that was originally established in 2003. Taking place in March each year, it’s aimed at inspiring us to disconnect from our devices so we can connect with ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.
In an article published on The Conversation, Jamie Gruman, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the University of Guelph, says that participation in such initiatives is beneficial.
He believes that “there is a growing amount of research showing that using phones during our leisure time interferes with our ability to psychologically disconnect from work and recover from the stress and demands we face on a daily basis.”
He says that switching off from our phones away from the studio, worksite or office – and giving ourselves the time and space to decompress and recharge – can make us feel better and actually make us more effective and productive when we return to work.
In our next article about staying strong by switching off, we’ll be looking at – ironic as it may sound – a range of apps and digital products that are available to help our self-starting brains take a break.
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