If you're feeling stressed by the current global crisis, you're not alone.
After all, our sense of normalcy has been upended almost overnight. Health worries, economic fears, "social distancing," and uncertainty about the future have created in many of us a sense of deep unease. Add to that a 24/7 news cycle focused almost exclusively on the latest information (or misinformation) about the crisis, and it can start to seem like everything is spinning out of control.
It's precisely at moments like this that the practice of mindfulness can help, by changing our perspective and providing some much-needed peace of mind. Here are five mindful ways to tame your anxiety and nurture your overall well-being.
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings With Gentleness And Compassion
It's perfectly normal to be worried in the face of uncertainty, danger, and loss. But that doesn't mean that we have to let our feelings control us. Ironically, the better we get at recognizing our feelings, the less power they tend to have over us. We can remind ourselves, "This is what I'm feeling right now, and it's really hard. But it will pass."
2. "Social Distancing" Shouldn't Mean Emotional Distancing
We humans need each other, a truth that's embodied in the mindfulness principle that all beings are interconnected. Instead of isolating, now is the time to reach out to friends and family and let them know how much you care about them. Even if you can't be physically close, a text, call, or video chat can strengthen the important emotional bonds that support and sustain us.
3. Connect With Nature
If there's a silver lining to the current crisis, it's the fact that it's unfolding during springtime. What a wonderful excuse to turn off the news, disconnect from your devices, and be mindful of nature's beauty. Take a walk or run, or simply sit and observe the returning birds, emerging crocuses, and budding blooms. Pause for a moment to actually feel the sun on your face and the warmth in the air. There's something deeply comforting about earth's cycle of decline and rebirth, a measure of certainty that's especially profound in uncertain times.
4. Be Kind
Stress can bring out the worst in all of us. It can make us impatient and judgmental and trigger the very human instinct to think only of ourselves. But if we can be mindful of the fact that everyone around us is struggling – some with much greater worries than our own – we can extend the kindness and generosity that make things a little bit easier for us all.
5. Remember To Breathe
With all of today's stress and uncertainty, it's more important than ever to center ourselves in the present moment. The mindfulness practice of focusing on the breath can help us do just that. Even a few conscious, gentle breaths can slow racing thoughts and provide a moment of clarity and calm. And by bringing our awareness to the present, we can set worry aside and take time to appreciate all that we have to be grateful for in the here and now.
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When I first heard #OKBoomer, I cringed and thought — here we go again.
Yet another round of generation bashing, this time Millennials against Baby Boomers. This new social media conflict will not help workplace dynamics.
Throughout my career, I've heard countless rants about long-established workplace norms that younger generations perceive as overly repressive rules that subvert identity, familial obligations, civility, and respect for the environment.
I get it. I remember how I felt early in my career being told that I couldn't wear pants, had to wear pantyhose (even in 90-degree weather) and that I wasn't allowed to speak to executives. Seriously?
Gen X here to the rescue.
Sandwiched between the much larger Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, Gen Xers are often overlooked. Please allow me to build a bridge to the opportunity ahead.
For me, the generation challenge is a communications opportunity. And the stakes are high, because we spend about 70% of our day communicating. Within that timeframe, we spend about 45% listening, 30% speaking, 16% reading, and 9% writing.
By 2030, most Baby Boomers will have retired, and approximately 75% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials. That gives us about a decade to continue working together to create a work environment that is better for women, people of color, and the younger generations.
As a multigenerational workplace scholar, I'm often asked, what is a generation, and why do they matter?
Karl Mannheim, the founder of sociology, concluded that key historical events significantly impact people during their youth. Essentially, when you were born and what was happening where you lived during your formative childhood years, help define what is important to you and help set your value system.
Think of it this way, if the games you played growing up allowed you to advance to the next level regardless of if it took one attempt or fifty, you might have a different perspective on what mastering a task looks like than someone who didn't.
If technology has almost always allowed you to be more efficient, you may seek to perform a job as quickly as possible, so that you are being productive, not because you are looking for a short cut.
If the answer to any question was always a Google search away, you might get frustrated when your questions go unanswered and are told to figure it out.
These examples begin to explain why Baby Boomers and Millennials value different things. However, there are always going to be outliers. I study generational-related values, because they frame how we show up and what we expect when we come to work.
In my recent study of 1,400 Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z women, I examined strategies for communicating. I was particularly interested in interpersonal communications — the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages. It turns about that the most essential characteristics by generation were active listening (paying attention to others), collaboration (teamwork), and empathy (showing understanding for others).
Baby Boomers believe they are best at "paying attention to others."
Given our hectic schedules at work, you may be tempted to multitask while speaking or try to get by gleaning the gist of a conversation in a conference call while working on a report at the same time. But this isn't deeply effective. Active listening is crucial because being highly engaged in a conversation helps everyone involved have clarity and alignment on exchange. It also helps build rapport and trust between participants.
Some practical ways to demonstrate active listening include:
- Asking specific questions or paraphrasing what you've heard
- Using non-verbal cues such as making eye contact and not looking at your device
- Maintain body language that shows you are interested and the speaker has your full attention
Gen X believes they are best at "working with others."
Lots of us have heard the expression, "There's no 'I' in a team." Teams that collaborate well have a better chance for sustained and repeatable success.
Effective ways to demonstrate collaboration are:
- Establishing clear goals and expectations for the team
- Being accountable for the team and yourself
- Providing and being open to feedback
Both Millennials and Gen Z believe they are most effective at "showing understanding for others."
The workplace is more diverse than ever before. Some organizations may have a Baby Boomer, a Gen Xer, Millennial, and a Gen Zer, all working alongside each other. By showing empathy, we can demonstrate that we appreciate and respect each other's perspectives and are open to understanding how they feel about a situation, idea, or concept.
Effective ways to demonstrate empathy are:
- Listening without judging or forming an opinion
- Being slow to criticize
- Acknowledging the other person's feelings as valid for them
So, instead of dismissing a generation with a hashtag, let try to open a dialogue. For example, next time you are working a Baby Boomers demonstrate that you are actively listening to what they are saying. Try sending a summary email about your deliverables on an assignment Gen Xers to highlight your collaborative skills. And take time to let Millennials and Gen Z know that you appreciate and understand their point of view.