According to recent research, more than 40% of employees report high levels of stress at work, and about 75% of employees with clinical stress are not currently getting the support they need inside or outside the workplace. In response, many states are approving funding for schools and organizations to improve employee mental health and wellness. At Innovageous, we provide coaching, professional learning, and comprehensive systems planning for increasing both adult and student social-emotional learning (SEL), self-care, and wellness. Read below to learn more about 2 Innovageous recommendations for improving mental health and wellbeing, proven to be the most effective for individuals according to the research of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us (mindful.org). The benefits of mindfulness include reduced anxiety, and increased focus, self-insight, cognitive flexibility, and creativity.
Some simple strategies for becoming more mindful at work are:
Notice automatic behaviors. Make a list of behaviors that are automatic for you, and behaviors that require a lot of attention and present moment focus. Try adding mindfulness into one of your automatic behaviors, such as eating lunch, sitting, or walking to the bathroom or a meeting.
Practice mindful breathing. Even just a few breaths can refocus your attention and energy before a stressful part of your day, or after sitting at your desk for a long period of time.
Engage in mindful movement. Take a walk or stretch your body while intentionally tuning into how your body feels and moves. This can happen for a few minutes, such as during a lunch break, or for a few seconds, such as during transitions or between activities. If you are an educator, involve your students so you all benefit and refocus, especially during times of the day that tend to be stressful.
Engage in Values-Aligned Action
While the benefits of mindfulness alone are well-researched and valuable, the combination of mindfulness and staying true to your core values is even more effective at increasing wellbeing. As a first step, mindfulness allows you to slow down, notice your emotions, and pause before reacting. Building on this awareness, knowing your core values helps you intentionally choose an action that aligns with your purpose. As it turns out, knowing our core selves and living into our values significantly increases our wellbeing, and conversely, acting outside of our values can lead to increased stress.
A few individual strategies for aligning actions to values at work are:
Identify your top 3 values. These are not your company’s or your office’s values, but rather the top 3 values that define you as an individual. Knowing your own values can help you collaborate with your colleagues, connect with your workplace’s mission, and find meaningful purpose in your day-to-day tasks.
Connect each of your values to everyday action. Think about what each of your values looks like, and what they don’t look like. Intentionally choose actions that align with your values. Reflect on times you did not stay true to your values, why that happened, how that made you feel, and what you could do differently in the future. And don’t forget to practice self-compassion!
Keep your values visible. Put your values on sticky notes on your desk, add them as your phone background, tape them to the cover of your planner, or wear them on a bracelet. Reminding yourself of your values helps you remember your purpose when making decisions, from the small, seemingly minute ones to the more complex, difficult decisions.
Innovageous is here to help! Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), like many state and local departments, recently approved funding for schools and districts seeking to improve the mental health and wellness of their staff, students and community. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Innovageous website to learn more about how we can support your organization with strategic systems planning, professional development, or leader coaching related to improving staff and student mental health and wellness.