Mindful or mind-full?
I spoke at a leadership conference last week and asked “Who here thinks about work when you are not working?” Nearly everyone in the room raised their hand. It makes sense for professionals to care about their work and think about it when they are off the clock but are those thoughts beneficial or harmful?
When you are “in the zone” feeling inspired and creative, you may have excellent ideas whether you are on the clock or not. These moments are precious. But unfortunately, that is not what is happening in most case. What is more common is for higher ed. administrators to worry. They worry about something they didn’t get done today, or something that went wrong, or some problem they will have to handle tomorrow, or a huge deadline coming up.
Doing the same thing expecting different results
When thinking about work does not accomplish anything, and to make matters worse, increases stress and prevents people from enjoying the moment, it is a problem! Why does the mind do that?
Because it is looking for some sort of resolution or closure before it can “let go” of the concern. Sadly, thoughts tend to repeat themselves and without new perspectives and new ideas, obsessing won’t be helpful. It will only increase pressure and anxiety.
Can you relate? You have something on your mind and if someone tells you to relax and let it go, you will most likely get offended, feel misunderstood or unsupported, and continue to think about the issue.
Consider what it is costing you. It costs you not only your peace of mind in that moment, but it also reduces your ability to tackle the issue feeling refreshed and energized the next day. You see, when you don’t take a genuine mental break from a concern, it tends to get heavier and heavier. Emotions get disproportionately inflated as time goes and no progress is made.
How to shift your attention and stop feeling drained
Higher education leaders often experience chronic fatigue, especially at the end of the work day, when they feel mentally and physically drained. Obviously, to get re-energized, it would ideal to make lifestyle changes and focus on eating healthy, exercising, getting adequate sleep and relaxation.
But let’s not forget about the #1 thing: changing thought patterns is the foundation of work-life balance and emotional & physical wellness. So let’s start here. Today I am sharing with you 5 simple reminders (or mantras) to avoid feeling drained emotionally and energetically. Shifting your attention is actually very easy to do – all it takes is a commitment to yourself to stop old habits and think differently. You don’t have to do all 5; simply choose the one(s) that best resonate(s) with you.
1. “It’s not happening now”
When you find yourself worrying about work at a time you can’t do anything about the situation, bring your attention back to the present moment. In that moment, the problem only exists in your head and you have the power to let it go, for now. You will give it your attention later, when you can do something about it. Until then, give your attention to what is happening in this moment. Right now, there is nothing for you to worry about. Look around you and appreciate all of the good things you have in your life right now.
2. “I know it will work out. It always does.”
Sometimes the mind gets hyperactive because we fear a negative outcome or we judge a situation (or often both). We temporarily forget how experienced, competent, and resourceful we are. Things are not the way we want them to be and our judgment creates resistance to the situation. The best approach is to focus on trust; trust in your own ability to handle whatever comes next, and trust in the outcome. You’ve faced much greater challenges before and were victorious. This is no exception. You can relax now. Trust yourself. You got this!
3. “Let’s allocate a block of time to handle it. I feel in control now. I can relax.”
Sometimes a project weighs heavily on our minds because we’ve put it on the backburner for too long. In fact, we’ve spent far more time thinking about it and feeling guilty about not having finished it, than actually working on it. Sounds familiar? Beating yourself up won’t help you, but regaining a sense of control will. Simply block off time on your schedule to do the work. Treat it as a non-negotiable allocation of your time. You can’t cancel. You can’t let yourself down again. Once you are 100% committed to following-through you can finally relax. No more guilt. No more procrastination. No more fear that you’ll run out of time. You have a solid plan!
4. “My role now is to be a spouse/parent/friend/sibling/[fill in the blank]”
If you think about work too much because your job has become your identity, remind yourself that you are more than your job title. If it is a sense of responsibility that drives your behavior, think about your other responsibilities as a spouse, parent, friend, sibling, or whatever else you are to someone or even to a pet. You will simply shift your perspective from one role to another, so it will be easier than changing your approach altogether. People need you. You have a role to play. Be mindful of how you act outside of your job and make sure you give the important people in your life the love and attention they need and deserve.
5. “It’s ME time.”
To be the best leader you can be, you have to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish to give yourself some “me time” in fact, trust me when I say it is for the greatest good! Leaders who are tired, unbalanced, and overworked tend to lack emotional intelligence. They may get triggered by situations, get defensive, lose their tact and diplomacy, and create tension and fear in others. They don’t make the best decisions because they get tunnel vision. Just like when you go on a road trip, you must stop for gas, when you lead a team, you must stop to recharge your batteries and clear your head. Your “me time” is essential. Enjoy it guilt-free. That’s what great leaders do.
So please, develop a habit to differentiate hours spent actually working versus hours spent thinking about work. Being productive will make you feel good while feeling stagnant will drain your energy. When in doubt, ask yourself “Am I making progress right now, or just worrying?” Your mind is your tool. Don’t let it be your master. You’re in charge of what happens in your head, and that’s a powerful thing!
If you want to reduce your stress level and bring more balance into your life, consider working with me to get the structure and support you need. I invite you to click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.