Common blindspots and how to overcome them: I have too much on at work to focus on my wellbeing
This article is part of an Abilitise series on common blindspots people face in the workplace and in life and how to address them.
Returning to work from the festive season break many clients acknowledge that just after a couple of days in the office their prior holiday together with the feelings of relaxation and wellness seem far, far away.
Being back within the working environment, they often prioritise work over focussing on their own wellbeing.
It is important for both, employers and employees to recognise this unhealthy and unproductive behaviour, and to consider how to integrate wellness aspects in a more sustainable way into the work week.
Why is prioritising work over wellbeing a concern?
The amygdala is a part in our brain where the fight and flight response sits. When you are in a calm state, not in distress, your higher cortex, where you make your decisions, functions fine (see Figure 1 left).
However, when you are in a high emotional state, such as prolonged distress, your amygdala activates, protecting you from a perceived danger, and at the same time the higher cortex is being disabled, therewith limiting your decision-making capability (See Figure 1 right).
Thus, to ensure we can continue to make sound decisions at work, prioritising our wellbeing needs to be understood as a prerequisite for successful work.
This is a blindspot for many leaders and their team members, who are unaware that wellbeing goes hand in hand with high performance at work, simply just due to the way our brains naturally operate.
How small adjustments can make a difference to wellbeing and sustainable performance
Prioritising your wellbeing does not need to come in big forms. Although taking long periods of time away from work may be nice, for many, it may not be realistic for this to happen often.
Luckily, there are small things you can integrate into your day-to-day life to support your wellbeing and lower your stress levels.
Drawing on research from 400 international scientists, the 5 Ways to Wellbeing Plan stems from the Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing from the UK government. Subsequently, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and other local organisations reviewed this research and evidence within the Australian context.
The 5 Ways to Wellbeing Plan (see Figure 2) includes Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Be Aware and Help Others. Whilst some people may look at the Plan and dread that they have to do five additional things to help themselves, this usually isn’t the case. Many of these five ways are interconnected and you might already have integrated some within your life. For example, I always say I ‘cheat’ with my profession as a coach, as I connect with clients, I’m constantly learning, I’m always aware when in sessions and I help others, all as part of my work. Therefore, my main focus needs to be on being active, as this is the only aspect missing from me being a coach.
Here’s a few ideas of how you can integrate these five ways into your daily life.
Whilst connecting may have been tricky throughout the COVID pandemic, there are now multiple ways you can ensure you are embedding this factor into your life. For example, call a family member, meet with a friend, or even attend a networking event with your workplace.
Getting active doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. Take it slow and have fun through taking your dog for a walk, swimming at your favourite beach or going for a light jog.
Learning can be about absolutely anything, and thus it does not need to mean beginning a new degree or qualification. Learning can also be about trying new experiences and challenging yourself, for example, learning a new hobby or reading a new book.
Sometimes, being aware only needs to take a few short moments. Go outside into nature, focus on the here and now. Consider a breathing exercise or engaging in an activity such as yoga or meditation.
Whilst helping others can include volunteering, it can also come in smaller forms such as giving someone a warm smile, helping a neighbour, or supporting kids with their school work.
It is important to try to incorporate small aspects across each of the five areas rather than just focusing on one. Keeping a balance of these five areas will help to enhance your wellbeing, and most of the time, you only need to make a few small changes to ensure this balance. Having an enhanced wellbeing is already great just by itself; however it will also support you to better cope with stress, thus your decision-making capability won’t be limited and you will be able to maintain your performance in a sustainable manner.
Working to live vs. living to work
Are you working to live, or living to work?
For many, the answer to this question may be correlated with cultural aspects, as in some countries, living to work might be the norm.
However, even if you are living to work and are someone who highly values their workplace over their own level of wellness, you need to remember that staying healthy and maintaining your wellbeing at a high level is important for sustained performance and decision-making capability. If you do not prioritise your wellbeing your workplace performance may drop. Therefore, whether you work to live or live to work, continue to focus on your wellbeing.
After coming back to work from the festive season break, you may feel as though your holiday feelings of relaxation and wellness seem far away; and that you have too much on to focus on your wellbeing. However, it is important that you try to recognise this unhealthy behaviour for yourself as well as for your team members, and consider how wellness aspects can be integrated in a more sustainable way into the daily life.
Not sure how to integrate wellness into your daily life? Worried that you don’t have the time to do so? Abilitise can provide support. We offer wellness workshops and coaching, reach out today!