Who has your back?

When Covid hit last March and we were shut down, people didn’t know what to do, and we started doing meetings online, I started a weekly check in with each of my CEO groups. The relief I saw on the faces of my clients was evidence that going it alone is scary. Nobody had all the answers, but collectively these guys and gals navigated PPP, PPE, FFCRA, employee testing, social distancing, and WFH to name a few.

The pandemic is not over; there is fatigue about zoom meetings, employee quarantines, changes in the state orders, employee engagement and the list goes on.

Who do you have in your corner to bounce ideas off, get information from, be supported and challenged by? Take 50 seconds to see what these members say about their CEO peer group experience.

If you’d like to be considered for membership reach out.

Nation is defined as “a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory.” Are we still a nation? This is a serious question … Read Professor Galloways perspective on how the pandemic is impacting us as a country.

Professor Galloway

The pandemic’s most enduring feature will be as an accelerant of existing trends. The trend that encapsulates the greatest reshuffling of stakeholder value in recent history is … the Great Dispersion. Similar to prior macro trends like globalization and digitization, it offers enormous opportunity, but also real threats.

In 1997, I was asked to address the board of Levi Strauss & Co. on the future of brands and retail. The title of my presentation was “The Death of Distance.” My basic rap was that all brands needed to establish a direct relationship with the consumer (e-commerce). We are entering the post-distance era, as tech has dispersed ever larger segments of the economy without regard for existing distribution channels.

Amazon dispersed retail to desktop, to mobile, to voice. Netflix dispersed DVDs to our mailbox, then to every screen. The pandemic is causing dispersion in even larger industries — the greatest opportunity for wealth creation in decades. Work from home, telemedicine, and remote learning represent an impending disruption of over 25% of the U.S. economy. The largest sectors are about to leapfrog HQ, doctor’s offices, hospitals, and campuses. 

Not all dispersion is about “x from home” or from cities to smaller towns. Social media is a form of dispersion, enabling connections, competition, and debate despite physical distance, print, and paywalls — the dispersal of community. It has also removed healthy friction (truth, science, editors) resulting in an afterburner for misinformation and conspiracy. 

Dispersion offers the same potential for wealth creation as globalization and digitization. This time around, however, we must be more conscious of downsides. Previous paradigm shifts catalyzed massive prosperity but little progress. We’ve embraced a winner-take-all economy crowding the spoils to fewer firms and people.   

In 2018, the top 1% of U.S. households controlled 32% of total household wealth, up from 23% in 1989. The result of increasing inequality has been a rise in anger, nationalism, and a drift away from the cooperative international framework. 

Erosion of Empathy

The Great Dispersion will create many winners, on several levels. Commuting and business travel are two of the modern world’s most wasteful activities. Commuters waste an average of 54 hours a year stalled in traffic, and the average passenger vehicle emits 5 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. That waste is saved when the commute is to the home office or a local shared workspace, or when the kick-off meeting is held in a virtual conference center. 

While this dispersion has tangible benefits, it also has the power to erode our weakening ties of community and cooperation. The office is more than a place of work, it’s an equalizer, as Esther Perel said. Meeting people from different backgrounds, running into someone by the water cooler, having a spontaneous lunch with someone you barely know — chance connections are aspects of the office many of us miss. 

Dispersal is cousin to segregation, and segregation reduces empathy. One study found that in integrated communities, white residents had warmer feelings towards other ethnic groups when the percent of those groups increased — but in segregated communities, feelings towards other groups grew colder as the population of those groups increased. 

Integration and contact improve intergroup relations. Negativity arises when like-minded individuals are isolated from diversity. Contact is most effective at increasing understanding when it’s non-confrontational. 

The pandemic has given us a preview of our dispersed future. Today we have social distancing — tomorrow the distancing will be structural. In a dispersed world we’ll have fewer encounters involving diversity of skin color, economic status, and gender/sexual/political orientation. When we do have these encounters, they are in the wrong context. Arguing with a stranger over a mask isn’t likely to produce tolerance as much as it will reinforce existing stereotypes.  

Are We Still a Nation?

The structural distancing of the Great Dispersion presents an enormous threat to our commonwealth, a further erosion in empathy. We no longer go to movies, the subway, malls, public school, the grocery store or our polling station. We don’t experience the mentally ill vet panhandling at the freeway off-ramp, the single mom bringing us our food, the immigrant drying our car. Poor kids won’t see that rich kids are no different then they, and vice versa. 

Nation is defined as “a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory.” Are we still a nation? This is a serious question … The evidence of our weakening community, our degraded empathy, is all around us. The pandemic has been a preview of that, too. While it kills Americans at three times the rate of WWII, haven’t we outsourced the costs to poor people of color and frontline workers? 

Pandemic Profiteers

The two largest asset classes in America are residential real estate and stocks. 10% of the population controls 70% of the value of these assets. Both are trading at all-time highs as we bury 2,800 Americans a day, Tesla is up 590% YTD, and 1 in 4 households have experienced food insecurity this year. Jeff Bezos is worth more than every citizen in Vermont, Alaska, and Wyoming combined, while a fourth of Americans can’t pay their rent.

Compare this with the nation we were before we started dispersing into our bubbles. Within weeks of the outbreak of WWll, Chrysler built a factory in the Detroit suburbs that manufactured more tanks than the entire Third Reich. Today, Amazon and Walmart enjoy record sales and stock gains from stimulus. When young men refused the draft in WWII, we imprisoned five thousand of them. Today, we tolerate people who refuse to wear a mask to Walmart and give audience and platforms to cries of “tyranny.” 

When a member of the armed services dies on active duty, their family immediately receives $100,000 to ease their grief and burden. When an immigrant head of a food-insecure family takes his diabetes medication, piles Diet Cokes into an cooler, turns on his Uber driver app, contracts Covid, and dies, his family is denied death benefits, as Proposition 22 — supported by $205 million from sharing economy firms (Uber, Lyft, DoorDash) — has made it legal to deny his family death benefits.

Wonder Woman 

The Amazonian woman, and all 2021 WarnerMedia films, are coming directly to our screens. Another dispersion, from movie theaters to living rooms. This represents a larger trend, the Great Dispersion, and enormous economic opportunities. It also represents a greater threat — the loss of empathy and what it means to be a nation, to sit in a movie theater with people who don’t look like you. Diana Prince comes to American living rooms with strength and integrity, in the pursuit of peace and justice. She’ll find America, but not a nation. 

What seeds are you planting?

My husband and I recently bought land to build our dream home. After the champagne celebration we planted some bulbs so that next spring we will have some color in a place where we plan to spend significant time.

As we dug into the snow covered ground my husband commented that planting is an exercise in faith and hope. Faith that the seeds will take root and grow. Faith that the seeds will do what they are created to do, that they will fulfill their purpose. Hope that in the spring, we will benefit from the work we did now. Typical business acumen states that hope does not create success, you have to have a goal and a plan. While our planting was a simple plan to achieve our simple goal of flowers and color, we did do the work necessary to make our goal happen. If we had just hoped for flowers and color next spring, we would be disappointed.

What are you hoping for? What seeds are you planting to ensure you will have the results you want next month, next quarter, next year? Are you doing the work that is necessary now? Do you know what that work is? I challenge you in this month when we anticipate a new year to plant your seeds of success, water them and watch them grow.

This Article from Inc Magazine shares how values, integrity, self-discipline, hard work and relationships are the keys to real leadership. How do you answer the five questions posed at the end of the article?

Inc.com

In this Covid crisis, leaders are faced with changing conditions as never before. Social distancing, wearing facial masks, restrictions on frequenting bars, restaurants, gyms, (foreign) travel, and much more.

So naturally, employees and followers check whether their leaders also walk the talk and show the way. Two weeks ago, the government of the Netherlands imposed heavy restrictions on foreign travel. At the same time, King Willem-Alexander went on vacation in Greece. A huge outcry followed and the king was forced to return the day after he had arrived.

This illustrates that in times of crisis, more than ever, people look for authenticity in their leaders; they should set the example for their followers in attitudes and behavior. 

Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, author of the new book Time to Lead: Lessons for Today’s Leaders From Bold Decisions that Changed History, explains that “truly excelling in authentic leadership–as opposed to demonstrating a ‘normal’ level of integrity and honesty in one’s behavior–requires particular qualities that may not be for everyone.”  

In his book, Steenkamp looks at some of history’s greatest leaders. Below, he explains how two of them–George Washington and South African President Nelson Mandela–excelled in exemplifying authentic leadership. 

Authentic leaders have strong values about the right thing to do.

Many founders start their businesses to serve a higher purpose or cause. They operate through conscious capitalism–whereby decisions are guided by their personal and organizational values, some of which are non-negotiable. Steenkamp says both Washington and Mandela emphasized that it was the cause–independence and democracy–that mattered. Given the adoration and praise showered upon them, it truly takes strong values not to be corrupted, as it does with being an entrepreneur or leader. 

Authentic leaders show consistent integrity across all spheres of life.

Steenkamp writes that Washington and Mandela could not be bribed, corrupted, or compromised, despite repeated attempts by their adversaries. They exhibited unwavering integrity right until the end and made the big sacrifices many leaders find so difficult to make these days.

Authentic leaders exercise self-discipline.

Because authentic leadership is leading by example, everything the leader does or says matters. Both Washington and Mandela possessed an iron self-discipline, including tight control over their emotions. 

Authentic leaders are willing to pay the price.

As business leaders, we are often approached by offers and partnerships that don’t serve us well and often jeopardize our mission. Mandela refused three times an offer of release from his lifelong prison sentence because it came with conditions, which he saw as prejudicing the cause of freedom for Black South Africans. 

Authentic leaders establish meaningful relationships with followers.

There’s no question that effective leadership comes with great relationships. This fully applies to Mandela, but Washington did not really forge deep personal relations with his followers. This shows that even seminal leaders cannot have it all.

5 questions to ask

To assess whether authentic leadership is a style that suits you, Steenkamp proposes that you reflect on the following questions. 

1. Do others generally regard you as a person of high integrity, or is this not one of the traits that come to mind first when they think about you?  

2. Are you comfortable leading by example, covering all spheres of your life? In other words, is your public persona aligned with, or different from, your private persona? 

3. Do you have a tight grip on your emotions?

4. Do you have a strong, long-term guiding purpose in your professional life that supersedes self-interest, for which you are willing to pay a high price if required? 

5. How are your relationship-building skills? 

How do you balance emotions and logic when you’re trying to market in a pandemic. HBR has some insights into consumer behavior.

Harvard Business Review

Back in May, Unilever’s CEO predicted that consumers would eat healthier during the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the CEO of McDonald’s remains confident they’ll return to Big Macs and other familiar favorites.

Certainly, both can’t be right.

Or can they?

Organic and healthy food sales are in fact surging — but so are sales of cookies and salty snacks. After years of struggling to win over increasingly health-conscious consumers, well-known brands such as Oreos and Doritos have been selling more than ever in the last several months, and McDonald’s Drive Thru business is booming.

So what’s going on?

Evolutionary psychology offers a simple explanation: humans are wired to feel powerful emotions in response to contagious diseases, and these emotions affect consumer behavior in surprising ways. Our recent large-scale analyses and lab experiments confirmed that simultaneous surges in sales of both Big Macs and kale salads are logical expressions of two key emotions that consumers are experiencing right now: disgust and fear.

We’re Wired to Avoid Disease

Past research has shown that people react to indications of contagious disease with disgust: we instinctively move away from someone sneezing in a crowded train car; we avoid people coughing violently on the street.

But it’s not just a matter of being repulsed. The possibility of contracting a contagious disease also elicits fear and a sense of loss of control, pushing us to seek the familiar and avoid the foreign.

To better understand the links between disease, emotion, and purchasing behaviors, we performed two large empirical analyses using data from the CDC, Google Flu Trends, and Nielsen, as well as four lab experiments examining how the presence of disease affected both emotional state and household purchases in four product categories: paper towels, junk food, soup, and batteries. In our experiments, we had participants read about either a contagious disease (the flu) or a non-contagious disease (heart failure), and then tested their preferences for familiar versus unknown products.

Fear and Disgust Impact Purchasing Behavior

The results confirmed our hypothesis: thinking about a contagious disease increased both fear and disgust, and in response to these emotions, the participants attempted to regain control by seeking out the familiar brands they knew and trusted. Without even realizing it, people have been doing whatever they can to assert control over a chaotic world — and that extends to their decisions in the food aisle.

Specifically, our empirical analyses found that households bought more of all the products we studied when disease was more present in their area, but they bought more familiar products at disproportionately higher rates. These findings can help to explain recent purchasing trends.

Booming organic foods sales may be appear to be at odds with long lines at the McDonald’s Drive Thru, but our analysis suggests that these two seemingly-inconsistent trends are in fact reflections of the same emotional state: In the face of a contagious disease that elicits fear and disgust, consumers turn to the most familiar options (whether that’s health food or junk food).

Even when there are no rational reasons to turn down unfamiliar options, our findings suggest that consumers are increasingly favoring familiar brands in many different product categories. For example, while people have been stocking up on more soup across the board during the pandemic, sales of more familiar soup brands such as Campbell’s have risen disproportionately. Similarly, our analyses found that right now, people are more likely to put traditional Oreos in their cart, rather than the trying out the latest new flavor. In the face of so much constant fear, an unfamiliar Oreo seems to be a risk that many consumers are simply unwilling to take.

Marketers, Take Note

What do these trends mean for brand marketers?

For one, while innovation is generally a good thing, right now might not the best time to start getting creative with consumer products. While you may be excited about advertising the latest potato chip or ice cream flavor, you might be better off waiting for a time when consumers are feeling a little less fearful.

On the product strategy side, our findings demonstrate the importance of focus. Restaurants and manufacturers may be facing capacity constraints due to social distancing requirements, but those limitations can also have a positive effect: they force organizations to concentrate on the products that consumers value most. The most successful companies have focused resources on their traditional bestsellers to meet increasing demand for these familiar products, rather than investing in new product lines or sales strategies. For example, after rolling back to a limited menu with just its most-cherished products, McDonald’s reversed a decline in sales that began in 2013, and growth in its stock price has outpaced the S&P 500 since March.

In normal times, customers often make purchasing decisions based on practical considerations such as a product’s healthiness, value, or price. But when consumers feel uncertain or afraid, these practical concerns can become overwhelmed by their emotional reactions. In the face of a contagious disease in particular, fear and disgust shift people’s natural desire for familiarity and predictability into overdrive — meaning that Big Macs become more popular again and Oreos fly off the shelf, even as sales of organic food surge. Understanding how emotions influence consumers choices is key to developing an effective marketing and sales strategy — during the pandemic and beyond.

This Fast Company article shares way to stay engaged. How are you providing these opportunities for your people?

Fastcompany.com

As the pandemic and a flurry of current events wears on, so does work. You’re stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed. You’re eager for this to be over. There are certainly days when you’d like to just lay on the couch, but still your company and team need you and you have to find a way to engage.

While you may love showing up for work in your sweatpants, especially when remote work takes place in your home and on Zoom you’re also facing challenges like loneliness and distractions, and you’re struggling with remote collaboration and reliable Wi-Fi. Many people also report they’re having difficulty staying motivated.

So how can you get engaged and stay engaged when all you really want to do is stay in your PJ’s all day? Your best approach has to do with how you think, how you spend your time, and who you’re with.

HOW YOU THINK

To be and stay engaged during a global pandemic, you need resilience. Resilience is about three things: understanding reality, making sense of reality, and improvising your response. A key part of this capability is in how you think and frame your situation.

Empower yourself. Rather than blaming circumstances outside of your control, consider your responses to the situation and your capabilities. Resist the urge to make statements like “I’m just not feeling it because after all there’s a global pandemic” or “My job just isn’t all I want it to be right now.” Remind yourself about all your professional milestones, and take responsibility for your motivation.

Your reactions measure your character and maturity and you can express and develop both. Life is rarely made up of all peak, success-filled moments and while this period is legitimately extreme, you can respond in a positive, constructive way. Give yourself permission to wallow briefly—yes,of course, things are hard—but then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and know you can move forward.

Consider the big picture. All work is important, no matter what it is. Imagine coworkers who are waiting for your outputs and relying on your results. Think about the people downstream and the internal and external customers who benefit from your brilliance. Consider how you’re impacting the performance of others and take responsibility not just for your work, but for your shared success.

HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME

Your activities make a big difference in terms of your motivation and engagement. So curate your calendar and schedule time for things that will stimulate and sustain you.

Volunteer. Depression and disengagement are often characterized by a myopic view. Your perspective narrows and you focus significantly on yourself. Instead, focusing on others can be a great solution. Offer help to a colleague who is swamped, or raise your hand for a new project team. In your personal life, also find ways to reach out, offer help, or volunteer your time. In addition to being great for your community and your own engagement, donating your time or talents has been correlated with greater success in your career and a boost in your paycheck. Generosity has been shown to increase satisfaction in all areas of life creating a positive influence on your energy and determination.

Learn something new. Sometimes, a lack of motivation is the result of too little stimulation. If you’re not adequately challenged in your work, it can be tough to put in a lot of discretionary effort. Surprisingly though, when you add to your plate outside of work, it can give you a greater sense of satisfaction in your job. Take on a new hobby or immerse yourself in an all-consuming adventure like rock climbing or bungee-jumping. Stretching your skills tends to contribute to your self-esteem, confidence, and drive.

Embrace nature. Get outside as much as you can. The weather is getting colder in many places and while you won’t have the opportunity for a leisurely stroll on a warm afternoon, you can still give yourself as much time in nature as possible. One colleague has tweaked his schedule, so he starts earlier in the morning and can then end earlier in the afternoon. With this adjustment, he is able to take a daily walk while the daylight still shines. When you get outside, breathe the air and appreciate the beauty. Take in the varied textures and shifting light. In addition to the obvious physical benefits, all of these are good for you cognitively—providing stimulation for your brain—and emotionally, giving you a sense of greater perspective and something larger than yourself. 

WHO YOU’RE WITH

Chances are your circle of connections has gotten smaller. Ironically, now is the time to be choosy about who you spend your time with. Before the pandemic, when you could go out and socialize regularly, it was easy to spend time with plenty of people. But today, when your opportunities are limited, be selective about your choices.

We crave relationships, and whether you’re introverted or extroverted, you need your people. They have everything to do with your motivation because they can get you out of the house, support you through your challenges, and inspire you to keep at it. In short, the people with whom you surround yourself matter to your state of mind and your engagement.

Seek out energizing people. You know the feeling. There are some people that you could talk to forever and never run out of things to say. When you’re with them, you feel great about yourself and your relationship. These are the people to seek out—at work and in your personal life—and with whom to spend the majority of your time.

Spend time with inspiring people. Sometimes you meet people who reinforce the best in you. They make you think, provide alternative points of view, and help you grow. When you’re with these colleagues and friends, you’re motivated about the future and all you can be. Hold these people close and nurture your relationships with them. Find ways to involve them in your projects, have a virtual gathering, or get together for a socially distanced coffee.

Find people with whom you can be yourself. Find friends with whom you can relax and let down your hair. These are “safe haven” friendships where you don’t have to worry about being your best. You can express your over-the-top sense of humor or cry on their shoulder and know you won’t be judged. These friends can support you and help you rejuvenate. And, in turn, help motivate you to take positive action, recommit, and reengage in your work and life.

Staying engaged when you’re overworked, under-stimulated, or feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic is no small challenge, but you can turn things around and have a positive influence on yourself and others. This is certainly a longer journey than any of us would have preferred, but we will get through it—and you can do it—with your sanity and your engagement intact.

Do you know what good self-care looks like, what you feel like when you’ve done it, and how your outcomes change when you take care of yourself? Take the time to find out.

Harvard Business Review

The benefits of self-care are well known. Yet when I work with my leadership clients, I often get major pushback around the whole idea. Why are many leaders so resistant to taking a bit of time for themselves?

It usually boils down to misperceptions around what good leadership is, what self-care is, and how self-care actually works. Luckily, I’ve also found that with some thoughtful introspection, it’s possible for even the most skeptical among us to overcome those misconceptions and learn to reap the benefits of self-care. Below, I consider the three most common excuses my clients give for their resistance to self-care, and offer some solutions to help leaders overcome that resistance.

“Self-care is just a bunch of new-age, hippy-dippy nonsense”

Some of my clients find the entire concept of self-care to be antithetical to their image of what a “serious” leader looks like. They roll their eyes at the whole idea of meditation, mindfulness, chants, “anything that involves candles,” nature walks, and “slowing down.” Others trivialize taking time for yourself as an “indulgence” — maybe others enjoy it, but it’s a luxury they feel they can’t afford.

How can we start to challenge these limiting beliefs? To start, I work with my clients to reframe self-care as an investment that can increase their overall productivity and effectiveness as a leader. A data-driven approach is often the most convincing, and the research is clear that diet, exercise, sleep, and emotional regulation promote health and well-being.

Specifically, a healthy diet has been linked to better moods, higher energy levels, and lower levels of depression. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow, boosting both learning and memory. Getting good sleep has been linked to increased focus, improved cognitive function (including creativity and innovation), greater capacity for learning, and improved empathy.

To refocus on the tangible benefits of self-care, I’ll often ask clients the following questions:

  • If instead of focusing on “self-care,” I invited you to focus on diet, sleep, exercise, and emotional regulation, how would you feel differently?
  • What could you stop, start, or continue doing right now to improve your mental and physical health?

“I don’t have time!”

More often than not, when I broach the topic of self-care or even taking a break, my clients respond with some version of, “Are you kidding me?!? I’m already way beyond capacity looking after my team and my family, trying to organize home schooling, emotionally supporting my friends, colleagues, family … I don’t have time for that!”

This feeling of constant stress is sadly all too common among today’s endlessly busy leaders. Unfortunately, when we’re stressed, neuroscience tells us that our amygdala — the area of the brain responsible for our evolutionary fight-or-flight response — kicks in, diverting resources from the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for logical reasoning, problem solving, decision making, and willpower. In other words, it is precisely when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed that we would most benefit from slowing down in order to think big, innovate, and solve the problems that are stressing us out.

This too is thoroughly backed by research. Studies show that taking breaks can help prevent decision fatiguerenew and strengthen motivationincrease productivity and creativity, and consolidate memory and improve learning. Even short “micro-breaks” can improve focus and productivity.

As we think about the stress-induced “I don’t have time” objection, it’s useful to ask:

  • What are the key priorities in your life? Can you achieve them without health and well being?
  • How much time could you save by responding from a place of control rather than reacting from a place of stress?
  • What is one thing you can choose to say no to today that will give you back at least five minutes? (Hint: You probably spend longer on social media than you want to!) How you could you use this time to improve your own well-being and performance?

“Leaders need to be strong. If I’m a good leader, I shouldn’t need self-care.”

Some of my clients come in to coaching thinking that as a leader, they must never show any vulnerability. Recently, I worked with a client who explained that she expected herself — and any “self-respecting” leader — to have all the answers. “Otherwise,” she asked, “why would anyone follow me?!” The belief that practicing self-care is a sign of weakness combines with the notion that showing weakness makes you a bad leader to create serious resistance to even exploring these practices.

To combat my client’s limiting beliefs, we needed to explore her preconceptions about what it meant to be a leader, delving into the power of vulnerability and the opportunities we can create when we rely on others. As she began to acknowledge the importance of delegation and asking for help, she was able to see that self-care was actually the key to becoming a more effective leader.

If you’re struggling to shift your notions of what “good” leadership looks like, try asking yourself these questions:

  • If the strongest leader you knew was struggling with stress, what would you advise them to do?
  • How has taking some time for yourself benefited you or your team in the past?
  • If you didn’t need help, but you just wanted to recharge your battery — how would you do that?

Once you begin to overcome your initial resistance, it’s time to start thinking about how to integrate self-care into your daily routine. Here are a few strategies that have been effective for my clients:

Make peace with self-care (or whatever you want to call it). Acknowledging your resistance is the first step to overcoming it. For example, one leader I worked with associated self-care with long meditations sitting cross-legged on the floor, complete with incense and chants, which he found completely repellant. Once we got past that misconception, we were able to arrive at a more meaningful understanding of self-care — for him, it consisted of a morning journaling exercise, a brief afternoon nature walk, and 15 minutes of kid-free jazz in the evening.

Make it your own. Understand that self-care is as individual as the person practicing it, so it can take many different forms. You may not be a spa person, but perhaps you get a boost from nature. Talking on the phone may be draining, but pulling out a sketch pad or a crossword puzzle might reenergize you (or vice versa!).

Make it micro. Short diversions can provide a powerful boost. One of my clients sets a daily alarm for a five-minute loving kindness meditation, which he finds centers him amidst his “many storms brewing.” Try an online mindfulness meditation to improve emotional regulation, journaling to promote self-awareness, creative writing to increase well-being and creativity, reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken with in a while to increase your social connectedness, a gratitude exercise or an act of kindness to promote positivity, or a walk around the block to get your blood flowing.

Make time in your agenda. Once you’ve come up with a plan, put it in your calendar to make it official! If you’re not sure what exactly you want to do, you can start by simply identifying two 10-minute blocks every day, setting your alarm, and then choosing a new self-care activity to try out during each time block.

Experiment. You’ll never get it exactly perfect the first time. Once you’ve started, think about what’s working for you, and what you might want to change or add to your routine. You can also look to your peers and colleagues for inspiration. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel — if something they’re doing sounds appealing to you, borrow it and make it your own.

Once you’re got it, share it. As a leader, you set the tone for your people. So share what’s worked for you, and make it clear through both words and actions that you know the importance of taking care of yourself. If you’re open about your investments into self-care, your team and your entire organization will follow your lead.

Self-care begins with you. It comes in many shapes and sizes, but done consciously and consistently, it gives you the tools you need to become a better leader and a happier, healthier person. If you want to become the best version of yourself — and inspire those around you to do the same — investing in your own well-being is worth making time for.

“Play is valuable — very valuable. In fact, the benefits of play cannot be overstated. So run, sing, and dance. Play games and have fun!”

I took the references to children out of this quote from the article; what’s good for kids is good for us as adults I’d say. How are you having fun at work?

Healthline.com

Play is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life. Why? Because through peekaboo, patty-cake, and playing house, children learn to think creatively and interact socially.

Through play, they develop physically and discover a slew of emotional skills,and they learn how to process the world. In short, play is pivotal to your child’s development.

“Play is how children learn,” says Dr. Tiff Jumaily, a pediatrician at Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine Studio City in Los Angeles.

What’s more, according to a 2012 studyTrusted Source, play reduces stress. “On the whole, play is associated with responses that facilitate learning… [and] work off stress,” says Jumaily.

But what are the benefits of play and what type of engagement, toys, and activities do children really need? We asked some experts to weigh in.

The benefits of play

While the benefits of play are innumerable — play helps children develop cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally — there is more to play than fun and games.

Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Healthline, “Play is important because it provides a primary foundation for learning, exploring, problem-solving, and building an understanding of the world and your role within it.”

But how do children learn through play? Well, it’s simple. Play allows children the chance to emulate what they see and practice skills. It gives them an outlet for creativity and experimentation, and play helps them learn how to interact and communicate with others.

Cognitive benefits

Play promotes healthy development and critical thinking skills. It reinforces memory, helps children understand cause and effect, and, according to Mendez, helps children explore the world — and their role in it.

“Young children learn how things fit together through play. It allows them to use their senses and encourages exploration and curiosity, and these skills are the foundation of intellectual development and cognitive processing.”

Play also inspires children to pretend, create, and imagine. Creative, open-ended play helps children conceptualize, brainstorm, and exercise critical thinking skills.

Physical benefits

Physically, play benefits children in a few ways, namely in the development of their fine and gross motor skills.

“Play benefits motor development by encouraging movement [and the] understanding of spatial relations, promoting motor planning skills, and supporting balance and dexterity,” Mendez says. “It also supports gross motor skills, such as energy, stamina, flexibility, and body awareness.”

Examples of physical play include running, jumping, swimming, block building, dancing, riding bikes, and climbing trees. (When you’re providing opportunities for these types of activities, remember key safety precautions — from bike helmets to pool supervision.)

Social benefits

Play is also important for social development because it helps children learn how to interact with others.

Through play, children develop an understanding of social expectations and rules, and play provides opportunities to share thoughts and ideas, to listen, and to compromise.

Emotional benefits

Additionally, play helps children understand and process their emotions.

“Kids process their emotions and new concepts through play,” Kim Wheeler Poitevien, a child therapist in Philadelphia, tells Healthline.

When a child loses a game, for example, they learn to process sadness, anger, and grief. Playing also helps build confidence and encourages the development of their identity and self-esteem.

I’ve been doing some personal Positive Intelligence work, and this article from Fast Co reinforces the ideas to decrease how anxiety impacts you.

FastCompany.com

Chances are you’re experiencing some stress and anxiety right now. Between the pandemic, politics, and the economic downturn, there are plenty of potential calamities out there.

But what is actually happening in your body? When you notice a threat, you engage your avoidance motivational system, which gives you energy to engage in activities that will help you to evade that threat. Research pioneered by Tory Higgins and his colleagues finds that when you are trying to avoid a particular threat, it also makes you more sensitive to other threats in the environment. As a result, the whole world can seem like a more stressful and dangerous place when you’re dealing with a particular problem than it does when you are focused on pursuing a desirable outcome.

In many situations in the past, you could ultimately deal with the stress and anxiety by avoiding the threat. If you were stressed about something at work, you could finish the report, correct the error, or deal with the client that was causing the potential problem. And after that, you could focus your energy on something else.

In this environment, though, many of the factors that engage your avoidance motivation are things you can’t fix by yourself—and some of them won’t go away quickly. Here are four things you can do to deal with this anxiety (presented in the order that goes from easiest to hardest, but also least to most effective in stopping the anxiety for the long run).

1. DECREASE THE ENERGY

Whenever your motivational system engages a goal, you have motivational energy that is put against the goal. That energy is there to spur action. If there was a dangerous animal in your environment, you could run from it or fight it off. When there isn’t a specific action you can take, then that energy just intensifies the emotional response without allowing you to accomplish anything.

That is where energy reduction techniques come in. You can either engage in meditation and mindfulness techniques aimed to calm the motivational energy, or dissipate that energy through an activity such as exercising or going for a walk.

Calming that energy reduces anxiety in the short run, but you haven’t done anything to remove the threat from the environment. As a result, you’re likely to build up stress and anxiety again. You’re treating the symptom, but it will return.

2. STOP THE CYCLE OF RUMINATION

One of the other reasons to engage in mindfulness techniques (rather than just exercise) is that by paying attention to your pattern of thoughts, you become able to recognize when you start a cycle of negative thinking about what you find stressful. This pattern of repeated thoughts is called rumination, and it can lead you to maintain your anxiety.

As you become better able to recognize when you are ruminating, you can then explicitly focus on something else. Write about what is bothering you so that you don’t feel like you have to keep thinking about it. Call a colleague and have a conversation about something else. Read an article about a topic you are eager to learn about.

By learning to redirect your thoughts rather than ruminating, you can decrease the duration of the episodes where you feel anxious.

3. TAKE SOME CONTROL

Part of why many people are anxious right now is because there are many threats out there you can’t do anything about. That can lead to feelings of helplessness.

That is when you should find something on your to-do list that’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of effort to complete successfully. It always feels good to finish a task. So, do something that doesn’t require your best work self (because the anxiety may make it hard to summon that best self) and get it done. The combination of completing something and taking an active role in your work will reduce your level of stress. It might even let you get to work on something more difficult.

4. ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE

Finally, the most effective (and hardest) way to deal with anxiety is to focus on something desirable you want to achieve. It is difficult to do that, because your avoidance motivation will cause you to see the flaws and problems with any course of action you want to take. And so, it can be difficult to truly engage with a goal to achieve a desirable work outcome.

But, when you do start putting energy toward something desirable, you actually flip your motivational system from the avoidance mode that led to the stress to the approach mode that you use to go after desirable outcomes.

Getting into the approach mode has two desirable outcomes. First, pursuing a particular desirable outcome helps you to notice other potential desirable things in the world. The whole world will look better and more hopeful when you are energized to achieve something positive.

Second, your motivational system signals that you are in the approach mode with a different set of emotions than the avoidance system uses. When you are pursuing a positive outcome, you experience anticipation. And when you achieve it, you feel happy, joyous, or satisfied. Even if you don’t succeed, you’ll feel disappointed rather than stressed.

Ultimately, you want to develop skills in using all of these techniques so that you can handle the next several months as the pandemic continues as well as that time off into the future when the pandemic is over, but there are still undesirable outcomes in the world you want to avoid.

I admit I own a 5 Minute journal to practice gratitude at the beginning and end of the day.

It helps, especially in this time of challenge and disruption in our lives.  

Here are 10 benefits of gratitude that can make your circumstances more bearable, and maybe make you more bearable too! How can you add more Gratitude to your life?  

1. Gratitude makes you optimistic and giving
2. Gratitude reduces materialism
3. Gratitude enhances happiness and resilience
4. Gratitude improves psychological well-being
5. Gratitude improves our relationships
6. Gratitude increases social support
7. Gratitude improves work performance
8. Gratitude improves work satisfaction
9. Gratitude improves mental health
10. Gratitude improves physical health