I never used to prioritise my wellbeing; as a doctor, I just did what I could to 'get through the day'.
After many years spending my working days ‘fighting fires’, stuck in a continual state of 'reaction', slowly but surely my energy, passion, health and relationships began to suffer.
I knew something had to give, but I simply didn’t know what. After all, in this overstretched system, with limited resources and mounting workloads, there just seemed like there was no room to budge. I felt completely suffocated by my own situation, and yet I simply couldn’t see a practical way out. So I just kept going. Working harder and harder, trying to keep my head above water, secretly hoping something would change.
When I confided in my colleagues, many of them felt this way too, but none of us had a practical solution out of it. Some just rationalised ‘it is what it is, we’ve just got to suck it up, and get through the day’ while others were clearly just as frustrated and confused as I was.
How was it that we’d come to willingly accept that with mounting pressures, our wellbeing always had to take the hit? It seemed so paradoxical to me that I was now in a healthcare profession, where few valued, prioritised or practiced self-care for themselves, despite preaching these principles to our patients’ day-in, day-out.
The bizarre truth is that due to the relentless pressures in healthcare, just like so many overstretched working environments these days, stress and suffering have now become the ‘norm’. So much so, that we have somehow created a culture which rewards suffering and questions those who aren’t ‘suffering for their cause’ too. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we need to work hard to collaborate and create great things, but when our personal wellbeing and working culture degrades as a result, this is a warning sign that a more sophisticated approach is necessary. Especially when we consider concerning data from the American Medical Association, who report that between 85-90% of all visits to our doctors these days, occur as a direct result of stress.
As a doctor, I do understand that signs and symptoms exist for a vital reason: They are a warning signal that something isn’t right, and that action is needed, before things get worse. So why is it that most of us (myself included) have found ourselves hoping the symptoms of our increasingly exhausting situation (just like a bursting appendix) will eventually just go away?
How bad do things have to get before we take heed of these warnings, and start doing things differently?
While CEOs, and business owners alike, are fully aware that exhausted, detached employees don’t a successful or sustainable company make, it remains almost impossible for many to see a realistic solution out of it. Particularly when our current working culture is dominated by expanding expectation, 24/7 accessibility and ruthless competition. Nonetheless a new approach is absolutely necessary to ensure our continued success and wellbeing, especially in light of 2015 data from the American Psychology Association, which shows that millennials’ now have the highest stress levels of any age group.
Having spent the last few years learning and exploring the science behind the Mind-Body Connection, I now realise there is a huge resource that most of us (myself included) have been continually working against (rather than with) for all this time in our workplaces: Our brilliant biology!
Now, I’m very aware that it may feel like rather a foreign concept to start talking about the role of the Mind-Body Connection in the workplace, but have you ever really taken a moment to stop and consider what’s actually driving all your ideas at work, all your inspiration, or your clarity of thought, your passion, your energy, or your sense of purpose?....It’s your biology!
In fact it may surprise you to know that a staggering 95% of what you’re doing at work, is directly influenced by your physiology at any one time. This is why for ‘no apparent reason’ some days at work you’re ‘riding the wave’ in a state of flow, while other days you just seem to struggle from one problem to the next.
But that’s not all, because thanks to the Mind-Body Connection, our physiology is not fixed at all, meaning that at will we have the opportunity to work with the 95% that’s driving our actions rather than becoming victims of it. This means that we all have the ability to turn those ‘hitting your head against a brick wall’ days into ‘free flowing fantastically productive’ days at will. In essence, once we know how, we all have the ability to make our own Mind-Body Medicine.
In fact, the process of ‘tapping’ into this biological toolkit of ours is actually surprisingly straightforward, fun and so powerful that within just a few minutes you can begin to think clearer, and feel more energised once you know how. The problem is that most of us (myself included) haven’t always been aware of this, and as a consequence we just fall victims to our physiology most of the time. This effect is most prominent under the sustained influence of the chemicals of stress (all 1400 of them!), which if continually released, creates physiological chaos. So it’s no wonder then, that under sustained pressure, despite your best efforts you feel exhausted, you can’t think straight, and why even the smartest people can make the most stupid decisions under the strain of this all.
In our ever evolving work culture, it is my belief that we are now at a time, like no other, where we must begin working with the 95% of us that’s driving everything we do, to create personal and professional success that sustains.
Rather than holding on to the concept of a 'work-life balance’, I believe it is now time to create a smarter, more sustainable system of ‘work-wellbeing integration’. To create a workplace culture that actually harnesses this amazing biological toolkit that we all have access to, to accelerate our focus, energy, passion and efficiency for the good of our lives as well our companies.