Wellbeing… Overused, Poorly Understood, And Vital to Address.

Wellbeing… Overused, Poorly Understood, And Vital to Address.

I read an article earlier this week that said mindfulness won’t cure burnout.  Directly, that is true but along with other mental and physical health efforts, it can play a vital role.  While short term stress can be good for you, long-term loss of sense of control and sense of predictability will wreck you. Robert Sapolsky talked about it a bit in the recent Huberman Lab podcast saying that loss of those two things by people in burnout, depression, and other serious life circumstances can cause further mental health issues impacting the endocrine system as well and dumping you into the deep end of poor health where it can be nearly impossible to recover. However, meditation, exercise and other practices can also become the foundation for change and action that moves one out of difficult circumstances. For both employers and employees, addressing wellbeing in all its complexity properly has never been more important.

            The topic is all so very complex and working toward impacting employee wellbeing can seem impossible. There is a study where when one mouse exercises another mouse is also “forced” to exercise(running).  In short, only the mouse that wants to exercise gets the benefit and the other becomes more stressed, anxious, and less healthy.  It’s a real-life example for me where if you prefer yoga over running, better stick to yoga.  It also was humbling to me for all my cajoling people to lift weights who would rather do anything else with their time. Sorry everyone!

            The fact is however, if you choose what fits you, mindfulness, exercise, breathing exercises, good nutrition, sleep or whatever tool you choose, the activity or therapy is worthwhile.  While digital health programs haven’t yet reached the impact as we thought they would, it may be that our expectations are too high.  All these efforts to reduce stress and treat depression are not a pill but a practice. These are not practices you can do on the weekends; they need to be worked on daily.

 Leaders should be addressing the root conditions of burnout, financial health and other wellbeing indicators within our staff. Offering therapy animals to an overworked group of healthcare providers might have an impact in a short-term stress situation, failing to address the hours, conditions, and overall burnout issues in healthcare or other high stress industries make staff rightfully cynical about offering them a mindfulness app as part of their benefits package. Eventually, I think we will be able to establish a wellbeing index against which we will be able to measure companies real impacts on employees.

            As individuals, we are responsible for ourselves. Mindfulness, exercise, yoga, et.al. work to improve your wellbeing with provisos. Done effectively, they can create other changes because they change your circumstances and your environment.  Mental and physical tools work if you do them regularly and they allow another version of the 80-20 rule to come into play.  If you spend most of your time engaged in an environment where burnout is reinforced, you won’t exercise, you won’t meditate, and your health will crater.  But if you can stop and say yes to those activities daily, equally, they can drive you out of the circumstance of burnout.  Yes, you might even leave your position but ultimately your own safety and your own health is your own accountability.  As organizations, we can put the things in place to support our people and ultimately that starts with supporting their mental health with both practical tools of work, real balance and supports for their own mental health so they can exercise their accountability to themselves.

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