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Leading Off
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When you drift off to sleep each night, where is your mobile phone? If you’re like a lot of people, it’s in your bedroom. It isn’t news that technology has pushed us into always-on lifestyles. But consider that survey results during the COVID-19 pandemic show that 62 percent of employees around the world consider mental-health issues to be a top challenge, and the calculation becomes more alarming. We know the virtues of eating well and exercise as antidotes to stress and grief, but this week, let’s explore the contours of well-being and get personal on reprioritizing rest, relaxation, and reflection to boost well-being for you and those you lead.
Turn everyday stress into ‘optimal stress’
Does stress get a bad rap? When your nervous system delivers a jolt of adrenaline to boost energy and focus as you confront a real or perceived threat, stress is a helper. The problem is that when we don’t find calm afterward, stress can compound, become chronic, and lead to irritability, burnout, and worse. To manage, some find effective, daily stress relief in meditation. It’s also possible to approach stress management as you might approach physical training and even regard it as a source of growth. Here are some ways to diagnose and find a path to your optimal stress level.
That’s the age at which Frank McCourt published his first book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes. Science is coming to understand that there’s no age at which humans perform at their peak on all, or even most, cognitive tasks, writes Margaret Talbot in the New Yorker. Learning is not just for the young, and surrounded as we are in a culture fixated on perfectionism and meritocracy, well-being may be found in trying something new, even though you know you’ll never be good at it.
photo of Annastiina Hintsa
“There is just life,” says Annastiina Hintsa, “and your work is part of your life. That’s it.” Hintsa, the CEO of the eponymous coaching firm founded by her late father, knows firsthand the risks of viewing work and life as separate. After an early-career episode of burnout—capped by a nasty fall down a flight of stairs—Hintsa came to see that one’s well-being isn’t just an ingredient in sustainable high performance but, rather, its foundation. In an interview, she explores the self-motivation that resides at the core of positive change and the small behavioral changes that can make a big difference.
“I didn’t realize moisturizers were part of wellness, so thank you for telling me that.”
That’s Fran Lebowitz, writer and culture critic, being her usually sardonic self. Yes, count her among the wellness-industry doubters. There’s also a case to be made that the underlying fundamentals of building wellness in the workplace—a dearth of data, a fuzzy link to the business case, and a lack of social connection at a time of growing isolation—make easy solutions elusive. Here’s a primer for the concerned leader.
photo of two people in protective gear hugging
This week, we close with a tribute. Time was, in the past year, that the heroic acts of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers drew vigorous applause, sometimes via daily public celebrations in cities and towns around the globe. Those heroics haven’t ceased with the arrival of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and new virus variants, but the appreciations have grown quieter—or silent. Healthcare might not be your personal thing, but it’s certainly on your leadership agenda, and you should know what it will take to rebuild clinician mental health for you, your employees, and your community and the ways that other industries can help.
Lead reflectively.
— Edited by Bill Javetski, an executive editor in McKinsey’s New Jersey office
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