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Relaxation as an Effective Leadership + Wellbeing Tool

As the world continues to face the ripple effects of the pandemic, we know many areas of people’s lives and work have taken a wellness hit. Global employment has gone backward, more children worldwide have fallen below the minimum reading level, face masks (a necessary measure of precaution during COVID-19) have become a new wave of litter harming the environment, and our mental health has collectively suffered.

Relaxing is an effective wellbeing leadership tool

This past year may also have left you experiencing a free-floating unease you can’t seem to shake, a sense of languishing without a clear purpose or aim, or the feeling that you’ve hit the pandemic wall. You may appear calm on the surface, yet like a duck swimming in a pond, find your feet paddling as fast as they can to respond to the wellness challenges of others. In your efforts to juggle so many demands in life and work, you may even be physiologically living in an always-on beta brainwave pattern and a fight-flight-freeze-fawn system of reaction, reinforcing a state of high alarm that has become your new normal.

So, it’s possible—indeed, probable—you’ve forgotten that relaxation is one of your most effective wellness and leadership tools. Intentionally shifting into relaxation awakens the parasympathetic nervous system; counters the drawbacks of overplayed stress hormones; and promotes physical health, emotional balance, resilience and wellbeing. Yet, no one can relax for you. In our overworked, overtaxed, overstimulated world, the truth is relaxation is a spiritual, powerful, and, as author Anne Lamott says, subversive act of your wellness leadership.

Demonstrate the power of relaxation

Just as your body-mind innately knows how to respond to the stresses placed on it, it also knows how to relax. As a leader, demonstrate the power of relaxation with your loved ones, team and organization—and yourself—by experimenting with these approaches:

  • Work with instead of against circadian rhythms. Human biology is intimately tied to the pulse of nature. We demonstrate this every 24 hours in our sleep-wake cycle, as well as smaller ultradian rhythms throughout the day. For instance, our Basic Rest-Activity Cycle involves an increase then decrease in our alertness approximately every 90 minutes. How can you work with this natural cycle to boost wellbeing for you and your team? Ask people to organize their day into chunks of focused work punctuated by rest periods. Go for a walk following long meetings, and take a dedicated lunch break rather than work through a meal. Pause regularly for one of these conscious breaths. Integrating rejuvenating off-time into the workday not only energizes good performance for you and your team, but it also makes good performance sustainable.
  • Master your sleep. Learn about the pivotal role sleep plays in how you think, feel and function by diving into this podcast by Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman. Then, experiment with the sleep protocols shared in it, such as timing your sleep properly, engaging in optic flow, using sunlight and sunset to assist the melatonin and cortisol release required for high-quality rest, and capitalizing on how you eat and exercise.
  • Engage your vision. Constantly focusing your eyesight on a Zoom meeting or your smartphone is wearying. Try one of these quick practices to use your vision toward rest and wellbeing: In a safe place (seated, lying down or standing), allow your eyes to close and your eyeballs to sink back into their sockets. Take a few deep breaths, inviting the muscles around your eyes to relax. (While you’re there, invite your jaw, tongue and forehead to relax, too!) Gaze on a point in front of you, such as a leaf on a tree or a spot on a wall. Now, let your gaze soften and widen, becoming more aware of the periphery of your environment. This peripheral or “panoramic” vision activates neural pathways that tell your brain and body to relax.

This is an excerpt from the July Wellness Moonshot, which is curated and developed by Renee Moorefield for the Global Wellness Institute. Read the full article here: July Wellness Moonshot :: Relax