A Perfect Storm
We live in an increasingly high-pressure, always-on world of family, work, finances, and social obligations. Layer on a global pandemic, an economic crisis, deeply political and social upheaval, the massive disruption of remote work, school closings - and you have perfect storm conditions for trauma-level stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout.
Even as the pandemic is subsiding, 79% of adults surveyed in 2022 have reported feeling more stress than ever before, with over 60% reporting symptoms of burnout and complex trauma. This represents a mental health crisis that is already spilling over into disengagement, loss of productivity, and turnover.
Acute Stress is Pervasive
Stress is created in the brain, as it struggles to make sense of the information overload, anxiety, distraction, and constant change in the modern world. It gets needlessly aroused, sends the wrong signals, and makes bad choices — all under the hood, and too quickly for us to do much about it.
Sudden, situational stress sends the brain and body to Defcon 3 and puts us right at the edge of fight or flight. It’s unpleasant, uncomfortable, sometimes painful - and it takes us off course, and into worry, fear, and even panic. Almost everyone experiences this kind of stress multiple times a day - and a growing number of us are experiencing it more severely and more frequently every year.
Chronic Stress is Killing Us
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), chronic stress is now our most dangerous global health epidemic and is the principal contributor to the leading causes of premature death.
Over 20% of Americans have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and regularly take prescription anti-anxiety medications, and projections are that another 30% are undiagnosed. (Gallup). 45% of Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, and 25% are subject to multiple chronic conditions (Center for Disease Control).
Stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic illness have become pervasive. The most common source by far, is the workplace, whether in an office, on the plant floor, working virtually from home, or after-hours on a mobile device (American Institute of Stress).
Mindfulness for Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout
Sleepwalking into a Mental Health Crisis
By all accounts, leaders and workers alike are emotionally exhausted, less able to focus, less engaged, and increasingly impaired by anxiety, depression, and burnout. The potential impact of these mental health challenges on product quality, customer relationships, productivity, and financial results are hard to overstate.
Stress is the silent killer, and along the way, it destroys motivation, engagement, and personal performance. This is a time to focus intently on helping each individual strengthen their own mental and emotional skills - and on bringing our teams closer, and with renewed purpose.
I. The Science of Stress
Our 2 million-year-old brain is programmed to scan and react instantly to a perceived threat. Given the number of mental challenges and the velocity of change we encounter, the brain is triggering unpleasant and uncomfortable reactions all day long. To manage this effectively requires an understanding of how the brain operates below the level of our consciousness.
This class explores the mechanics of the non-conscious brain, and how it creates stress through automaticity, negative bias, automatic reactivity, and the Default Mode Network. It introduces practices for noticing that we’re lost in thought, and for creating intentional and moment-to-moment awareness.
II. Resolving Acute Stress
Acute stress can be triggered by circumstances, situations or events - or simply random thoughts, emotions, or feelings. It is the spike in our moment-to-moment anxiety that triggers us to overeat, lash out, lose sleep, and snap at the kids. It feels horrible, siphons off our energy, muddies our concentration, and pretty much takes all the joy out of a workday.
This class explores strategies for resolving this kind of stress as quickly and effectively as possible. It introduces essential breath control practices that can immediately regulate and calm the body - and breath meditation that trains the brain to direct our attention away from stress, and sustain it on conscious activity in the present.
III. Managing Chronic Stress
Chronic stress has been increasing year-over-year - over decades of increasing overload, overwork, anxiety, attention deficit, digital addiction, relentless change, sleeplessness and exhaustion - and through multiple years of overwhelming fear and uncertainty through the pandemic.
This class explores strategies for switching off the systems that perpetuate stress in the brain and body - that cause failures in the immune system and contribute to chronic illness and premature death. It introduces practices for self-care and self-compassion, and for transforming positive emotional states into permanent neural traits.
IV. Reversing Burnout
Burnout is a very specific, work-related result of prolonged stress. Even pre-pandemic, burnout was accelerating. Today, over 60% of adults surveyed show symptoms of burnout or complex trauma, a 43% rise in just the past two years. Burnout is an end-state of chronic stress that produces active cynicism and disengagement from work - and feelings of exhaustion and demotivating failure.
This class explores strategies for reversing the symptoms and effects of negative, emotionally painful burnout, It introduces practices that encourage acceptance, curiosity, and interest - and that lead to a reset on personal purpose, motivation, and engagement.
“Focus, clarity, creativity, compassion, and courage. These are the qualities of the mindful leaders I have worked with, taught, mentored, and interviewed. They give today’s best leaders the resilience to cope with challenges, and the resolve to sustain long-term success.”
William George, Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School,
Former CEO, Medtronic