As managers, most of us are just trying to survive in this chaotic world where business and work pressures seem to be exponentially increasing.
So, many of us are feeling overwhelmed much of the time. We feel we have just too much to do, not enough time to do it, and sometimes we don’t even know everything we need to be doing. What can we do to stay calm?
Our blood pressure can become elevated, and we are overcome with a feeling that there is something we are missing. It is at that moment you have a choice: continue to wallow in confusion or relax and take a pause.
When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a deep breath, walk to a quiet spot, maybe sit on a park bench (under trees if possible), and force yourself to take some time to relax. This past year I have been doing more of that, as well as just spending more time walking outside, surrounded by nature.
Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, an English professor at Belmont University in Nashville, offers this Latin phrase: "Solvitur ambulando" – loosely translated it means, “It is solved by walking.” Whitehouse argues that walking is a way to be more present, reduce anxiety, spark creativity, increase productivity, and detox from digital overload. It is also very important that you do not walk with a cell phone in your ear!
This concept is not new. The notion of walking for health benefits has been around for many years. It is called Shinrin-yoku, which literally means “forest bathing.” Or, walking in the forest under their branches.
Shinrin-yoku originated in Japan in the 1980s and is regarded as a form of relaxation therapy. By spending time in nature you will improve your immune system, cardiovascular health, and respiratory functions. It has been reported that nature therapy can provide emotional healing, lower blood pressure, improve a person’s general sleep cycle, improve relationship skills, reduce stress, and lessen aggression.
Wow – all that just from walking in nature!
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that taking group nature walks is associated with a whole host of mental health benefits, including decreased depression, improved well-being and cognitive health, and lower perceived stress. This study also stressed the importance of wearing appropriate clothing.
In addition to promoting mental health, nature walks also appear to mitigate the effects of stressful life events that cause negative emotions. When this is combined with physical activity, it results in more optimistic thinking and mental well-being.
I have made a resolution to walk on average 10,000 steps per day. This can be easily measured with a health app found on most cell phones or smart watches. I notice that on the days I do walk, I can think clearer, I feel less stressed, and sleep better, then on the days that I don’t.
I encourage people to do this with co-workers or other like-minded people if possible. This will provide personal motivation and puts more fun into the activity. This is especially valuable when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
My personal advice for when you are feeling exhausted or overwhelmed – take a hike. As the great poet Thoreau once said: “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
My question for managers: Do you encourage your workers to really take a break during the day and go for a walk?
Joseph Sherren is an international business transformation specialist. For more information, check out his website at www.ethos.ca.