The dangers of stress, anxiety and burnout are more obvious than ever. Arianna Huffington has experienced, first-hand, mental exhaustion at its worst. Here, she shares three actionable insights for battling Zoom fatigue and staying mentally healthy.
Arianna Huffington had a wakeup call in 2007 when she collapsed from “exhaustion, burnout, sleep deprivation, basically, having bought into the collective delusion that in order to be the super-founder of the Huffington Post and super mom of two teenage daughters, I didn‘t have time to take care of myself.
“So, I collapsed and broke my cheekbone on the way down. And that was kind of the beginning of my recognizing that burnout was not just a personal problem, it was a global epidemic. In fact, the World Health Organization acknowledged it as an occupational hazard.”
In 2016, she shifted gears by becoming chief executive officer of Thrive Global and dedicating her life to helping employees build mental resilience and create a healthier relationship with technology. Huffington, who was named one of Time Magazine's most influential people, shares her thoughts about the use of ‘microsteps’ for improvement:
1. Pick a time before bed to wind down so you don’t have ‘Corona-somnia.’ “Let me give you my three favorite microsteps. One of the problems, especially now during this time, is that we are all kind of addicted to the latest news. And so, one microstep is to pick a time at the end of the day, when you stop consuming coronavirus and other news. That will allow you to wind down and be able to go to sleep and not wake up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep just because you haven't given your brain time to slow down.
There‘s a new term now ‘Corona-somnia,’ which is insomnia because of the coronavirus. We are finding that people are having a harder and harder time sleeping. That makes it harder to have an effective day. Most people sleep with their phone by their bed. We recommend to not sleep with your phone by your bed. And when you wake up to take just 60 seconds to course correct and to start your day before you run directly to your texts and messages.
My third favorite micro step is just to take any opportunity during the day, when you're washing your hands or washing the dishes, to remember three things you‘re grateful for because gratitude is an antidote to stress and anxiety. These microsteps are all science-based. Gratitude literally creates new neural pathways in the brain and that helps prevent depression and anxiety which are huge epidemics right now.”
2. Take a 60-second intervention at heightened moments of stress. “The 60-second reset is based on the science that tells us that it takes 60 seconds to course correct from stress. Stress is unavoidable. Nobody can promise you a stress-free existence, but cumulative stress is avoidable. This reset is basically an opportunity to bring together the things that bring you joy. I can play you my reset, for example. It has pictures of my daughters when they were young and non-problematic, my little dog Ollie, landscapes I love, my favorite quotes and music. It never fails to course correct me because in the middle of the most stressful moments of my day. It reminds me of what I love about my life. And it‘s based on the latest science which simply validates ancient wisdom that we all have access to that place of peace, strength and wisdom. Basically, the eye in the middle of the hurricane if you want. We just need to pause for 60 seconds to get to it.
So, we actually have utilized that in many business contexts. For example, call centers. As you know, call centers have some of the worst attrition rates, and yet they‘re very important for customer success. So, we are actually launching next week at Walmart, and other call centers, these 60-second interventions. The operators, expecting another nasty call, they will get a call that says, ‘thank you for what you're doing’ but now take a minute for yourself and remember three things you are grateful for’.“
3. Managers, take a break to be more effective leaders. “We encourage managers first of all to recognize that what they do for themselves is not self-indulgent. Because we are finding, in our work with managers, that many of them feel particularly burdened at the moment with all their responsibilities. They feel if they schedule a regular walk or if they do something for themselves, every day, it means they are shirking their responsibility. So, what we recommend is that you pick something that helps you recharge and then you make it part of your day. But make it small. Turn some of your Zoom meetings into phone calls so that you can walk while taking them. Or make sure you have a transition to sleep — a hot shower or reading a book — that's not about work.
You know, again, small steps that can help you reconnect with that place in yourself from which you can be the best manager you can be — more compassionate, more creative and more effective. And then look at the results because we are finding that the results speak for themselves.”