It was time for a trip to go see my grandmother in her final stage of life.
Arriving at the JetBlue counter, I asked if they could add my TSA Precheck. I was met by a blank stare, followed by, “I’m sorry. You’re at the wrong airport.”
“Wrong airport?” I returned an equally blank stare.
Taking a deep breath, I watched my mind process the options like a computer program working on a complex equation. I chose the “pay the change fee” option since I knew that rushing to the right airport wouldn't bode well for my mental state. Between being your kids’ personal chauffeur, handling aging family members’ affairs, and falling prey to work’s increasing demands, you can easily lose your identity.
Eight years ago, I made it a priority to focus on mental and personal wellness. Over time and with the support of our company’s CEO, I was able to integrate mental health and wellness practices into our organization. This resulted in us developing six principles that have empowered us to build a thriving company culture, and to drop turnover to less than one percent.
1. Breathe: Use Your Breath to Self-Soothe
In times of stress, turn to your breathing. It’s free, accessible at any time, and a powerful antidote to anxiety and the physical symptoms of stress. In turn, it can clear our minds and help us make better choices. If I had not taken the time to simply breathe while at the wrong airport, for instance, I may have made the mistake of trying to catch my original flight.
2. Move: Utilize Movement to Shift Your Mood
Movement is another way to care for your wellbeing. When I can’t easily find the solution to a conflict, or when a team member, friend, or loved one comes to me in a state of confusion, my go-to response is to encourage them to take a walk or move. From experience, I know that the best ideas don’t generally come from sitting in front of a computer or endlessly rehashing an issue. When I take the time to move, the answers magically surface.
3. Nourish: Check In With Your Emotions Before Making Food Choices
It has taken me years to realize that during emotional turbulence, making healthy food choices helps support a healthy mental state. Now, I simply pause and I ask myself why I want to turn to comfort foods like ice cream and cookies.
This shift isn’t about depriving yourself of the emotional eating; it’s simply in bringing awareness to your own mental state. I sometimes I still eat ice cream for dinner knowing full well that my food choice is due to feeling upset or stressed. But most of the time, I pivot to a more balanced healthy choice of protein and fruits and vegetables. The key is allowing the healthy choice to at least be placed on the mind’s table.
4. Communicate: Listen to Understand
One of the most vital aspects of success in our personal and professional relationships is communication. It’s the thread that connects us together. We are often so focused on talking that we forget to listen to others. Taking time to listen sparks creativity and boosts self-esteem.
5. Challenge: Pause to Pivot to a Positive Possibility
Years ago, I started using the 3P method as a guideline for handling conflict. I recognized that there are always going to be challenges. When I have a challenge or someone comes to me, I encourage them to take a moment to pause to feel the emotions. Depending on the situation, that pause could be a few minutes or could be a few days. Next, I guide them to think through either the lesson learned or a positive resolution to the challenge. If you take a moment to allow the feelings with the intention of moving to the positive, it saves energy by not spinning into the negative.
6. Routine: Do Something That Inspires You Each Day
One of the first questions I ask when faced with personal stress or someone coming to me in distress is, “What are you doing that inspires you each day?” Then I encourage making a list and completing one activity each day that the person loves. When I’m feeling down or stressed, it’s when I’m forgetting to focus on my inspirations such as cooking or spending time with my kids. Having this downtime from work supports my success.
It takes diligence and awareness to be our best. I must continually remind myself of these six principles to find the balance that supports my wellbeing. Each time I stop focusing on the principles, I too easily fall off the wagon of self-care and find myself not moving forward. When I stop using these tools, I make silly mistakes, forge ahead with less-than-ideal business decisions, and don’t dedicate enough time to my loved ones.
The good news is that the tools are always there at my disposal. Because of them, I know what feels best, my standards at work are higher, and I can always choose to keep moving forward.
Kerry Alison Wekelo is managing director of human resources and operations for Actualize Consulting. She also is author of Culture Infusion, a yoga teacher, life coach, award-winning author of children’s books and the founder of Zendoway, a company that encourages holistic wellness.
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