A recent article in The New York Times described the expectations and pace of work in the Silicon Valley. Titled “In Silicon Valley, Working 9 to 5 Is for Losers,” it depicts how both start-up founders and rank-and-file workers have bought into crazy work hours: “A century ago, factory workers were forming unions and going on strike to demand better conditions and a limit on hours. Today, Silicon Valley employees celebrate their own exploitation. ‘9 to 5 is for the weak’ says a popular T-shirt.”
This workaholic trend isn’t limited to the Bay Area, and it’s a stressful highway to burnout, or physical or mental collapse. Across the globe, employee engagement is on the decline, indicating that motivation is low and burnout is high. If you feel yourself losing the spark—your joie de vivre—here are five suggestions (beyond taking a nice, long vacation, which is also effective) to help minimize the stress, maintain the pace, stay healthy and preserve your mojo.
1. Act, Rather Than Ruminate
Don’t let conflicts or issues fester. Worrying about something, and ruminating about what you should have said or should say, doesn’t help. Bringing conflict out into the open, talking about disagreements (directly with those involved), apologizing and flipping the script to deescalate emotions channels anxiety into solutions.
2. Get Yourself Outside More
Spending time in natural environments has been linked to lower stress levels, improved working memory and feeling more alive, among other positive attributes. The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), and going outdoors is one of the simplest ways to recharge.
3. Build Quality Relationships
According to Harvard professor and psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, quality relationships are the key to good health. Since 1938, Harvard’s Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men, gathering medical records, recording conversations with their wives and visiting their homes to track their work and home life. This project is one of the longest and most complete studies of adult life ever conducted, a rare and revealing look into lifespans from adolescence to over the age of 90.
When the participants became quinquagenarians, it wasn’t cholesterol levels or income that helped predict their future health. It was the quality of their relationships. The clearest message from this study is that good relationships help keep us happier and healthier.
4. Practice Gratitude
By appreciating what you have, you can swap stress for increased happiness. Gratitude is known to reduce stress hormones, including cortisol, which is associated with depression. In the video below, SoulPancake shows how a simple gratitude experiment led to happiness for the participants To get you started, we have a list of gratitude prompts.
5. Develop Resilience
Resilience helps overcome obstacles without being distracted or overcome by the things that happen along the way. It means having an inner calm to return to, even when things are stressful. How does one develop resilience in the workplace? Like most skills, resilience can actually be deliberately cultivated and developed. (We offer a few meditations to help build resilience.)
Aside from these five techniques to remain sane when things get crazy in the workplace, you can also retrain your brain by learning the five A’s and bringing corporate stress management programs, such as Search Inside Yourself, to your organization.