Published Date: 21st June 2023.
Specially created for our own ABCs - (Amazing Beyond Recruitment Contractors)
Being a contractor, you may miss out on corporate wellness initiatives and support in your organisation. Also, if you tend to work from home a lot, which can be great for the most part, missing out on workplace wellness opportunities can be a downside. For these reasons, many of the contractors I have spoken with so far have been interested in discussing options for improving their physical and mental wellbeing.
With a potentially overflowing to-do list, incorporating new wellness habits into your schedule can feel overwhelming. To help you with this, I created the ABCs of work wellness that are easy and quick to implement. The secret to implementing positive change that sticks is to start super small and keep it consistent. Let’s take a look!
A for Awareness, Not Autopilot
Firstly, the ‘A’ you don't want here is autopilot. While doing some things on autopilot is essential, it can hold you back professionally and personally if being on autopilot is your default position. Don’t worry if this is you; we all do it to varying degrees!
Your brain aims for habit creation and being able to do things without too much thought in order to protect its precious, limited energy reserve. There is absolutely a time and place for this, like getting to work, brushing your teeth and likely some elements of your job. However, this becomes a problem in your life when too many things are habitual, preventing you from making progress and creating the new habits you desire. These habits can be hard to change because our environment contains triggers that cause us to react quickly without thinking.
Being aware of your habits and behaviour is crucial for making positive changes. Prioritising awareness allows you to start making new choices and do things differently. Another name for a similar process, that you might have heard is mindfulness, but that doesn’t start with A! In addition, mindfulness is more focused on being in the present moment and what's going on around you, while awareness is more guided towards your behaviour and how you personally engage with your environment. Practicing awareness then allows you to recognise when your responses are not in alignment with who you want to be and allows your brain’s CEO – the prefrontal cortex – to be more intentional about decision-making moving forward.
Throughout your working day, start to become aware of how you do things. Take a pause before reacting and consider ways that you could respond differently. Over time, this will shift your neurology, increasing your awareness. Recording your observations of how you do things can be beneficial too.
B for Breathe
Next is breathe! I know you breathe already, but most of us don’t breathe properly and may actually be doing more damage to our wellbeing than we realise. This is honestly the first suggestion I make to anyone wanting to feel better.
When you breathe under 'stress', in a shallow manner without awareness, physiologically your body responds in a way that it feels threatened or unsafe. This affects many things in relation to your health, such as sluggish digestion, heart problems, storing fat (because your body thinks it is trying to 'survive'), low energy, moodiness and more. Your brain also doesn’t get enough oxygen, so cannot function optimally – which is a big problem if you need to use your brain during the day.
Learning to breathe in a healthy way will have so many incredible benefits to your mood, energy, health and, in turn, how you perform and feel in your work. You don’t need to take up meditation to get the benefits. Deep breathing, while it sounds super simple, actually creates a significant change in your physiology – altering your state from a sympathetic stressed state (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest) and informing (tricks) your brain that you are ‘safe’ and well. Here are just a couple of tips to get you started:
Use the 5-5-7 breathe technique. Breathe in deep (right down into your stomach) for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, then let out slower for 7 seconds. A slower exhale is another great way for you to release stress and remind your brain you are safe. Repeat a few times.
Use this technique anytime you feel stressed or overwhelmed and at regular intervals throughout the day. You can even set a timer until you become more aware of when to use this. On the way to work or before an important meeting or presentation is also a great time.
Taking deep breaths before eating lunch – to remind your brain you are safe and that switching on your digestive system is ok. Once you’ve taken some breaths, eat slowly and mindfully. Your food will be processed more effectively, and you’ll feel less sluggish in the afternoon – despite your choice of food. Improving the quality of your food can come later when you’ve nailed your ABCs.
C for Celebrate
And finally - Celebrate!
Being aware of the good things that happen in your day can really change your whole perspective and feeling around how things are going. As contractors, you especially need to give attention to this as you may not have anyone around you letting you know what’s going well.
Our brain, annoyingly, is wired to look for the negative and threats, in case there is a tiger in the bush nearby. But in this modern world, having the negative things outweigh the positive is not so helpful, especially for our mental state.
The good news is that our brains can be changed. It takes a little work and a lot of awareness, but you can change your overall perspective and soon you’ll start to notice more positivity. In your brain there is a filter system called the Reticular Activating system (RAS) that filters out approximately 90% of your environment, to protect your brain from overload. The RAS is why when you are looking for a new car, suddenly you see that car everywhere, even in the colour you were looking at – they were always there, but now you are more aware of them. Let’s train your RAS to look for what you want to see or experience more. I’m sure you can now see how beneficial this can be for your mental wellbeing and seeing your experience at work from a more positive perspective.
Now You Know Your ABCs
Hopefully you can see how all three ABCs work really well in tandem.
Notice that none of the ABCs discusses actual diet and exercise habits. Firstly, you’re probably already so busy and potentially overwhelmed that adding something like that may take a little too much brain and willpower right now.
Secondly, simply focusing on improving your energy and outlook with the ABCs will allow more space to up the ante a bit later on. The secret to implementing positive change that sticks is to start super small and keep it consistent. Laying the right foundation when initiating change helps those new habits to stick. You may also find that just focusing on this will elevate your mood to a point where you feel more ready and inspired to add some new healthy habits to your life.
A Quick Review:
Awareness: Being mindful of your current behaviours and habits that are on autopilot. Once you start using your more advanced prefrontal cortex part of the brain, you will be better able to make more conscious decisions.
Breathe: Deep breathing allows your body and brain to feel safe and so all the things you need to be working effectively will be activated. Find time throughout your day to add this in for significant health benefits. It only takes a minute!
Celebrate: Being conscious of looking for the good in your day and sitting with it for a bit will rewire your brain to allow it to be open to finding more of it every day.
Ask yourself, what steps can you take right now to start incorporating the ABCs of work wellness into your day and ensure that it is consistent so that it becomes a habit?
The team at Beyond Recruitment want you to be feeling your best. If you would like help with implementing your ABCs or anything else relating to your wellbeing or contract please get in touch.