ReBoot & The Mindful Enterprise have joined forces to discuss what it takes in today’s world to stay healthy. Alastair Lechler interviews Gary Young and we share some thoughts on how to protect a positive mindset, and strategies to help manage stress.
It has often been said that a healthy body equals a healthy mind.. But does it..? If I may, ask you, the reader – what you currently do to invest in your own wellbeing? For most people it seems to be one of, or a few of the following – exercise / reading / walking / yoga / painting / going away / socialising / digital detox.
How effectively does this help you to de-stress? How does stress manifest in your life? Could you spot the signs that might indicate risk of burnout? Does it affect those closest to you? Why not try scoring yourself out of 10..? How about asking your loved ones to score you out of 10..?!
One thing is certain – life isn’t always easy, and could be described as a series of stressful events!
Gary Young and I were introduced after I relocated from London to Edinburgh, and I have benefited from a mindfulness course run by Gary and The Mindful Enterprise.
Personally – I have benefited from applying some of the techniques taught by Gary and his team. At a high level – the non-striving and self-compassion elements resonated with me, as my default position is one of a fierce self-critic and relentlessly moving from goal to goal, without stopping to celebrate successes or appreciating the present moment.
Gary, you launched The Mindful Enterprise in 2016, what have you learnt about stress-management and peoples’ attitudes to self-care over the last few years?
Gary: In my experience accumulated stress, coupled with lack of personal awareness has become a societal epidemic. In a study conducted by Vitality, Rand Europe and University of Cambridge in 2018, it was estimated that workplace stress cost UK businesses £17.2bn in lost productivity. https://www.vitality.co.uk/media/british-businesses-could-save-61-billion-pounds-per-year-prioritising-health-wellbeing/ Spotting the signs of a build up of stress through the awareness of how it feels in the body and how that impacts on our behaviours and how we perform are important indicators to help us make wise choices for our health, wellbeing and the quality of our relationships. Many people have fallen into the modern day societal trap of endless striving, thinking and ’doing’, blissfully unaware of the addictive patterns forming in the brain which can lead people on a path to fatigue, exhaustion and unhappiness; action addiction and a neglect of adequate self care. For some, it can take a major event like a health issue or a relationship breakdown to propel them towards change and a greater awareness of the importance of integrating an appropriate level of self care into daily / weekly routines. For anyone with aspirations to lead a vibrant, successful and fulfilled life, having a balanced approach to work and home life should be a non negotiable. When we’re looking after ourselves well, we’re better equipped to achieve our goals and we’re in a far stronger place to lead and serve others.
Alastair: My wake-up call came on Good Friday last year, when I suffered a major fall when climbing on the Isle of Skye. As I was faced with the prospect of potentially losing my life – life didn’t exactly flash before my eyes, but I did feel a deep sense of dread that I had come nowhere near to achieving what I wanted with my life.
What has happened since then has been a sequence of transformational life decisions, including leaving London to settle in Edinburgh, and launching ReBoot!
I hope to equip others with the confidence to pursue their own dreams, and instill the resilience and mental toolkit to execute the change and live with the uncertainty – without the need for a near death experience to trigger their wake-up call!
As a very active guy yourself – how do you see the link between physical and mental wellbeing in today’s world?
Gary: I see the two as being completely aligned. When I don’t consistently exercise, it affects how I feel mentally and if I don’t prioritise my mind training it can impact on my motivation to exercise. In my opinion we need good maintenance of both to operate at our best. Scientifically, we now know that how we interact with our minds can impact the physical body. If the thoughts we’re repetitively engaging in are negative in nature we’re impacting our body’s chemistry and creating the environment for illness and disease to develop. For example, stressful, anxious or angry thoughts trigger our fight or flight response releasing cortisol and adrenaline into the body. While its ok to have adrenaline and cortisol in the body in short bursts to help us achieve, it can become detrimental to our health over prolonged periods. This is one of the reasons why mindfulness is now growing in popularity. If we can become more familiar with the tendencies of our minds and learn techniques to manage them effectively, we can minimise negative traits and prevent new ones from forming. Not only does this improve our health and wellbeing, it helps us perform at our best.
Alastair: I would say that I have an exercise addiction, which as things go – is a healthy addiction to have, but needs managing! As a start-up Founder I can find myself physically, mentally and emotionally drained if I’m not careful. Carving the headspace to wind down and decompress away from work and the gym is vital, and boxing out time to reflect on successes and learns is all vital to my own wellbeing.
It is unfair to expect loved ones to be responsible for flagging the signs of stress or burnout, so self-awareness is key, and needs practice.
Many people I know are so time-poor that their only option is to use exercise to de-stress – perhaps a cycle or run home from work is a good, time efficient method, and provides a natural buffer between work and family life.
Clearly everyone is different, and there is no one-size fits all approach, but could you offer any tips for people to improve self-awareness, and how best to develop the ability to nip early warning signs in the bud..?
Gary: I can really relate to this Alastair. – Balance, heightened personal awareness and self control are the keys to life success. These are the skills and qualities we can develop through a consistent mindfulness practice. My key tips would be: 1. Start your day with at least a 5-10 minute mindfulness meditation practice to become fully present and teach the mind to begin the day in a settled and rested state. It can also be helpful to incorporate a morning routine of gratitude and appreciation for what we already have in our lives. This induces feelings of warmth and contentment and creates space for more abundance to arrive in our lives. 2. Take moments throughout the day to ‘check-in’ with yourself. Set a reminder or have a note on your laptop. Stop what you’re doing, become present by focusing on your breath for around 5-10 inhalations then ask yourself “how am I?”, “what do I need right now?”, “is there anything different I need to do?” then wait for your inner wisdom to emerge. This helps to take us out of ‘auto pilot’ and into a more embodied state of presence and is a great way to build a positive habit of self care. 3. Try and be mindful in everyday tasks. When you’re brushing your teeth, be there fully with the sensory experience rather than spend that time thinking, planning or worrying about the day ahead. Repeat this approach with as many everyday life tasks you do e.g. walking / commuting to work, making your breakfast, preparing your coffee and eating your meals. The more present we become in everyday life the more awareness we develop. With greater awareness and depth of our practice, more space emerges and with more space we have greater control over the choices we make. I’ve said consistently that mindfulness is the most important training I’ve ever done and I’ll go even further than that by saying its now the most important skill for the evolution of the human race. The destruction and poor decision making that we see going on in the world is caused by the human mind, much of it is unconscious and ego driven, so if we can help more people to turn towards mindfulness and deeply benefit from it, the world will be in much better shape.