Mindfulness and meditation have gained acceptance and entered the mainstream over the past decade. But in Corporate America, where adoption of “alternative” practices is notoriously slow, the party has only started more recently. During the last three months in particular, as we’ve shifted to a “new Coronavirus normal,” the number of executives and senior professionals turning to meditation and mindfulness has spiked. Why are we seeing this shift now, is it simply due to higher stress levels? And beyond stress management, how can mindfulness and meditation help professionals proactively grow their careers and find more fulfillment in their work lives? As we explore in my webinar, “3 Tools for Managing Stress During Uncertain Times,” these modalities offer extensive mental, physical, and business benefits that warrant consideration and adoption in a professional context.
External validation and exposure have increased
Over the past 30 years, our definition of health and the extent to which we have taken personal ownership and agency over it have expanded. It wasn’t that long ago that yoga was seen as an “alternative” activity, conjuring images of dreadlocks and health food stores, while today it is ubiquitous and 28% of Americans have tried it at some point in their lives, according to a recent Seattle Yoga News report. We can look to other examples such as acupuncture, the organic movement, and the gluten free diet for additional evidence of this theme. Similarly, mindfulness and meditation have become popular due to the expansion of our interest in health and self-care. Their adoption has been bolstered further by scientific studies proving their benefits and the proliferation of classes, studios, and apps making practice accessible.
In the workplace, Corporate America has compensated for its delayed uptake of these practices with a strong ramp. A remarkable 52% of employers now offer mindfulness training to their teams, according to the National Business Group on Health. High employee engagement in these activities has led to a “trickle up” effect on senior leadership and the C-suite. The validation provided by a supportive ecosystem encourages leaders to try these tools and the improved business performance, through enhanced focus, productivity, EQ, and creativity, keeps them coming back for more.
The pandemic has pushed us beyond stressed
No matter where you’re located, it’s safe to say the Coronavirus pandemic has had some effect on your life, possibly upending it completely. Experiences such as isolation, fear for one’s health, economic anxiety, and worry for loved ones aren’t just stressful, they can constitute trauma.
According to the Metiv Center, trauma is “a sudden event that dramatically explodes into our lives and changes the way we perceive the world.” Each of the aforementioned struggles could be traumatic on its own. But in combination, and with the emotional toll from the protests for racial justice and equality that have been sweeping the nation, the result can be a compounding of trauma and intensification of symptoms.
There are many ways trauma can manifest, but some of the most common symptoms are:
- A shortened attention span
- Muscle tension and pain
- “Spacing out”
When faced with these physical and emotional symptoms, as many of us have been, it’s no wonder that people who may have once felt wary of alternative practices have become more open to trying something new to feel better.
Business leaders in particular may find themselves under unprecedented levels of stress, making the value of self-care higher than ever as they seek ways to fill their tanks and avoid burnout. They may be especially encouraged to try out mindfulness and meditation during this work-from-home period thanks to the privacy afforded in one’s own home, the ability to move at his or her own pace, and the abundance of support available from apps, videos, and books. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce the effects of stress and trauma by 73%, as published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience; having experienced these incredible results for themselves, executives become more likely to spread the word, popularizing the helpful practices further.
Organizational support during Covid-19 has been widespread
The pandemic has made it acceptable to admit we are stressed; it has also prompted workplaces to take more of an active role in support of employees’ mental health. Local governments are promoting mindfulness, meditation, and other mental health tools and resources to support their constituents during this unique time. And apps like Headspace and Calm have offered widespread free access to their programs with notable results: during the week of March 29th alone, mindfulness apps were downloaded 750,000 times, a 25% increase over the two prior months’ weekly averages, as reported in the Washington Post.
Uncovering additional benefits
Now that meditation and mindfulness have entered the workplace mainstream, new applications are being developed to support executives further. Because these practices improve self-awareness and lower self-judgment, they empower executives to step into exciting life and career options they may not have allowed themselves to consider before. These tools are thus powerful conduits for professional change.
In my work as an Executive Coach, mindfulness and meditation are some of the most important tools I teach. By practicing, you will learn to access your inner landscape, translate whatever you find into strategic action, and ultimately achieve fulfillment of your highest potential. Wherever you are in your career, you will benefit from learning how to use these tools. I invite you to join me tomorrow for my Master Class,“3 Tools for Managing Stress During Uncertain Times,” to learn more about mindfulness and meditation and to experience them for yourself.