What is your main focus with leadership these days, given all the changes in the global climate, such as the pandemic and protests?
This was the question I received this past week from a new connection on LinkedIn. The writer is the senior HR director for a multibillion-dollar software company headquartered in California. I can’t share any more specifics than that, but I’m giving you this background to help us together consider the impact of his question.
The writer is based in a state experiencing its largest wildfire season on record. Flames have ravaged over a million hectares or more than 3pc of all land in the state. Black Lives Matter protests are still being held while smoke hangs in the air.
Precautions vary by county, so you must check which businesses are open. Across the state, most schools, as well as universities, are not conducting in-person classes.
Amidst this stark and uncertain backdrop, my new American connection looked to me in Ireland for perspective. My response aligned with what I’m sure is the focus of his own local team.
“The number one thing I’m being asked about right now is how to promote remote well-being,” I replied.
As it happened, the day before I received that inquiry from California, I had interviewed another Californian on the very topic of wellness.
Author and mindset coach JM Ryerson has been building companies and leading sales teams for 20 years. I spoke to him via Zoom from his home outside Sacramento.
He agreed this is what is clearly at the top of everyone’s mind. Across the globe, we are suffering from increased levels of stress.
“Right now, there’s so much fear and anxiety. There’s too much negativity swirling around and it’s because of the unknown. I set personal goals in seven major areas: personal, work, family, spiritual, financial and mental health and physical health.
“Each of us needs a process to feed our body, mind and soul to attain our goals and maintain balance. My overall philosophy is to make this process really simple.”
1) Feed your mind
“Remember,” JM begins, “our mind is the area that most of us do not discipline enough. We allow it to wander to whatever news station we’re watching or radio talk show we’re listening to. What comes out from there begins to influence us. We’re not making a conscious decision to fill our minds with something positive.”
JM encourages his clients to take control by creating a plan to keep minds active. “Consider how you want to show up and make real effort to feed your brain good food like intellectually challenging games and puzzles or reading critical thinking articles.” I agree. As with any machine or process, the input affects the output.
2) Move your body
I’ve written many times before right here in this column about the irrefutable connection between a healthy mind and a healthy body. Keeping physically fit increases the proportion of endorphins in our mind which, in turn, acts to reduce mental stress. But many of us, especially during times of great stress, feel much more inclined to hit the fridge than to hit the workout mat. How much exercise must we do?
JM explains his approach to being active. “When I was in college, I was an athlete. I worked out two hours a day. But now, I simply don’t have the time to do that. Some people will stop working out altogether because they can’t or don’t do as much as they did before. But just because you’re not doing the same things you did 15 years ago or even a week ago, spending 20 minutes exercising in some form is better than doing nothing. Just make sure you move your body. As I say, ‘Sweat daily!’”
3) Nourish your soul
While much is written about connections between activating our minds and our bodies, we shouldn’t overlook our souls.
“All three of these are related,” says JM, “and if you’re not taking care of one, you’re out of balance. But the truth is a lot of people are not making plans to enrich their spirits.
“It doesn’t matter if what you do is taking a hike in nature or attending church, you need to give yourself a purpose and through that find a way to respond and not react to things happening in the world.”
JM finds his soul refreshed and refocused through meditation. I asked him about this.
“I used to say, ‘I will do 10 minutes daily’ and if I didn’t do it for that long (like his exercise issue), I wouldn’t do it at all. But now I can do 30-second set of box breathing — in which you inhale and exhale at the rate of four seconds for each — and it immediately puts me in a more balanced state.
“I believe there are really only two things we can control in this world: attitude and activity,” he adds.
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With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon