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Important and Urgent

Right before the pandemic hit, I was speaking to a highly-regarded CEO about how I help business leaders up-level their game as it pertains to stress management. She was intrigued, but ultimately said, “You know, what you do is important, but not urgent (referring to the Eisenhower Matrix, a simple decision-making tool that helps you prioritize tasks).”

Almost two years to the day, managing stress and the consequences of not managing it well, have finally captured our attention. Mental health, wellness, work-life balance, burnout, depression, anxiety, and sadly suicide have become all too common in our everyday lives. Here in the US, we’ve plummeted down the world rankings for happiness.

But what does that mean for employers in the coming year? If you haven’t heard the term “The Great Resignation,” it’s important you do.

According to the Harvard Business Review, more than 9 million global employees quit their jobs in July 2021. And of them, the largest share went to the 30-to-45-year-old bracket. Unsurprising as this average age of new managers, carrying a large amount of stress and usually the least equipped to deal with it.

There are many complicating reasons for this exodus, but according to the study: “many of these workers may have simply reached a breaking point after months and months of high workloads, hiring freezes, and other pressures, causing them to rethink their work and life goals(https://hbr.org/2021/09/who-is-driving-the-great-resignation).”

In my 38 years as a mental health professional, my most engaged clients have been those between the ages of 30 and 45. They’ve lived past their 20’s when they thought they knew everything. And haven’t yet reached their 50’s where again, they will think they know everything.

It’s a time of growth when the existential meaning of life is most compelling. This generation, in particular, is hungry to learn, purpose-driven, and doesn’t want to wait until retirement to start enjoying what the world has to offer.

Given that we are living in unprecedented times, we must all pay attention to the underlying forces at play and the real costs of ignoring them. These issues are complicated and not easy to solve. Yet, if we don’t address them, our continued spiral towards an unhappy society will rage on.

To be very specific, when stress hormones flood the body and the brain, a person’s executive functioning goes “offline.” The desire may be there, but the capacity is not. Much has been said and written about focusing on the “whole person.” But what does that look like from an employer’s perspective?

1. Good mental health is not intuitive – it’s learned. Stress relief apps, office yoga, massage gift cards, etc. They are helpful, but not sufficient in building the kind of internal resiliency needed to cope with our current stressors. Picture bringing a plastic fork to a gunfight. Management teams need real skills and proven methods for managing staff happiness.

2. Peak Performance is predictable and repeatable. Again, one needs to understand how both the body and mind work to achieve these highly productive states. To achieve a sustainable workflow while operating in high-stress environments, one needs to be properly equipped.

3. Mind, Body, Spirit, and Emotion. These four pillars comprise a whole system and thus, a whole person. Pay attention to them and your team will notice. I can’t guarantee these methods will make you their favorite boss, but I can guarantee that you will be setting them up for success both inside your organization and for life.

The last few years have provided us with great challenges and even greater opportunities. It would be a shame to let this time of introspection pass by without making genuine change for the better. When the calendar rolls around to 2022, do you want to find yourself repeating negative thought patterns? Neither does your team.