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Learn & Practice

Workplace Wellness: Coping without Control

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Workplace Wellness we explore how to maintain well-being despite our changing circumstances.

If you live in the U.S., trying to make a “plan” while adjusting to the latest Covid-19 updates and guidelines can be frustrating. Especially for workplaces, the changing dynamic of the public health situation has meant little in the way of consistency. So, if you’re the type of person who counts on plans, lists, and a heavy ounce of control – these times can feel unmooring.

Meditation practices, and in particular the exercises and skills provided by the Healthy Minds Framework for Well-Being, allow us to maintain our well-being despite our changing circumstances. The ability to adapt in these situations is a key aspect of resilience.

Focusing on your connections, managing your awareness, and bringing purpose into everyday life are elements of this. Insight, the third pillar of the Healthy Minds Framework, which focuses on self-exploration can be particularly helpful in ever-changing circumstances.

When our expectations are unmet, or there is a lack of consistency, our thoughts and emotions can spin out of control, and it can take us time to recover. It’s often only much later that we realize what we’ve learned from a challenging experience.

We can’t always control the circumstances of our lives, but with a little self-inquiry, we can use these circumstances to trigger insight, to bring a fresh perspective to the challenging situation. We can train ourselves to see that these thoughts are not reality. They’re just one limited perspective of the situation, and they’re based on beliefs we hold about ourselves – beliefs that we never even pause to question.

Insight gives us the ability to step out of those beliefs for a moment to see that we are so much more than they could ever possibly capture. Practices that help us get comfortable with change, like this 10 minute guided meditation, Shifting Sands, are a key way to train for these moments.

Another way is to make an intentional habit of asking, “What can this teach me?” right in a moment of change to your external circumstances. Here’s how:

  1. Keep an eye out for challenging situations, like an upcoming trip is again put on the back burner because of changing public health mandates.
  2. Instead of resisting or avoiding the discomfort, this time try a different approach. Imagine that this situation is actually a wise teacher, helping you learn something about yourself that you might be missing. 
  3. Find a moment during or directly after the situation to pause – and ask yourself, “What can this situation teach me? What do I have to learn here?”  You might examine the interpretations and assumptions you hold about yourself, or about someone else, or maybe even about the situation itself. It’s often the challenging times that provide the most space for growth.
  4. Just step back and see what you learn. Bring a sense of openness and curiosity to the inquiry. A genuine willingness to look. Doing this in the moment allows you to grow in the here and now, and not have to wait for the future.

These days are up and down and everything in between. Instead of getting caught up in each changing situation or unmet expectation – take a moment to be your own teacher. Recognize the change, and ask yourself – “OK, what’s this teaching me?” rather than dwelling on disappointment. 

The lesson is – if you crave consistency – you will have to develop that consistency internally rather than externally. You don’t have to wait to be a wiser person. You get to do it today. Give it a try.

Learn more about how the Healthy Minds Framework can support your workplace well-being with Healthy Minds @Work or by downloading our free Healthy Minds Program app.

HM@Work Mental Health Naomi Osaka Workplace Wednesdays