Over the past few years, more and more people and organizations have had their eyes opened to the extreme power of simple gratitude. No longer just the domain of pre-Thanksgiving Dinner share sessions, scientific research has been showing that those of us who intentionally make an effort to think about what we’re thankful for and express our gratitude to those around us are generally happier, healthier, and live more fulfilling lives. However, the key word in that last paragraph is intentional. Our brains are wired like thermostats, and have a tendency to emotionally regulate themselves back to a default state in the face of extreme changes. When an emotion is experienced frequently, this trait (called “hedonic adaptation") causes that emotion to be felt less strongly, which can make it difficult to be fully aware of when something truly positive is happening in our lives.
What is a habit? In the most basic terms, it’s your brain rewiring itself to make life easier… for itself. When we repeat something often enough, our brains create the neural pathways that make these tasks feel like second nature, meaning we have to devote very little brainpower to completing them successfully. This is great when you don’t have to think about brushing your teeth before bed, but it can be not-so-great when it comes time to break a habit that’s detrimental or unhealthy, like responding defensively to constructive criticism or pushing back against changes to your work routine.
For many people, they think that burnout is the same as stress, but that’s not entirely accurate. Stress is acute–we experience it in-the-moment due to a particular trigger. But burnout? Burnout is more long-term. It stems from accumulated stress over time, and often manifests almost like a depression: you may feel perpetually exhausted and anxious. You may feel like you can’t catch up on sleep, or that nothing brings you pleasure. You have trouble concentrating and connecting with people you love. Burnout takes time to set in, and also takes time to heal, and it’s often caused by long-term workplace stressors (although it can definitely be caused by non-work-related concerns such as marital problems or ongoing crises). What can you do if you’re feeling burned out at work? Here are five things you can do as a coworker or manager to help yourself and others find relief.
Choose Your Attitude is one of the 4 core pillars of the FISH! Philosophy, and is perhaps the one that requires the most personal reflection in order to really internalize. To Choose Your Attitude is to be aware of your emotions and to make the conscious decision to alter your behavior in a way that better suits the situation at-hand. The FISH! Philosophy recognizes that every situation is unique, and choosing your attitude is not meant to prescribe a particular attitude or behavior at any given moment (c’mon, do any of us react positively when someone tells us to “just stay positive”?!). Fundamentally, choosing your attitude is about practicing mindfulness: recognizing that we’re feeling a certain way, that those feelings are likely externalized via our outward behavior and demeanor, and that this behavior affects both others’ perceptions of us as well as our perceptions of ourselves, and that these are often re-internalized in a way that further alters our mood and our attitudes.