By Alesha Combs
You may have experienced the bittersweet nature of the holiday season. It’s a time for celebrating, socializing, parties and great food, but the stress that some of these events bring on can catch you off guard. Maybe you encounter a first holiday without a loved one, or feel overwhelmed with the thought of hosting Thanksgiving dinner or picking the perfect gift.
If you work in health insurance, you know that the holiday season also comes during the infamous “4th Quarter,” our busiest, and I’ll be honest, most stressful time of year. 4th Quarter is when the majority of health plans renew, and new plan options are rolled out. It comes with an influx of meetings, paperwork, and more emails than you can count. Stress runs high.
It is a bit ironic that while we work to secure people’s access to healthcare and secure their wellness, it comes with an increase in stress, which does the exact opposite! I don’t think this is news to most people, but stress can cause a significant impact on your body and overall wellness. Symptoms of stress include: headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, sleep challenges, social withdrawal, anxiety and irritability. (Mayo Clinic; Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior).
For many people, the idea of self-care and stress management, while a nice concept, may seem unrealistic or unattainable, in the vein of “Life is too busy, and there’s no time to relax!” but using the technique, tools, and processes of mindfulness can help reduce stress, and, bonus, it doesn’t take time! Mindfulness is a psychological shift that focuses on remaining present in the moment. This can be achieved by focusing in on and acknowledging the sensations you are experiencing in the present moment. While there may not be time, there is always the present.
So the next time you’re sending an email, try a few of the following methods for staying mindful and present: focus on the feel of the keys under your fingers, the sensation of moving each finger to coordinate a whole series of movements all resulting in your email. Listen to the sound of the taps on the keyboard. Is there a pattern? Is it urgent or steady? You’ll find yourself pulling away from the spinning thoughts of the day and focusing on the now and the task at hand.
The truth is that most often the present moment is not that stressful. It’s the regrets of the past, or pressures of the future, that cause the mind to spiral. When you mindfully focus in on the moment, it empowers you to take control of it, and results in feeling less stressed and more productive.
If you are interested in practicing mindfulness, but would like some help getting into the swing of it, I recommend the book “How to be Mindful” by Anna Barnes. It shares useful tips and reminders on every page. It is not written in a novel or story format, so it takes almost no time at all to familiarize yourself with the tools needed to practice this psychological shift; shifting yourself back into the moment and kicking stress out.