The COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages and supply chain challenges have thrust us all into uncharted territory. As I talk with healthcare leaders and providers across the U.S., I continue to be impressed with and inspired by their commitment, collaboration, and resourcefulness.
With the Omicron variant wave currently sweeping across the U.S., I continue to hear many stories of duty, responsibility, long hours, exhaustion, and leaders devoting little, if any, time to self-care. With all the critical issues confronting you as a leader right now, it is important to be at your best.
In times of crisis and prolonged periods of stress, our ability to think clearly and strategically is compromised. What’s happening inside our heads: The more primitive area of our brain kicks into survival mode. The amygdala (a small, powerful information filter in the brain that makes connections and responds 100x faster than our cognitive system) takes over (known as amygdala hijacking), triggering our emotions and resulting in reactive fight, flight or freeze emotional responses. In this reactive state, we are focused on survival rather than thinking and acting strategically.
Here’s a simple practice that can help quickly boost your focus, resilience, mood, and effectiveness. I call it a 2 x 2 (two by two) – making space for (at least) two minutes of silence twice a day. There’s some science behind this suggestion.
So, why two minutes?
Studies have shown that as little as two minutes of silence can be highly beneficial to your brain and your body. It can help sustain energy, reduce stress and tension, and restore the nervous system, enabling you to feel calmer, more focused and to think more clearly and creatively. It helps to replenish your mental resources. A valuable return for a small investment.
Other benefits of silence include:
- Improved self-awareness – you will likely notice a shift in your ability to be more self-aware and to be more intentional about how you show up with others (including family and friends) and how you respond to the environment.
- As you move into a calmer state, you can access the more complex, higher-order thinking functions of the brain, resulting in better clarity, decision making and more creative problem-solving.
- Silence can help condition your mind to be more agile, adaptive and responsive to the complex environment (i.e., learning agile).
- Calming the brain’s threat response also reduces the release of stress hormones, lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
- You will be able to be more connected to your inner thoughts, memories and emotionsand more able to recognize connections between things.
A recent study led by Imke Kirste, PhD, PMP at Duke University Medical School, found that silence is also associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory.
Silence is healing, regenerative and accessible to all of us. I hope you’ll accept this 2 x 2 challenge and make a commitment to carve out this small, yet important, amount of time for yourself during your workday. It’s a great place to start and you can build from there. Apps like Calm and Headspace are also recommended by clients for customized meditation practice outside of the intentional moments of silence.
Will YOU accept the 2 x 2 Challenge?
“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” – Rumi
“Silence is a source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu
Sources: The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time by Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz, Harvard Business Review, March 17, 2017