I recently read an article by Dr. Janet Zadina called “The Critical Next Two Years You Must Prepare for Now.” At the end of the post, Dr. Zadina lists some strategies that other leaders are using to help their faculty. One of those is “Wellness Wednesdays.” The idea of Wellness Wednesdays is that the school system or college offers advice or strategies once weekly for stress reduction. I’ve decided to do that at the division level for our faculty. This week was our first official Wellness Wednesday. This was my message:
Good afternoon, all.
I don’t know about you, but this time last year, I could not have predicted that we’d here this time this year. As I mentioned in the virtual snap cup email the other day (thanks to all who’ve “snapped” someone!), many people are “hitting a wall” right now as the COVID pandemic continues to take its toll on us. As this article I shared explains, the pandemic has over-activated our stress systems. The result: we’re more at-risk for burnout.
Did you know, though, that you can change your brain in just 20 seconds? It’s legit—actual brain scientists have observed and recorded this phenomenon. It’s called neuroplasticity. And it can help us with this stress/burnout problem. See, our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative. That’s called “negativity bias,” and it was super helpful to our ancestors who relied on it to keep them alive when lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!) were an everyday threat. We don’t really need that negativity bias so much now, though, and it can do more harm than good in situations like this where we’re over stressed. But the good news is that we can change it (and improve our mental health and wellbeing) in just 20 seconds. Make that 20 seconds a habit, and bam! Permanent brain change—plus better health. A strategy for this is called Notice-Shift-Rewire, and it’s explained in this article. I can tell you I’ve personally had great experience with this technique, especially over the last year when in the midst of a global pandemic I became very ill for four months. So like the article suggests, try it—once a day, every day for a week, and see what happens. This may even be a strategy you could share with students!