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Working Your Way to Wellness: A New Resolution

Cindy LaCom,

TCC Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer

Alcohol use. Exercise. Age. Diet. State of mind.

Which of these do you think matters most in terms of health and wellness? Why do you think so? While all of them matter, there’s a lot of evidence that our mindset can have a significant impact on our workplace performance and, more generally, on our lives. If you feel stressed at work, you’re not alone, and carrying that around with you can impact other parts of your life. If you’ve ever snapped at a family member or friend at the end of a hard day or caved in to that fourth piece of pizza with a “who cares?’ attitude of defeat, then you know that frustration and fatigue are hard to just “put away.” Simply put, most of us aren’t very good at separating “work” and “the rest of life.”

Of course, anxiety can be productive – it can compel us to work harder, to think more creatively, and to push ourselves to standards of excellence. It triggers a flight/fight/or freeze response, which can help us do anything from lift a heavy desk off a child to run away from danger. But it can also be harmful, effecting our sleep, our appetite, our relationships, and our energy levels. Chronic stress effects almost every system in our body, and it can make us feel helpless, as if we don’t have control over the situation or people who are causing us stress. So, what can we do?

Taking Action

We may not be able to control the factors (or people) who are stressing us out at work, but we CAN control to at least some extent how we manage our responses. Certain steps like physical activity, yoga, and pursuit of a hobby aren’t possible at work. But one step most of us can take is to ask, “What triggers my stress?”

This may feel obvious, but sometimes it’s

not. Is it the tone of a co-worker? Procrastination on a project or task you simply don’t want to tackle? The know-it-all who takes over team meetings? Consider keeping a record.

This doesn’t have to be complicated – just note when your stress levels jump.

Psychologist Carol Dweck writes about “growth” versus “fixed” mindset. The latter is where we can get stuck, while the former emphasizes the belief that with effort, time, and practice, we can get better at what we are doing. That includes stress management. Growth mindset requires practice, but it can provide tools for us to feel more empowered.

One easy step is diaphragmatic breathing – sometimes called “belly breathing.” I’ve found it helps to put my fingers at the top of my ribcage so that I can feel it expand and contract when I take four to five deep breaths – but if you’re in a public place and can’t do this, just inhale deeply for three or so seconds and then exhale slowly while relaxing. Some find it helpful to actually think “relax” as they breathe.

Another, perhaps more challenging but really important step, is to consider how you respond to feedback. If your first impulse is to focus on the negative or react defensively, consider taking time to step back and then thinking about how you might use that feedback to improve. And on the other end, don’t forget to offer praise to others when they do good work.

And take note as well of what triggers your relaxation response. Is it laughter? When your coworker simply asks you how your morning is going? Or perhaps when you reach out to a team member to check in on their sick kid? If monitoring our stress is important to practice mindset management, equally important is tracking those moments when we feel good, when we feel we’re part of a community that cares about each other’s health and wellbeing.

Growth mindset takes practice –

but it’s well worth it.


We bring combined expertise HR, diversity building, effective communication, mindset management, & culture change. We bridge a number of worlds, from business to the nonprofit sector to higher education. This gives us the perspective to work in any industry and the ability to support the creation of an empowered culture.


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