Last month NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health announced the results of a major workplace poll that found that 43% percent of US workers say that work negatively impacts their stress levels.
That is a lot of stressed people.
But 28% say work has a positive impact on their health. Cool! So one in four of us is finding a good groove at work. What could we learn from them? Let’s ask an expert.
Christine Carter Ph.D., who is a Senior Fellow at the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Institute and a Desk Yogi presenter, has a fancy name for your personal grooves- “ultradian rhythms”. In her wonderful book The Sweet Spot she describes them as “recurrent cycles or rhythms that reappear within the 24-hour circadian rhythms of the day- like breathing and heart rate… About every hour and a half to two hours, we experience a significant “ultradian dip,” when our energy drops and sleep becomes possible. When we work through these dips–relying on caffeine, adrenaline, and stress hormones to keep us alert instead of letting our bodies and brains rest–we become anxious and jittery, and our performance falters.”
Honoring your ultradian rhythms is a central aspect of what makes work potentially healthy or unhealthy. Over the years I have consulted with many people who have “worked through the dips” for years, even decades, and find themselves exhausted, sick, and depressed.
And I have seen people that, as Christine says, “produce and grow like olive trees” by being attuned to their bodies and minds signals for when and how to produce their best work by, paradoxically, knowing when and how not to work. And, like olive trees, they all do it a little differently. Whether it is moving their bodies, sharing a meal or a laugh with a friend, meditation or prayer, deep breathing, relaxation or napping, visualization, music, receiving a massage (including self-massage), enjoying some sunshine, or just being creative in a non-work related way, they have honed a keen sense of how to restore their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy and channel this into potent, focused, creative, and inspired work periods.
While not everyone has control over when and how they take breaks the good news is that a little bit of high quality break time goes a long way. As the one and only world expert on your personal ultradian rhythms you are biologically hard-wired to reap immediate and tangible benefits from heeding their call. Got rhythm?