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  • Writer's pictureCait Donovan

#straightfromcait: Mindfulness and Burnout - The Science For Your Brain and Heart

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Hey Fried Fans! Last week, you found out that together with MINDALT, Luminary, Caveday, Kristina Libby, Sochill, and Spiritune, I have a super fun project for the month of April called The World’s Most Mindful Office. It’s the idea baby of Christina Vuleta, the co-founder of MINDALT and I’m so excited to be a part of it.

In case you missed it, here are the basics.

Luminary is my favorite co-working space in NYC and also happens to be around the corner from my acupuncture office, so it’s really convenient for those days that I have pauses between patients AND super convenient for a mid day acupuncture nap for you when you're working your day away in Luminary's beautiful space. Luminary also has a ton of online programming for their members (and for this last week of Women’s History Month - their online programming is FREE for ALL.. so hop on that this week!) that connects me with the most amazing women.

Now, Christina and I are building the World’s Most Mindful Office, within Luminary’s walls. The private office will be covered in incredible floral art by Kristina Libby, supplied with a Mindful Plan for the day created by Christina Vuleta following the main principles of MINDALT, supported by Caveday with a focused work session, and enhanced by moi with short simple exercises designed to bring in more calm and more energy easily when you need it.

All of this is super exciting, but it begs the question - why am I a part of this? What does mindfulness have to do with burnout? I don’t use the word mindfulness often on FRIED episodes but it is interwoven into nearly every suggestion I’ve ever given. I find that sometimes, when you’re burnt out and the typical advice that’s touted hasn’t helped you, hearing words that follow the common advice makes you just glaze right over it. BUT! Mindfulness is a huge part of burnout recovery and the why is in the science. To keep it super simple, Mindfulness keeps your MIND FULL. We’ve talked neuroscience quite a bit on FRIED (if you missed the episode with Shonte Javon Taylor - go back and find it, it’s amazing!) and because we talk about it so much, I hope that you remember that there are a couple of brain changes that happen with the type of long term chronic stress that we associate with burnout.

Mainly, the part of your brain that is responsible for filtering emotions, giving you motivation, connecting with others, and being your center of logic shrinks - you actually lose nerve cells in this part of your brain when you’re under long term, unprocessed, chronic stress - the same kind that leads you to being totally fried and crispy. Another thing that happens is the amygdala (the part of your brain that’s still all instinct based) is enlarged making you over interpret threats from your environment. Mindfulness practices have been shown to regrow (fill up) the part of your brain that is damaged by long term stress and also regulate the amygdala so that it’s not on high alert all the time.

And then there’s the heart. We haven’t spent a lot of time on the heart on FRIED but I do mention Heart Rate Variability in The Bouncebackability Factor, my book - because the heart is just as (if not more!) important than the brain. The heart has its own nervous system, its own mini brain and long term stress leads to dysregulation of this system. Mindfulness helps to restore it.

Okay, so great. Science says that mindfulness can help restore both the brain and the heart - but what is it, really? Mindfulness, as defined by the Oxford Language Dictionary is:

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

This second definition is the one that I want to use today. Mindfulness is achieved by focusing on the present moment and acknowledging all sensations, thoughts, etc. that are present within that moment.

The easiest way to induce mindfulness is to engage the senses. Think about this moment. You're entering your home after a long day in the office and it smells of brownies. You stop for one single moment and you take a big inhale, you notice joy, excitement, your mouth salivates, you’ve forgotten about everything in the entire day for a fraction of a second. You’ve been transported from the ever present distractions, thoughts, and ideas that pull you from the present right back smack dab into NOW.

Or the moment that you notice the sun has dropped and the scenery might just take your breath away. You stop (even before reaching for your phone) and look - your energy settles, you feel appreciation, you notice beauty, you have a sense of awe - this is a mindful moment.

Mindfulness asks that you engage your senses, that you stop and breathe, that you notice your emotional state (without judgment) and when you do these things, your body regulates itself. Your nervous system informs you that you’re safe, your brain cells regrow, your heart waves are no longer chaotic, and the energy that you are putting out into the world is softer, kinder, more generous, and more peaceful.

Soon, we’ll start sharing pictures of The World’s Most Mindful Office and sharing links to things that YOU can use at home to create more mindful, sense engaging, space to work in - whether you’re home, at an AirBnB or in your office - you deserve a mindful space and we’re here to inspire you to create it. XOXO C

P.S. If you're hating everyone around you (including clients and customers) and ready to pull out all your hair, it might be time to work with me. Book a free call here to get started.


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