The Necessity of Strategic Disengagement with Julie Ann Sullivan


Today I’m highlighting the importance of disengagement and how it can heighten your ability of resilience.  This episode is not about you being disengaged from the work you do.  On the contrary, the type of disengagement I’m going to talk about will actually raise your engagement in everything that you do.   It may seem contradictory, but listen through and you’ll find that downtime creates more valuable work time. Disengagement is a way of detaching from something.  And the something I want to discuss is the parts of life that may make you irritable, unhappy and frustrated.

In a world where more than 200 million emails are sent each day, it’s no wonder there seems to be no time to relax and disengage. You may think about work when you awaken or on your way to the office if you don’t work remotely. There are emails, meetings, and phone interruptions that further complicate ways in which you can be creative and productive.  In fact, just talking about this makes me want to scream.  It isn’t a coincidence that in May of 2019, burn-out was classified in the International Classification of Diseases as an occupational phenomenon.  You may have convinced yourself before ever listening to this episode that it’s counter-intuitive that downtime is necessary to work and play at your highest level.  But it isn’t.

Burn out doesn’t just happen in a moment, it is perpetuated over time.  But the good news is that it’s preventable.  The more difficult piece is that you have to make the choice to choose the time to disengage. Disengaging is a necessity for mental and physical well-being. You wouldn’t argue with the fact that your physical and mental health directly affects every aspect of your work, would you? That makes managing stress and frustration a necessity.  To do this you have to become more self-aware and have the willingness to take action. Finding calm increases focus, productivity, and a healthier you…physically, emotionally and spiritually. Don’t wait until you have made yourself sick.  When you have tension in your life your body releases the stress hormone cortisol.  Too much cortisol can be detrimental to every organ in your body, especially your heart.

Research-based techniques for strategic disengagement can be simple. I’m a firm believer that simple solutions give you big results. Here’s one.  Start small, but be deliberate. For starters, concentrate on your breathing for 30 seconds. In fact right now, let go of everything in your hands, close your eyes, as long as you’re not driving, and slowly inhale and exhale. Even with your eyes open, deep breathing can change your entire perspective and open new pathways of thinking.  Now do it again and really concentrate on breathing in slowly… and now exhaling slowly.  Do you feel more relaxed just from that short time?  Practice and after a week, increase breathing deeply for a minute. See if you can build up to consciously breathing, in and out, slowly for two minutes. Don’t you deserve that amount of time each day? 2 minutes?  You might find it surprising that so little time can produce a profound difference.

And you have to work on recognizing your own behaviors. Be aware of what is going on in your own body.  Do you recognize when your muscles become tightened?  When you notice you’re feeling tense, counteract it with something that makes you feel more relaxed. It could be merely changing the environment you’re in.  You could simply go into another room, step outside, drink a glass of water or listen to some music. Choose what works for you.  The secret is to take action quickly. Do it sooner rather than later.  The longer you wait, the more work it takes to bring you back to calm, clear thinking.

Perhaps you’re in a conversation with someone and you notice your reactions are causing poor communication.  You might think about having that conversation later.  Or let’s say you come to work one day only to find out that a particular procedure or process has changed.  I’m not asking you to take the day off to wrap your head around the new change, but if it’s really irritating, I’m sure you can find somewhere to breathe deeply for a few minutes.  It will help you broaden your perspective and perhaps getting a better understanding of the situation.

American journalist Sidney J. Harris said, “The time to relax is when you don’t have the time for it.”  Think about that.  Make time when it seems there’s no room for that time.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have no time to calm down, loosen up and lighten up.
Take care of yourself and the rest of your life will have a more positive outlook.

There is an added bonus when you learn how to disengage.  It’s increased resilience.  The definition of resilience is the ability to adjust easily to misfortune or change.  Notice that definition says misfortune OR change. Change doesn’t need to be a misfortune unless you make it that way.  In fact, once you understand that difference, you increase your resiliency and flexibility to overcome challenges that come up all the time.  You don’t live in a bubble.  Change is inevitable.  It’s not about if it will happen, it’s when.  Perceiving how change can be good… builds resilience.

Learning how to disengage when any type of change makes you uncomfortable, creates adaptability.  Be more flexible than rigid. The more stringent you are in how you perceive and manage life’s situations, the more stressful it’s going to be.

A workforce filled with resilient and flexible people stands out.  Overcoming obstacles will be easier and performance will be heightened.  Disengagement, flexibility, resilience.  They’re all skills, which means they can be taught and enhanced. As leaders, it is to your advantage to make sure your employees get this kind of training.

You can build a resilient workforce community by creating an atmosphere where people feel safe to share how they personally create strategic disengagement so that everyone can find their own way.  It will be an asset to the entire organization.

If you need help, call me at 724-942-0486 and let’s create a workplace where new ideas, constructive adjustments and praise are the norms.

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