Why Jennifer Rademaker Thinks Microsteps Are Brilliant

The Executive Vice President of Global Customer Delivery shares how the tiniest steps helped her overcome well-being challenges and fight burnout.

This COVID experience really did my head in. Even as we transition into a hybrid workplace, the mind-numbing sameness of work from home days and back-to-back meetings still burns me out. I’ve always been a cheerful person, with a big cheesy smile, eagerly seeking out joy. But my positive wiring is taking some strain. I am anxious a lot and overly sensitive to small things. Keeping my energy levels up is a struggle, and I’m not sleeping well. I know I’m not alone in this, and that’s why it’s important to me that I share my struggles as well as my strategies for moving forward.

Always one to leverage the collective power of great minds, I ran a little contest in Global Customer Delivery for people to submit energizing tips and I got a lot of wonderful suggestions. Among the suggestions were trying new hobbies, learning new skills, playing with children, practicing mindfulness, and taking exercise. I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful simplicity at the core of these suggestions. No one was reinventing the wheel, but rather they were being intentional about the small ways they recharged themselves.

And that brings me to one of my biggest well-being supports through this pandemic: the Thrive app. I am an active Thrive user and one of my favorite aspects of the app are the Microsteps. Like the responses I received from my colleagues in Global Customer Delivery, Microsteps are simply too small to fail. They are very doable, they don’t require much time, and they prompt you to be more mindful of your actions. 

A big part of my challenge in working from home was the lack of boundaries between work and my personal life. I am prone to ruminating on work priorities, and having my work in my home was not helping. And this is where the Microsteps really kicked in!

One of the Microsteps that has become a ritual for me is to escort my phone from my bedroom at night. I started this practice after reading that Arianna Huffington used it herself, and it has been a real life-changer for me. I couple this Microstep with another — setting an email cutoff in the evening, after which I don’t check my work email anymore. These two Microsteps help me control my anxiety at night and improve my ability to sleep.  

I have another helpful ritual. In the office, leaving work and commuting home helps me declare an end to my day. But how can I replicate this when I am at home? At the beginning of the day, I light a scented candle and enjoy the scent while I am working. This is a “work from home” treat, as we are not allowed to burn candles in the Mastercard office! At the end of the day, I close my laptop and blow out the candle. That whoosh of breath is so definitive and satisfying — I’m done for the day!  

Finally, I find breathing really helps. The Thrive app allows me to set a daily alarm, which reminds me to focus on my breathing for 10 seconds. This Microstep really helps boost my energy, particularly after hours of Zoom calls.  

I am naturally optimistic and actively seek out joyful moments, and that’s why Thrive’s focus on gratitude really resonates with me. At the end of each day, I make a few notes in a journal. What am I thankful for? Did I do something that brought me joy? And was I kind to someone? Joy + kindness + gratitude is a powerful, positive recipe that feels like an energizing vitamin for my spirits.

This has been a lot of “sharing”! The reason I’m painfully transparent about my own struggles and strategies is to let you know that it’s OK to talk about these matters. If you are finding it hard to cope, talking about it is the first, best step. We are open at Mastercard about the importance of mental health, and our firm provides a lot of relevant benefits and support to employees, including Thrive. I encourage you to test some of the Microsteps, exercise your creativity in finding joy, and take a moment to be grateful and kind.

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