Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Throughout my time as a Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large, I’ve consistently written about my experiences as a college student navigating mental health and well-being. One of my favorite aspects about Thrive is their dedication to reducing burnout in the workplace through offering the Thriving Mind course to companies. In these partnerships, Thrive aims to educate employees about the importance of stress management and building resilience. Over the past few months, I was fortunate to experience this firsthand as a consulting summer analyst at Accenture. During my virtual internship, I had the opportunity to take the Thriving Mind course and directly witness how Thrive’s platform promotes burnout reduction.
The Thriving Mind course is a self-guided learning journey broken down into different modules, starting with some fundamental neuroscience concepts (such as stress response and neuroplasticity), then presenting eight different biotypes that categorize how people respond to stress. The remainder of the course focuses on recharge strategies that are meant to build long-term resilience. Recharge strategies were divided into two categories — the first was titled “upstream,” which refer to steps you can take that are geared towards the long run, and the second titled “in the moment,” which are strategies you can adopt immediately to help better manage stress and anxiety.
Below are some of the Microsteps that resonated with me the most, especially as I was challenged to enter the professional world through a remote environment.
Microsteps for human connection (upstream recharge strategy):
As we’ve been WFH since March, this section felt especially important since one of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered these past few months has been maintaining social connection and combatting loneliness. In this module, I learned that social connections can boost fulfillment, a sense of meaning and purpose, and can provide longevity and happiness in life. One Microstep included inviting a friend to a virtual lunch or coffee break. Throughout the summer, I made sure to schedule coffee chats with as many Accenture people as I could. This helped me to feel as if I was in the office, and provided a greater sense of enjoyment throughout the summer.
Microsteps for prioritizing sleep (upstream recharge strategy):
Although not having to commute opened up some free time, I still found myself exhausted by the end of the day. Constantly being in video meetings and glued to my computer screen left me feeling drained, even though I wasn’t encountering other daily stresses that would normally occur without WFH. Getting in adequate sleep each night definitely helped my work performance, as I felt more energized, attentive, and enthusiastic during the days where I was well-rested. A Microstep I tried to implement this summer was not going on my devices 30 minutes before going to bed. Instead, I used this time to read, which not only helped me achieve a personal goal to read more often, but allowed me to get to bed earlier and have better quality sleep.
Microsteps for harnessing the power of breath (in-the-moment recharge strategy):
Breathing is crucial to managing stress, as experiencing a stress response paralyzes our ability to think rationally. However, if you engage in conscious breathing, you can bring greater calm and focus, and in turn, proceed with logic rather than irrational emotion. I learned that some physiological benefits from meditation include an increased thickness in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of our brain dedicated to decision making, attention, and focus. A recommended Microstep for this included setting aside one minute of recovery time after a stressful meeting. Throughout the summer, I made sure to take a few minutes to myself to gather my thoughts and take a slight break from the screen before diving into another meeting. This allowed me to feel more attentive for following meetings and less exhausted by the end of the day.
Microsteps for managing your worry time (in-the-moment recharge strategy):
Some nights, I would go to bed feeling anxious about all of the tasks I needed to complete the following day. This disrupted my sleep, and made me feel stressed the next day, unable to focus clearly. I soon realized the detriments of worrying often, so I decided to implement one of Thrive’s Microsteps on scheduling worry time. Instead of going to bed with racing thoughts about everything I needed to get done, I wrote down a list of action items for the next day the night before. That way, I felt in control of all the tasks I needed to complete because I had already laid them out prior to the start of the day. I also made sure to log off at the end of the work day, and not log back on until the next morning, creating boundaries that often can be blurred when we are working from home.
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