Bare feet businessman in a bright room

Your feet and a question are your best tools during stressful times

Take five minutes to find your centre

By Andrea Bodie
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We've all had those moments when we're completely overwhelmed. The phone is ringing, our inbox is full, people want our time and attention, and stressful events keep piling up without any sign of reprieve. You just can't believe something else happens that needs your attention when you're already stretched painfully thin.

A vacation may be something to consider but that's not always possible, nor does it solve the issue of the immediate high stress you're experiencing. When your cortisol levels are rising with your blood pressure and your breathing is shallow because your body's kicked into its mode of choosing fight, flight or freeze, you need a solution NOW, not in two weeks.

So what can you do?

"Might I suggest you experiment with feeling your feet on the ground?" asks Janice Marturano, Executive Director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.

That's because planting your feet on the ground and becoming more aware of them can help you ground you in the moment, she explains. And because right now is where you are, it's the only time you have any power over. The past is gone. The future is a story. The power truly is in the present moment, so being in it - even when stress is amped up - is a start to embodying leadership excellence.

If it helps, take your shoes off for a moment and feel your feet on the floor. Feel the floor supporting your feet. Take a breath and notice your feet.

Once you're grounded in the moment, thanks to noticing your feet and your breath, the next step is to ask yourself an important question, she says. "What's called for now?"

That simple but important question can help you figure out what comes next. It can also help you prioritize what needs your attention and presence.

These moments of slowing things down are what Marturano calls purposeful pauses. And these, taken frequently and mindfully throughout a busy day can help enhance our ability to connect with ourselves and others and skilfully influence change. That's the difference between a mindful leader - who is present - and one who is obviously distracted and not truly available.

We'll be exploring more elements of mindful leadership - like mindful communication and more creative ways to build purposeful pauses into your day - in future issues of Inspire. In the meantime, if you're interested in more information about mindful leadership, visit www.instituteformindfulleadership.org.