Non-collaborative colleagues. Numerous meetings.
These are just a few work-related descriptors that a room full of education professionals listed as daily disruptions to their peace of mind. They were in a YEP-DC-sponsored workshop last week on maintaining inner peace by reducing stress at work, which was led by Kandace Jones, a life coach who offers these types of seminars for young professionals in the D.C. area. Jones shared her personal struggle with work stress, her dive into (and out of) depression, and how others with similar work environments can lead happier and more balanced fulfilling lives.
Jones went on to finish her MBA at the young age of 22, landed top jobs in the corporate world, and transitioned to education. Two of her stints included serving as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for elementary and secretary education under the Obama administration and directing out-of-school time programs for District of Columbia Public Schools. All this she juggled while maintaining a marriage and raising her children.
"When I started in education, I actually thought it would be easier and less stressful coming from corporate," said Jones, amid chuckles from educators and policy professionals in the audience. "But in education, I encountered a passion-driven kind of stress, in which you put your all into what you do.” She says the turning point came during her job at DCPS, where she suffered such extreme fatigue and depression that she took a leave of absence to start counseling and medication. She returned to her job, but with a new, daily routine to reduce stress and anxiety. Years later, she formally launched ImpactBalance to teach others what she had taught herself.
Her secrets to combating all those work-related stress factors? She shared five:
- Acceptance of what is: There is no use in complaining or gossiping about things that will persist no matter what (like voluminous emails and meetings).
- Set the tone for the day: Wake up earlier than you do now. Keep a journal and write your intentions for the day. Write ideas about how you can maintain peace at work during moments that usually incite negativity in you. Make a note to take a deep breath before that big meeting.
- Take a true mid-day break: Get out of the office, take a walk, reset. Listen to meditation music. Bring grapefruit essential oils. These serve as aromatherapy and are powerful mood lifters. Work on “infinity breaths.” (Jones demonstrated that an infinity breath is when you inhale on a count of 8 and then exhale on the same count).
- Preserve the time before bed: Reflect and identify the feelings and emotions you need to release, in order to step into who you want to be. Meditate. Read an inspirational book.
- Daily gratitude: Be grateful for everything and everyone that comes your way, no matter how hard or challenging it is to do so.
Lastly, Jones emphasized that the essential key to maintaining a daily practice of peace and balance is consistency. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I need to let go of in order to have peace in my life?’”
Francesca Duffy is a communications and advocacy specialist at a national association for school superintendents. She can be reached via email or Twitter.