Seven years ago, executive wellness coach Naz Beheshti had a dream. In it, her former boss, Steve Jobs, gave her one last assignment. “He appeared and simply and clearly—the way he always spoke to me in life—just told me that I needed to write this book, about how my first job and working for him impacted the rest of my life,” she says.
Jobs was Beheshti’s first boss and mentor. He was also well-known to be an extreme workaholic with some peculiar health habits, which reportedly included extreme fasting and even all-fruit and all-carrots diets. But Beheshti credits him with teaching her about the importance of prioritizing well-being and setting her on her current career trajectory. Today, through her firm, Prananaz—a name that is a combination of prana, the Sanskrit word for “vital energy,” and her name—she consults with Fortune 500 companies, helping them create wellness programs for their teams. She also finished that final assignment Jobs gave her: Her book, Pause. Breathe. Choose. Become the CEO of Your Well-Being, was published this month.
Both in the book and in her practice, Beheshti focuses on holistic practices rooted in what she learned from Jobs and developed from years of her own study and consulting. Here are four of her insights:
Choose to do something you love every day
Beheshti says that spending your time doing things you love is essential to well-being. If you love your work, longer hours aren’t necessarily a negative thing, because you’re engaged and fulfilled by what you’re doing, she says. “For Steve, he loved it. And, you know, when I started my company, I was working long hours. . . . However, I wasn’t depleted or burnt out, because I love building my company,” she says.
Not everyone loves what they do, she admits. In that case, making a conscious effort to integrate more of what you love throughout the day can help your well-being and reduce negative stress. “Choose to do something that makes you feel good daily. Start small and build up. Take charge of your life by investing in yourself and scheduling that time in your calendar,” she says.
Not all stress is the same
Stress is often vilified—and with good reason. Chronic stress can damage our health. But, with some mindfulness and behavior changes, Beheshti says we can reframe stress and better understand it. “Once you understand the type of stress you are facing, you can identify the actual stressors and their source and take empowered action. You can embrace and harness the desirable stress and mitigate or avoid the dangerous stress,” she says.
Desirable stress? Beheshti teaches her clients about three types of stress: acute, chronic, and eustress. Acute stress is the day-to-day stress we feel that motivates us in challenging or dangerous situations. It’s essentially your “fight or flight” response. Chronic stress is that dangerous, relentless stress that makes people feel hopeless or depressed. And eustress is “a moment-to-moment experience of well-being as we strive for new heights, giving us the energy to perform effectively. It is a feeling of being in the zone or in the flow,” she writes in her book.
To better manage stress and avoid chronic stress, she teaches her clients a three-step approach:
- Step 1: Identify the type of stress you’re feeling and the causes of it. Be specific.
- Step 2: Focus on options and opportunities. What can you do now or in the future to shift your mindset and behavior to better deal with or eliminate the stressors or your feelings about them?
- Step 3: Make a plan to act and do it.
The goal is to make the most of the situation by moving between acute stress (necessary stress) and eustress (desirable stress) while choosing to avoid the trap of chronic stress (dangerous stress), she says.
Routines and rituals can change your life
Some components of wellness are universal, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, moving our bodies. Look for ways to make them rituals throughout your day, Beheshti says. “I practice my ‘RPM squared’ method, which is a nonnegotiable morning routine. Rise. Pee. Meditate for 20 minutes, and then move for 20 to 30 minutes. Moving my body is the quickest way to change my state. That, coupled with my favorite playlist, does wonders for me!” she says.
During the day, she will take a walk or reconnect with nature and take moments to practice gratitude. When she needs a boost, she connects with loved ones and spends time with people who make her laugh, such as her husband. “Laughter is a powerful antidote for stress,” she says. In addition to adding more joy to your life, the act of choosing to integrate these elements into your life gives you a sense of control. Feeling a lack of control contributes to chronic stress.
Mind your mental health
Beheshti has seen stress, anxiety, and depression skyrocket during the pandemic, and so have concerns about everything from substance abuse to suicidal ideation. “People are dealing with bereavement, isolation, loss of income, and fear that are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety,” she says. As a result, people are not taking care of themselves the way they did before COVID-19.
Beheshti says she’s seeing more companies prioritize employee mental health initiatives now. From training managers about how to spot mental health issues among team members—and what to do if they suspect them—to providing support for employees who are struggling, there’s an increased awareness about providing resources and developing and training managers on how to talk about them. “The first step is to be aware of the need for support,” she says.