Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Why the Ad Industry of 2020 Needs Mindfulness More than Ever

London, UK
Nina Stephenson-Camps, mindfulness coach (and also a marketer at Google), shares some thoughts to meditate on as we continue to navigate this stressful year
Nina Stephenson-Camps has spent over 15 years working in creative agencies including Ogilvy, Golin, Edelman and Ketchum, and today works as customer marketing lead EMEA for Google Cloud. Using her intimate familiarity with the stresses of the marketing industry, Nina has built another life in parallel to this career running mindfulness workshops, meditation audios and coaching people to “help people swap stress for grace and truly thrive in their lives”.

Nina has free meditations every day on Instagram live and her website, so her resources are accessible for everyone in adland.

To find out more on Nina’s philosophy on the convergence of mindfulness and marketing, LBB’s Alex Reeves asked her to share some reflection that could be helpful to many of us right now.

On her journey to mindfulness coaching

“I had a breakdown years ago because I was so stressed at work and that’s what really sparked my work in mindfulness and wellbeing. Ten years on, if the techniques that I share can help one person not get so anxious over work, then that’s a job well done.

“I noticed about six years ago that there wasn’t anything at the time I could do in the moment to create a positive step change from anything I was experiencing. It might be a really challenging boss, or a piece of creative has been kicked out by a client, or any intense situation. I’ve been there. That Sunday night fear, that lurching of the stomach before a pitch, opening up your emails and wincing as you look at your full inbox. It’s so painful.”

On stress

“I say to clients all the time (and some people really don’t like it): stress makes you stupid. When you’re stressed you’re thinking about the past or the future - you’re not in the present moment. So you can’t make an informed decision. If you’re practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, you’re able to bring yourself into the moment, assess the situation for what it exactly is, decide what the actual challenges are and then come up with a solution.”

“We are in control of how we choose to show up for different situations. So once we have the tools we can draw upon, you can choose whether you want to go into the drama of stress and anxiety or whether you want to stop, draw upon those tools and move forward with grace and ease.”

“It doesn’t mean you won’t ever have stressful situations again. When you begin to practise mindfulness, you notice those so much more. That said, you’re able to draw on tools that will enable you to reassure yourself.”

“If you’re stressed and anxious, you want to be able to anaesthetise it and get out of it as quickly as possible. There are lots of ways to do that from a healthy perspective. And there are lots of ways you can do that that aren’t going to help you. But if you’re looking for a solution in the moment, mindfulness is a great way to create more focus and calm in your day-to-day.”

On being ‘busy’

“As a species we have a massive attachment to being busy. We wear busy like a badge of honour. If you say to yourself you have a busy day, that’s the attitude you’ll bring to your day. If you reframe it and say you have a ‘full’ day, full is in control, measured, productive, focused.”

On impostor syndrome

“Most people have a concern that they’re not good enough. It’s part of our makeup. If you have a challenge at work and you’re not sure how you’re going to get through it, your worry is if you don’t solve it, people will think you’re not good at your job. If you’re practising mindfulness you’re aware of that thought pattern. So you’re able to shelve it, realise that’s not helpful and get on with it. But if you’re not aware of that thought pattern, you’re going to act off the back of that thought pattern. That might show up as being defensive, or you might not do it at all, or start sending curt emails - there are lots of ways it can come out.”

On the power of breath

“In any intense context, I find that going back to the breath the most effective technique, from an anchoring perspective. There are so many different ways to practice mindfulness, from listening, to watching, to walking, or you’ve got mindful eating. But in my experience working with various clients, and for myself, I find focusing on the breath the most effective. There’s something so calming about exhaling.”

“Set your clock at different times in the day. Your alarm will go off to remind you to stop what you’re doing and take 10 deep breaths in and out. A simple reset. When you’re stressed, you’re only using about a quarter of your lung capacity. Our body goes into fight or flight mode, which  was great back in the day when we were being chased by big tigers, but nowadays it’s not helpful. By using your full lung capacity, you’re breathing fresh oxygenated air into your bloodstream. That’s benefitting all of your nervous system, all your internal organs, and anchoring yourself to the present moment.”

On Covid-19 and self-compassion

“We expect so much of ourselves. Especially with the pandemic. The expectation is to be as productive as we were pre-Covid. It’s so unreasonable. We’re in a situation which none of us have ever experienced. We’re starting to see more of the consequence of what’s happened arising in people’s mental well-being.”

On mindfulness for creativity

“[Mindfulness] gives you more tools to approach situations with a solution-oriented mind. When we’re stressed, our thinking can become very rigid. So we’re not open to suggestions. If we’re practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, we’re more receptive to different ways of doing things.”

On misconceptions

“It’s not about sitting cross-legged with your hands in mudras. It’s about being able to be present during your day, so you can be more accurate in your assessment of what you’re experiencing in that moment.”

“Have you ever tried not thinking? No wonder people give up. They think mindfulness is about not thinking. That’s incredibly hard. It’s not about not thinking. It’s about being aware of your thought process, understanding your thoughts and the areas that might need a bit more support, then different techniques you can bring in to create more of a pause, so you’re responding rather than reacting.”

“We are not our thoughts. But we think our thoughts. If we’re coming at your thoughts as an observer, we’re able to be more pragmatic about things.”

On applying mindfulness to the marketing industry

“The apps are brilliant. Anything that helps people connect with themselves is winning. But everyone likes different things. Some people might like Calm, some people might like Buddhify or Headspace. What’s different from my perspective is the meditation audios, for example, are themed around common experiences and thought streams within the workplace, so more specific.” 

“In my experience it lands more deeply with people if they’re able to anchor it into a particular situation. I’ve created one that’s just for preparing yourself for an uncomfortable budget meeting, for example. I was personally inspired by a situation to write that. So it’s very specific and I hope it’s supportive in that way. If you’re worrying about a budget meeting, there’s a tool that you can draw upon to help you show up in a more calm way. Because there’s nothing worse than thinking there’s nothing you can do about it other than go to the loo and have a quiet cry, or not eat beforehand - everyone has their own go-to.” 

On adapting her coaching for the pandemic

“I started to hold mindfulness meditations on Instagram at the beginning of Covid. I thought it would be a good container. People could just drop in, but they knew that at 11am Monday to Thursday, there would be a guided meditation that’s themed about typical circumstances. I didn’t want to make it too Covid-related. But as everyone’s going through it, it has been very focused around centring, grounding, releasing fears, finding gratitude. That’s what people have asked for.”

“It’s been a lot of fun. Very different. Holding it over Google Meets or Zoom. So many people are saying they’re so tired after their days at work and I think it’s because with video conferencing our brains are working twice as hard to try and spot the non-verbal cues that we draw upon in person. That’s tiring because we’re trying to figure out what’s going on behind the screen.”

“I think it’s useful for people to understand the fatigue aspect of it, so they understand why they’re feeling than they would ordinarily. It’s good to know that this is natural. You can park that and accept that lots of video calls can be really enriching in many ways.”

“It’s good as well. From a mindfulness workshop perspective it’s great because it’s more accessible. So every cloud…”

On change

“Everyone deals with change in their own unique way. From a creative industry perspective we’re dealing with so much change. And that triggers people in so many different ways. I always smile. Everyone says that we love change, but we only really like change when we’re directing it. But when it’s being thrust upon us it’s different. It’s getting comfortable with this ever-changing landscape and creating some flexibility in our thinking as we navigate it. We’re not always going to get it right, but if we can come at a situation calmly with grace and ease, and we have tools we can draw upon so we can show up in the way we want to, that’s going to help.”

On worrying

“If worrying helped a situation, we’d all be laughing.”

Work from LBB Editorial
Hero: Focus
Full Story