Coping with Stress at Work
If you have ever been late in submitting a report at work then you know what stress is. Stress is the set of emotions and feelings that you experience when placed under pressure. With the demands of the hectic work life these days, it almost seems as if stress has become the norm. People don’t even realise that they’re stressed and continue on in this state indefinitely; this can have harmful mental, as well as physical effects.
If not managed stress can slowly start to permeate all aspects of your life and you may find yourself (more…)
(Note: first published on my stressarrestman blog)
Stress Management strategy #7 is something we all do but unfortunately not many of us do it correctly - especially in times of anger and stress.
I’m talking about breathing.
If you notice an angry person you will see that his breathing is rapid and shallow whereas a calm person breathes deeply, slowly and easily. It follows therefore that if we were to emulate the calm person and follow his breathing patterns we would become calmer.
Physiologically, It is impossible to remain stressed or agitated if your breathing is relaxed and even.
One of my hobbies is archery and breathing is crucial to accurate shooting. It promotes a calmness and inner peace which is blissful to say the least and gives you full control over where the arrow goes.
Become Aware Of Your Breathing
To start the stress relief ball rolling then, we need to become more aware of our breathing and notice how it changes as our mood changes. Pay particular attention to the depth of your breaths as you go about your daily routine.
Do you breathe in all the way to your stomach? Or, more likely, are your breaths more shallow and barely going past the top of your lungs? Do you notice a difference as your mood changes, say when an important deadline is looming?
Well, let’s start to change that right now and give you some pleasant and instant relaxation. It will only take a few minutes of your valuable time but the rewards will be immeasurable.
Start by switching off or silencing your phone and email (it’s only for ten minutes or so - you won’t miss anything important!)
Now sit down in a comfortable position where you won’t be disturbed and close your eyes. You will be focussing your mind on your breathing but if any thoughts come to you, let them. Allow them to come and drift by like a lazy river meandering to the sea. Pay no attention to them, just keep your attention on your breathing.
You breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let the breaths come evenly, not sharp shallow breaths. Focus on quality breaths. Do not hold your breath for a long time between the in breath and out breath, and do remember to breathe!
As you breathe notice your jaw, is it relaxed or do you have it clenched shut? A lot of tension is carried in our jaw, often going unnoticed. Don’t grind your teeth, just let your jaw hang open a few millimetres in a relaxed position. (This alone will start to calm you down)
Now you are going to focus on your breath, as you breathe in you are going to imagine breathing in calmness and relaxation. As you breathe out you are going to feel all the tension and worries leaving with the expired breath.
Breathe in the relaxation and calmness slowly and evenly for a count of five. Allow the breath to enter through your nose naturally, don’t force it, and travel all the way down to the bottom of your stomach. (If you rest your hands on your stomach you should feel it start to rise as you breathe in whilst your chest hardly moves at all. When you experience that it is a sign that you are breathing correctly) Keep breathing in gently and slowly for the full count.
Now pause and rest your breath gently for a count of two. Your jaw should be relaxed and you should start to feel peaceful.
Next slowly and evenly start to breathe out for a count of five. Breathe out through your relaxed, open mouth calmly and evenly allowing all the tension and worry to come out as you exhale.
After a count of five, pause in your breathing for a count of two then start to breathe in relaxation and calmness once more.
Repeat the cycle for about five or ten minutes focussing your mind on the relaxation entering your body with your inhale and ALL stress and worry leaving as you exhale. You might notice the pleasant feelings of the cool air entering your nostrils. The cool air entering your body will cool down any anger and stress and help you to become even more relaxed.
If you find it a little taxing to breathe in & out for a count of five and hold for a count of two, reduce the count until you are comfortable. As your skill improves you can gradually increase the count. The key is to never feel short of breath but remain comfortable and relaxed at all times.
That’s it. It’s so simple but the effect is very profound. Enjoy your regular practice and you’ll be able to change your mood through your breathing any time you want, even when waiting at a crowded bus stop. Your productivity will increase and your mood will become calmer and lighter, heck you may even smile more often too.
(Note: first published on my stressarrestman blog)
Stress management strategy #6 is quite simple but will take a little planning.
The focus in this technique is on getting to grips with what really causes the stress you experience.
As we have discussed there is more to stress than just your immense workload.
Make a little time to…
Take a piece of paper and analyse your life, both work and personal, take cognisance of the way you really feel about things. You are looking for clues as to what causes your stress to start building up.
Take into account all the little things and note them down. Important - Do not think about solutions or question why at this stage, the idea is to get everything down on paper. Later you can study things to get the insight needed to build strategies to manage or remove the stressors. Once you have finished, start grouping things together. Look for commonality between items. Quite often, you will find that there is not one big thing that builds stress but rather a combination of smaller factors. An interesting question you can ask yourself once you have started to identify causes is: “Why do I choose to allow xyz to affect me in that way?” The answers you get from this question will help you to understand what it is that is causing you to feel stressed because one of the major challenges busy high achievers encounter is actually recognising the root causes of their stress. Therefore until you have clarity about the root causes or your stress it is very difficult to devise an effective stress management strategy. As discussed in strategies #4 & #5: look for ways you can combine activities to give you more life balance.
Sleep is Important
One of the primary stress drivers could be a lack of effective sleep. And, as you know, sleep is essential because it gives our body time to repair and recuperate from the trials & tribulations of the day. Unfortunately a lack of sleep will make you less efficient in your work which, given your nature to be #1, adds to your stress and makes it more likely you will forgo sleep as you strive harder. This vicious cycle will repeat itself until something gives… usually your health. To help prevent this I recommend you take advantage of my offer of a free Rapid Relaxation MP3.
You can listen to it anytime (except whilst driving or operating any kind of machinery) and will find it is especially beneficial in inducing a good nights sleep.
One of the advantages of regular listening to it is that it equips your mind with tools to identify stressors and manage them in the most appropriate way given the situation you face at that particular time.
(Note: first appeared on my stressarrestman blog)
This stress management strategy is quite an interesting one and can have far reaching benefits. It is simply to give back to others less fortunate.
When you do so not only will you make a positive impact on the lives of others who are less fortunate but, with a little forethought, you can combine it with Strategy #4 in order to build quality family time.
In his article “4 Dimensions Of Work-Life Balance Every Executive Should Know” SAP Global CIO Oliver Bussman explains how he has combined a busy work schedule with effective life-balance.
One of the ways he gives back is to sponsor an annual Christmas event in Brazil along with his wife.
Another event he contributes to along with his wife is providing lunches for underprivileged children in his home town.
And when playing with his children he is creative in finding ways to turn part of the play time into exercise time.
To conclude his article Oliver states:
“Being dedicated to my family, my health and giving back gives me more energy and motivation to succeed in my work life. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle reduces stress levels and increases my ability to focus…”
There are innumerable and far-reaching ways you can help others less fortunate.
In his book Screw Business As Usual Sir Richard Branson, Virgin CEO, recounts a story of spontaneously helping a villager whilst he was visiting his property at Ulusaba in the Sabie Sands area of South Africa.
He heard a voice calling “Mr. Richard” and turned to see a woman from the village dressed in a brightly coloured KwaZulu gown. She continued with: “I have heard you are a very generous man. Can you lend me some money to buy a sewing machine?”
She told him she was a talented seamstress and needed cash to get her business going.
He asked how much and she told him: “$300 would be enough and what is more I will repay it within three months and employ six people full-time.”
Sir Richard tells that her determination, focus and ambition were fantastic. She knew exactly what she wanted…
So he gave her the money.
Several months later he was invited back to the village to open some community projects supported by his Virgin Unite, not for profit foundation.
As he arrived six women came up to him with a gift of the most exquisite cotton pillows and tribal clothes and, much to his surprise, they returned the $300.
And You Don’t Have to Be Rich or Famous to Help Needy People Either…
I helped sponsor an African gentleman through the Kiva organisation one day…
He needed money to buy a cow.
I lived in Africa for 18 years and understood the value of a single cow to a poor villager so didn’t hesitate when I saw his request.
After doing so I could see a picture, in my mind, of him merrily leading his new cow home whilst thinking of all the… profits he would have from its milk.
It was a vision that stayed with me for many days and gave me immense joy…
And here is an interesting facet of life - Happiness Melts Away Stress.
When you gain pleasure helping others you benefit from reduced stress. Why not give it a try today?
(Note: First Published on my stressarrestman blog)
Effective stress management technique number 4 is simply to spend more quality time with your family because…
Family time IS important.
If you feel you do not have time to spend with your family think again - otherwise you will likely live to regret it.
I was helping a successful salesman implement effective strategies to learn English as a second language recently. He had taken a short break from his work to study English in order to further his career. During our conversation he mentioned how strange it felt to spend more time with his family. They of course really enjoy having him around, particularly his sixteen year old daughter. It is a pity it didn’t happen more often.
In reality, making family time is a time management issue that you can easily solve with a little forethought and the application of your already well-developed time management skills.
Busy executives often think they are doing the right thing by providing money and a ‘good lifestyle’ for their family but this often entails them being away from home for extended periods which means they often have relationship problems with their children because…
They cannot see that all their children want is time with their father or mother! You see, children want to see their parents at the school play or sports meet or some other important event in their lives - it makes a big impression on them.
And, to make matters worse, the resultant deterioration of the relationship with their children is often a major cause of stress for parents. A factor that could easily be avoided by application of this simple stress management technique - spend more quality time with your family & children.
Stressed by His Lonely Son
Earlier in my career I was asked to help a teenager who had absolutely no direction in life. All he did was play computer games throughout the night and sleep during the day.
Luckily he hadn’t succumbed to drug or alcohol abuse… at the time.
It turned out that the reason for his lack of interest in life was he didn’t have any time with his parents nor had he for many years. His mother had divorced his father and moved to Germany and the father retained custody of his son.
And yet, his father was too busy at work to spend any time with his son… Instead he gave him a generous monthly allowance and a flat to live in - that was it.
The child was only 18 and left without contact or support from those he loved the most. The father thought there was a problem with his son but couldn’t understand that HE was the problem - not his son.
It was a crying shame. Absolutely disastrous to the child’s life and never would be resolved until the father recognised he had to devote quality time to build a relationship with his son.
Sadly this scenario is all too common in the world of high income families - don’t let it happen to you.
(Note: first appeared on my stressarrestman blog)
Exercise is a woefully neglected stress management & reduction strategy for many busy high achieving executives. Their workday is so full that they simply feel they do not have the time or energy to do exercise. And yet this is a fallacy because getting some exercise is as easy as simply taking a stroll. There is no need to spend an hour or more sweating it out at the gym.
You will discover excellent health and stress relief benefits from walking and…
It will also give you more time to think things through - you kill two birds with one stone. You see, exercise and breathing are nature’s way of ridding toxins from your body.
Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle adds to feelings of stress. This is especially true of sitting hunched up in front of a computer or tablet all day - you probably have felt the need to stretch after a period of sitting. This is our body’s way of telling us it is time to move around a little and get some more oxygen into our blood.
John Grinder, co-founder of NLP and his partner Carmen Bostic St Claire have developed some short but immensely powerful 10 minute exercises that combine NLP and modest amounts of physical exercise to achieve a peak performance state - I use them regularly and find they have incredible benefits.
And, just in case you think you have no time to exercise, here is a little secret. My office is on the ninth floor. I decided to start walking up those floors rather than take the lift and you know what?
I found it was much quicker than waiting around for the lift to arrive.
I also find I have more energy and feel much stronger too. It is such a simple stress management strategy and won’t take any time at all… Why don’t you give it a try today?
There is no need to go crazy and run up nine floors either. Start off with a modest target and build from there as you find yourself getting stronger and healthier.
For instance you could elect to get out of the lift two floors before your floor or walk to the third floor and take the lift from there… Do that daily and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Alternatively you could just go outside and walk a couple of blocks or take a short stroll in the park and have a change of scenery.
It really is as easy as that to get started…
And if you feel a little more adventurous why not look into taking Yoga, Tai Chi or similar?
As a bonus you will also find you are more productive in the office and have a better mood.