Life Beyond Work – Wellbeing
According to recent figures, Britons spend more time toiling than ever. The promise of the work-life balance seems to have all but gone out of the window. Perhaps even more so, for the average lawyer. The working week in the UK is now three hours longer than the European average, according to the TUC.
If like many others you have devoted all your adult life pursuing a career its no wonder that it can start to define who you are as a person often omitting your well-being in the process.
Stress is a way of life in 21st Century Britain. We all struggle with managing our stress, but in today’s economy with high unemployment, huge corporate layoffs and bad economic news at every turn, the volume of stress has been turned up for everyone, no matter the job or walk of life.
Of course stress is a natural part of living and working particularly during times like these when the pressure seems to be mounting, and we spend more and more of our days in frenzied action to cope with the difficult economic environment, our health and productivity can suffer severely.
How do we get a handle on this without having to change our whole life or rethink our career? Well, the good news is the person who puts the most stress on you is also the person who can help you learn to manage it. That person is you!
Step #1 – Become aware of stress signals
In our fast paced lives, we often don’t realize when stress is stealing its way into our lives. We just plow ahead until we become irritable, angry or just can’t seem to get motivated. Our productivity suffers, we can’t shine like we usually do and we begin to withdraw from others.
Consciously recognizing the signals our body gives us when stress arrives is a huge step in preventing stress from taking over our physical and mental health. Once we recognize the symptoms we can address the source and go to work on eliminating the stress.
Stress manifest its self differently on different people. For some it’s a headache, while others become grumpy or their stomach becomes upset. You know what your key stress factors are, when you feel them coming on, track them back to when they began. It might be that phone call from the boss reminding you of a deadline, or an upset customer. Identifying the stress signal and tying it to what brought it on, will help you realize and learn to control how stress affects your life in every facet.
Step #2 – Take control of your well being
Just like an athlete trains for their sport, you need to train to have yourself in shape to handle the stress of your job. Diet and exercise are just as important to being on top of your game, as it is for the athlete. Here are just some of the reasons diet and exercise matter and how they can help:
- Eating too much makes you tired and lethargic, adding to you already low mood. Try eating smaller meals, with higher frequency. This helps to balance your blood sugar level, which in turn, makes you less vulnerable to mood swings and more energetic.
- Eat less sugar. Sugar may give you a momentary lift in energy, but it is always followed by an even longer low, due to spiking your blood sugar.
- Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol may reduce anxiety temporarily, but too much can cause anxiety when it wears off.
- Cut back on your nicotine. Although a lot of people smoke because they feel it calms them, nicotine actually is a strong stimulant that adds to anxiety and nervousness.
- Get your heart pumping. Cardiovascular exercise like walking, running or aerobics for at least 30 minutes a day is a huge stress reliever. Exercising your body helps it to relax, and the focus on expelling energy will relieve your mind.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. This gives your body and mind both time to recharge and be ready to focus the next day.
Step #3 – Get organized
During difficult economic times fewer workers have to carry larger loads, and stress is soon to follow. The quickest ways to relieve the stress of an overwhelming work load is by organizing your time and your priorities, putting you back in control. Here are a few tips on getting organized:
- Get to work a little early. Just giving yourself 10 to 15 minutes of time early in the morning to organize day will make you feel more in control.
- Prioritize task and knock out the most important ones first. Tackle that one you hate early on and get it out of the way.
- Organize your day by spreading out the work and not scheduling yourself to closely. A tight schedule always leads to undue anxiety.
- Take breaks when you need them. If you feel the walls closing in, stop for just a few minutes, walk down the hall or get something to drink.
- Balance your work schedule with your home schedule. A schedule that works well with your responsibilities at home also reduces personal stress that leads to stress in the work place.
- Delegate and learn to compromise. The most efficient ways to get more done and to delegate. You can’t do it all yourself and by letting others help when they can, they become more confident because you believed in them. Don’t try to control it all, and if you are asking someone to change their plans, you need to learn to compromise as well.
- Learn how to eat an elephant. The old adage of how do you eat an elephant is good advice. “One bite at a time.” If you have a big project, break it down into small parts that can be easily managed and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Step #4 – Practice your people skills
People skills, influence or emotional intelligence are all words used to describe how you interact with the people. The practice of being aware and managing your emotions while trying to understand and consider the emotions of those around you is a key element in relieving stress. Managing relationships with the people you interact with through positive influence and aspiration can help you solve issues, manage conflicts and reduce stress for all involved. Three key issues to help you manage these relationships are:
- Keep your emotions in check. Knowing when you’re stressed and stopping it from influencing outward behaviour is the key. Learn what stresses you and what calms you. Use all your senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, to keep you in sync with your emotions and those around you. Use them for positive influence.
- Watch your body language and non-verbal communications. How we act and how we say things, speak a louder volume than what we say. Over 95% of what we communicate is non-verbal. Watching our own body language and voice tone as well as those of our co-workers is the foundation for successful relationship building. Good relationships, means lower stress for all involved.
- Get a sense of humour. A little humour goes a long way in defusing tense situations. Just don’t use your humour at the expense of others.
- Look for the positive in everything you do or every conflict you face and focus on that. Positivity is contagious and defuses difficult circumstances.
Step #5 – Kick your bad habits to the curb
Many of us have bad habits that stop progress in reducing stress. Habits like always running late, consistently looking at the down side, trying to perfect everything or being controlling. Stop these habits before they start. If you’re late all the time, set your clocks and watches forward. When negative thoughts come to mind, try to focus on the positives. Perfection and control go hand in hand so learn to delegate. Accept other people’s ways of doing things, by remembering as long as the job is done satisfactory; it doesn’t really matter if they took a different course to get there. Bad habits make us feel bad about ourselves, affect our attitude towards others, and perpetuate our stress. Kick those bad habits to the curb by refusing to let them bring stress back into your life.
Step #6 – Become a stress relief leader
Whether you are a manager or just one of the troops, it doesn’t matter. You can still become a stress relief leader. Learning to control your stress and keeping a positive attitude will help fellow workers have a less stressful environment, but you can go beyond that. Here are some quick ways a non-manager can take a stress relief leadership role.
- Always try point out the positives in conversations about their job or the firm.
- Listen to your co-workers and share your concerns and the positive actions you are taking.
- Share your stress relief list with them and encourage them to do the same.
- Help them share the load when possible.
- As managers we always have to keep in mind, that our role as leaders magnifies our actions. If you come to work in a bad mood, soon the whole office is in a bad mood. On the flip side, your positive attitude will also spread to the rest of the team. Here are some strategic things you can do to relieve the stress of your employees:
- Make them part of the solution by sharing information, seeking their ideas and encouraging participation in finding answers. When employees know what’s going on, it reduces their anxiety and eases the uncertainty that causes them stress.
- Make sure their duties and workload are obtainable. Nothing is more demoralizing and stressing than being given a task you know can’t be completed.
- Let them know you appreciate them, the work they do and their accomplishments. Recognize them both personally and officially through programs that highlight the desired skills of their position.
- Find out what they are looking for in a career path and give them the resources for them to accomplish those goals.
- Make sure your actions and responses are consistent with the company’s values and goals.
- Promote a work environment that gives the employees the opportunity to become entrepreneurs in their work area, with more control over their work.
By implementing these six steps you will be well on your way to reducing your stress, increasing your productivity and promoting a healthier life for you and those around you. Take control, and start today!