The American Institute of Stress (Yes, there actually is such a thing,) says that stress in the workplace is on the rise. In some jobs, it is off the charts every day. In large cities like L.A., New York and other municipalities, if a police officer or fireman has a heart attack it is assumed to be job related and they are compensated accordingly (no matter where they were when it happened, even fishing or gambling in Vegas). Half of all lost days of work in Great Britain are due to unmanaged stress.
People give a variety of reasons for why they are stressed such as overwork, no control over work, lack of support, etc. The truth is, stress is very personalized. Some people are stressed by fast-paced jobs and others feel it when they are in a dead end, quiet job that bores them. The bottom line: We all feel stress from time to time. For women who are parents in particular, there are other stressors that are unique getting kids off to school in the mornings, taking care of things around the house if the mental and actual load of domesticity and life admin is not shared and the supporting community for those who are community-minded. Some are blessed to have helpful mates, but many are not so lucky. So, along with aspiring to be great in their role at work, they are tasked with everything else away from work. Little wonder that this is such an issue.
Yes, some stress is actually good for us. It’s what makes us care about a deadline and get and get moving to meet it. But too much stress can kill us. It robs us of clarity. It keeps us from focusing on an issue and solving it. we lose sleep, which makes the impact even worse. We stop being as productive as we could be.
Most people who are in positions of authority have a great deal of high expectations placed upon them. They are always “on” and they have to be pro-active about managing all of the pressure and demands of their role. Of course, most of them are highly compensated, but I can tell you from personal experience that when your stress is at its highest there isn’t enough money in the world to make it seem worth it.
So, how do we fix this, because it certainly needs fixing.
Seven Minutes, Times Three
First of all, to effectively deal with the demands and pressures of the day, we have to be proactive. We have to agree that the way we are doing it cannot continue without crashing and burning at some point. And, no job is worth that.
After searching high and low, I found my answer in mindfulness. We hear and read a lot about it today, but just a few years ago you had to look for it. Mindfulness is made up of several ingredients. For one, gratitude. It’s amazing what being thankful can do for our souls, even in the worst of times. Count your blessings, as the old song says, and name them one by one. When you do, you’ll see past any gloom and be convinced that that your life is good and, in fact, better than most. Be grateful. Gratitude is just one thing you can focus on when being mindful. There are so many more.
Another aspect of mindfulness is physical. It’s getting alone and quiet. It’s breathing and exhaling slowly.
When I first discovered the beauty and effectiveness of this, I was astounded. What I loved most about it was that it didn’t take a lot of time out of my day for it to work and be transformational. Busy people can do it, especially if they schedule it.
So, let me suggest this for you. Take 7 minutes first thing in the morning when you get to the office to just sit and breathe and only focus on your breathing. Don’t dive straight into your emails and text messages. If you have to, get to the office ten minutes early and close your door. Leave your electronics off.
Close your eyes. Get comfortable. Take a few deep breaths and as you exhale, you’ll bring your heart rate more in sync with your breath. Keep breathing slowly. This leads the brain to release endorphins, which is a calming effect. This is much more effective than any pill you could ever take.
And then, sometime during your day when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work or emotions, literally go through the motions of stepping back, pausing and breathing for 7 minutes.
Schedule 10 minutes of open time late in your work day between calls or appointments. Take 7 of those minutes to just pause and breathe. This will allow your emotions to calm down and get clarity, allowing you to move forward and be more productive.
That’s just twenty-one minutes. If you work a ten-hour day you are working a total of 600 minutes. That means you spent less than 4 percent of your day on de-stressing and finding clarity.
That leaves you 96 percent of your day to use your de-stressed mind to be more productive and capable. You’ll be healthier and your work will be better than ever.
Start tomorrow and see what happens. I wish you all the best.
Ruth Klein, brand strategist and productivity coach for CEO’s, entrepreneurs and sales teams and the author of the upcoming book, Generation Why Not? 7 Principles to a Purposeful Business & Life, Driven by Attitude, Not Age.”
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