We have all felt under pressure and stress in our lives… and we probably didn’t feel very productive at these moments either.
There is a reason why… a scientific reason… And it is why you should always try to reduce stress for you AND YOUR TEAM:
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I suffer from anxiety.
To varying degrees, I think we all do or have…
“Don’t believe every worried thought you have. Worried thoughts are notoriously inaccurate”
Those moments, when your mind freaks out, you worry, you stress and your behaviours signal distress – sometimes about big things, sometimes about small things and sometimes about anything.
If you suffer from anxiety, especially if it is affecting the quality of your life, then it might be appropriate to seek professional help. Anxiety can be very serious and debilitating to those who suffer with it – so if that sounds like you, get help. There is no shame in helping yourself become the best version of you!
If you are not at that stage yet, but you would like some advice, then read on… I offer this advice to you as a friend and as a fellow sufferer of anxiety, who has found great benefit from the following:
Our brains are amazing, wonderful, creative and powerful things. Our brains decide on our behaviours, approach and attitude and what I have found is that if you ask your brain a question, it will figure out a way to answer it.
So when we are feeling a specific way (let’s say anxious) our internal dialogue will have a narrative that confirms those emotions.
We can change our internal dialogue by asking our brains better questions… so we get better answers and more helpful, supportive emotions.
I have 2 strategies I would recommend:
In basic terms this means focusing your mind on an assumption of a positive outcome – ask yourself
“What would I have to do to be a strong, capable and confident person in this situation?”
Give yourself time to answer – don’t expect a musical instantly. You have to allow your mind to focus on the positive aspects of the question and then work out an answer…. and your mind WILL work out an answer!
In completing this process you will have re-framed your entire focus onto a positive set of behaviours and emotions. Your anxiety will fade under the weight of these new ideas and concepts you have opened up in your mind.
The first step is Identify – What this means is you have to question why you feel the way you do.
In my experience of anxiety, I normally feel that way for one of the following:
Worry I will lose something – that a poor performance or result will dramatically impact my future in a negative manner. So lose my credibility, job, reputation, bonus… the list is endless!
A worry that I am just not good enough – That people won’t like me or think I am capable.
A fear of anxiety itself – Sometimes I would get anxious because I was fearful that I would get anxious – which resulted in a never-ending circle of anxiety.
Once I have Identified, then I can Reality Check – which involves asking better questions, such as:
“Are these things true?” (eg will a poor result actually result in my entire life being ruined forever?)
“What would I do if I knew I was as clever, smart and capable as everyone else?” (this question can be adapted to each identification, e.g. … if I knew this result didn’t matter? This is another way to positive re-frame)
“What one small thing can I do that will improve myself by 1% today?” (this allows you to take smaller more manageable steps and provides much needed momentum, motivation and confidence)
When I share this advice with people I get two different types of reactions, spit 50-50 – those that love the concept and jump in or a more reserved reaction with the odd suspicious look – “It can’t be that simple can it?” or “That can’t work surely?” are often uttered by those more sceptical individuals.
If you fall into the latter, I get it…it is perfectly understandable to think this. The great news is it doesn’t matter if you believe or not – what does matter is that you try it.
You see no matter if you believe me or not, the fact remains your brain is awesome and it will come up with an answer to the questions you give it. So by asking better questions, you will get better answers and this will improve you.
Please remember anxiety can be very serious, if this is the case please seek professional help. My advice is based on my personal experience and is offered as a friend, but if your anxiety is hurting the quality of your life, then get help – It can be soothed, you can overcome it and there is no point living with something that does not serve you.
Stress – It doesn’t need an introduction.
It is spreading around the world like an epidemic… The chances are you have been affected by it in your life… Almost all of us have.
High levels of stress release a hormone called Serotonin in your body.
This hormone creates the ‘fight or flight’ sensation – It is a part of our biology, so when we are presented with real danger, our bodies and mind are ready to fight off the danger or run away from it. It was only designed to be used infrequently and in moments of life threatening danger.
This hormone, when activated, switches off all none essential functions in your body.
Here are some of the things that get switched off when you feel stressed:
Your immune system
Your digestive system
Your memory retrieval
Your physical growth
As you can clearly see, these elements are critical factors in the long-term ability to be a healthy human being.
When we understand that high stress causes high levels of Serotonin to be pumped through our bodies, all of the time, it’s easy to identify why stress is literally killing us.
“No amount of anxiety can change the future. No amount of regret can change the past.”
If you, like me, have been affected by stress, here are 4 simple ideas that can help:
The power of physically removing yourself from the situation and going for a walk… in nature if possible…. cannot be underestimated. The act of getting away, even just for half an hour, acts as an emotional and intellectual reset.
Give your brain some air and some space.
The fact of the matter is your brain can answer any question you give it… what you need to do is ensure you are asking the right questions. When you are in the moment, with all the stress factors surrounding you, it is difficult to know what the right questions are… never mind try to answer them.
Go for a walk in nature. Give your mind some time, space and air. Just enjoy the experience. When you return, you will feel less stressed – therefore will have ‘switched on’ those internal systems you need, like creativity.
Here is my challenge to you – if you think this strategy is just wishful thinking or that you don’t have the time – then test it… go for a one hour walk in nature today… what have you got to lose?
If I am right… imagine what you might gain.
Stress, in the main, is caused by lots of little things that all feel very urgent.
We often mistake urgency for importance and therefore are bound to feel stressed, because pretty much everything is urgent these days!
There is a theory that 20% of the tasks you have to do in any given situation, will deliver 80% of the results you desire. So… if you have a ‘To-Do list’ of 10 actions, 2 of these will deliver 80% of the results you want… leaving the other 8 actions with only 20% of the outcome you need.
Do you know what the 20% of important actions are in your life? Because when you do, and once you take action on them, 80% of your stress will be removed.
Take some time out to figure out what is the most important 20% in your life – then start taking action towards these things first.
“There is just so much to do…. I don’t know where to start.”
I hear this so often when working with people under high levels of stress. The bottom line is, this approach is not serving you.
Taking action will serve you.
If you have managed to identify the important 20%, then work on this… but even if you haven’t – start taking action… any action is better than no action at all.
When we are stressed, we don’t see the value in the small steps forward – we want a magic wand to sort it all out. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand and there is rarely a quick fix.
Think of this metaphor… The person is who wants to lose weight and get fit.
If this person goes on the scales after one gym session and a healthy breakfast, they will be disappointed… there won’t be any difference. In fact they probably still won’t notice a difference after a week of gym sessions and healthy eating either.
But those little actions DO make a difference… In fact they make ALL the difference!
Do you think that person will notice a difference after two weeks? A little maybe… how about a month? How about a year?
Of course there will be a massive difference – It is simple, but true.
This is the same with stress.
Take positive action consistently. You might not notice the difference immediately… but over time the transformation will become dramatic!
So, when you don’t know what action to take or don’t feel like taking action is worth it… do it anyway. Keep on taking positive action everyday.
Soon those small actions will build momentum – and momentum will make you unstoppable!
You are not alone.
You are not the only person to have experienced this level of stress.
Don’t face it alone. Today we are more connected than ever before, so we should use this to our advantage! Connect with other people who are facing similar struggles… or even better, connect with those that have overcome them!
Together we are stronger.
Seek out like-minded people who can support you, who can challenge you and who will need you to do the same. There are so many sources of information, inspiration, groups, coaches, networks out there – use them.
The strength of knowing that you are not alone, the power you gain from knowing that it can be overcome is immeasurable. You have access to this at your finger-tips:
Watch inspirational videos
Join discussion groups
Meet with follow professionals in your sector
Get a coach
Get a mentor
The list goes on…. just get some support!
Stress stops everything. It stops important internal processes and it stops you making good decisions and taking positive action.
Don’t let it. You can take control… Remove yourself from the situation, get some fresh air and fresh perspective. Work out what 20% of tasks you need to do to remove 80% of the stress levels.
TAKE ACTION and build momentum… And finally don’t forget to get some support – You are better working with others, allow yourself to be the best version of you.
It is at this time of year that I tend to reflect on my life more than usual – I think deeply about who I have been, who I am now and why.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was a very different person than I am now – In fact, almost three years to the day I was lost… lost in the fog and mist of depression.
You might know about my story, I have mentioned it in other posts… how I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, 50lbs overweight and utterly miserable – these were just the outward signals of the dark disease which was growing inside me.
I cannot accurately describe how I felt during this time… it was as though a cruel, oppressive and hurtful entity had been absorbed in every pore of my body and mind.
It felt separate from the “real” me, yet it was all consuming. I felt like I was drowning. It was scary and there didn’t seem like there was anyway out.
However there was a way out. I did escape, I haven’t fallen back, I never will – and I learnt some important lessons:
If you have been caught by depression, please get some professional help – I can offer my advice on how I recovered and hopefully it can help – however, nothing can beat professional support, especially if depression’s claws are in deep.
The way I managed to free myself will sound simple – I decided I had to change and I started taking positive actions everyday.
I realise this will sound over simplistic and unrealistic, but it is true – I was in a desperate situation – I had to change, otherwise the consequences would have been the darkest possible.
When I made the decision it felt impossible. I had no idea what to do or where to start – what possible action could solve something as big as depression?
The thing is that is what depression wants you to think – depression wants to grow – and the perfect conditions to grow are in a static, absorbed and defeated individual..
On the contrary… I found that depression cannot grow when positive action is consistently taking place.
Success is “consistency”
It is not about one grand action that will rid you of depression forever. That is unrealistic and will make you give up when it doesn’t happen immediately.
Instead it is about momentum – lots and lots of small but positive actions to improve your situation. They can be tiny steps, but when you keep on adding more and more, the momentum becomes unstoppable.
Going for a walk in nature, writing down some goals, making the call, reading the chapter of a book, meeting with friends, seeking professional help and applying for a job… keep taking small actions.
None are the antidote to depression on its own, but together they will slowly remove the conditions for depression to grow.
As the momentum builds, so will you and so will your mind – The fog will start to lift and the oppression will be defeated.
Take positive action – any action, no matter how small… just do it consistently, don’t expect immediate results and you can change your life… I did.
Almost everyone has, at some point, been hurt, rejected, dismissed and treated badly. When this happens many of us then find it hard to believe and trust in people again.
If you have ever felt like this, then here are 4 strategies that will allow you to stay positive and get the best out of all of your relationships... Even if it seems as though you are surrounded by people who have hurt you, let you down or broken your heart.
The science is clear… Trust and connection are critical factors in human existence. This is not my opinion, this is proven scientific fact. We are literally biologically forced to connect with others, because we are stronger together.
If you allow a few people to make you lose faith in that, then you are only hurting yourself.
Branding the entire human race as cruel and nasty because of a few people is ridiculous. Think about it… there are 7 billion people on this planet – all of which have a biological need to connect with others. Don’t let a couple of idiots ruin your perception of how many great people there are in the world.
We only ever get to see our perspective of life and it is easy to think we are alone in our struggle. The truth is everyone struggles.
Some find it hard just to get through the day, others are frustrated because they can’t chase their dreams, many are worried about how they can support their families, scared of what others think about them. The lists are endless, but the ultimate truth is that everybody is struggling somehow.
It is so important that you understand this. If you ever get to a place where you think your situation is so special and unique that nobody can ever understand you – You are in a bad place and, more importantly, you are wrong. You have more in common with others than you realise.
By saying that nobody could ever understand you, all you are doing is freezing yourself out of relationships.
If you freeze yourself out, then nobody will understand you because you won’t let them, NOT because they can’t. That is your doing… not theirs.
Once you have been hurt, it is tempting to create emotional barriers and walls to stop you getting hurt again.
Been hurt in love? Create barriers that make it difficult for you to fall in love again… so in theory, you won’t get hurt again.
Hopefully you can see the problem with this tactic. Barriers and walls stop you feeling positive and wonderful emotions. Emotions you need and desire.
Barriers and walls keep the bad guys out, but they also fend off the good guys too.
Walls solve nothing, they just deny you what you want most and they also hurt other people… good people.
The brave thing to do is to brake down your walls and allow yourself to live. I can’t promise you that you will never get hurt again, but by allowing those positive emotions in, it does mean you will experience 10x the love, joy, happiness and trust than you would if you lock everything out.
Most people have walls… break down yours, break down theirs… with love, with joy, with trust and your life will become abundant.
This last strategy is so simple, but also the most effective – Remove negative people from your life and increase the amount of positive people.
Positive people are supportive, caring and helpful… There are billions of these types of people across the world, literally billions!
They will help you grow, develop and become the best version of you, so seek them out.
Yes there are mean people in the world, but they are not the majority… You don’t have to have them in your life. It is a choice, make one that improves the quality of your life.
There are mean people and when you get hurt, it is tempting to turn your back on the world and lose trust in people.
Don’t, mean people are in the minority.
You have a biological need to connect with others – If you deny yourself this, you are only hurting yourself.
You are not the only person who is struggling. Understanding this truth will allow you to have more empathy for those around you.
Stop building walls – You deny yourself the emotions you most desire when you create barriers – don’t deny yourself love, joy, happiness and trust.
Choose to build relationships with positive people. There are loads of them out there!
Stress is known to be a major contributor to many terminal illnesses – Stress is literally killing us.
In the video, I share my ideas on how to deal with stress and improve the quality of your life:
Your success, your career, you life, is dependant on the quality of the relationships you create.
So what happens if a key person in your life is really difficult to build any sort of relationship with?
This video explores what you can do to have a positive impact and build high quality relationships, even with the most challenging people you know!
Recently I have been working alongside a company that have a really pronounced culture… they are all so busy! Everyone was stressed, tired-out and has loads on. It was effectively a status symbol. If you were busy, you were important.
At first I was shocked, but thinking about it, this is a common factor in all our work lives – consider your place of work – I bet being busy is a part of your companies culture!
So that begs the question – Who on earth decided that being busy was a good way to spend our lives?
It is almost as though it is ‘cool’ to be busy… it is almost as though, the only way you can be important or good is by being a tremendously busy person.
We wear our busy schedules like a badge of honour.
Somebody, somewhere decided that being busy is the critical factor in being important and everyone has jumped on the bandwagon without even considering the alternative.
What is being busy? Here are a few synonyms:
employed in, working at, labouring at, toiling at, slaving at, hard at work (on), rushed off one’s feet (with), hard-pressed, time-poor; at work (on), on the job, hard at it.
Being busy doesn’t inspire does it?
Toiling, slaving and being rushed off one’s feet doesn’t provide a compelling argument why we should make this a part of our lives… In fact we should avoid this at all costs!
If you are busy all the time, there is a high possibility your work-life balance is out of kilter and your overall effectiveness is suffering.
No company realistically wants their employees to have a poor work-life balance and produce shoddy work… that is a business plan that will NEVER work!
No employee should ever have to sacrifice their personal time for work… trust me, at the end of your life, you will not wish you had worked more!!
So, why do we attach status to being busy? Logically it makes no sense.
How about being productive instead?
Synonyms of being productive:
prolific, inventive, creative; dynamic, energetic, vigorous, effective,
useful, constructive, profitable, fruitful, gainful, valuable, effective, worthwhile, beneficial, helpful, rewarding, gratifying
Now this is a bit more exciting and appealing… this describes a great company to work for… this describes a person who is successful and going places.
It doesn’t mean they don’t work hard – They just work hard on the important factors that generate the biggest and best results. They stop rushing around doing everything to a mediocre level and focus in on critical activities at an elite level.
The choice is yours: Productive or Busy.
My advice? Don’t succumb to the lure of being busy… it is a fool’s errand.
Instead aspire to be productive. If you are a leader, create time to think and space to be creative for your teams. If you are an up and coming employee, understand that delivering valuable, worthwhile and effective work is precious in business and critical in leading a fulfilled life.
We live in a high intensity world – More and more of us suffer from stress and anxiety. We survive in a perpetual state of complete frazzled-ness!
Incorporating mindfulness practices in to our lives has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and even frazzle!
The problem is mindfulness has strong links to meditation – and although meditation is hugely beneficial, it is also hard… and it takes time… so most of us avoid it.
This video is for those people who feel stressed, but don’t currently have the time or patience to meditate for 4 hours a day: