Without a doubt, calm optimists will always do better than frazzled pessimists. As you approach the high stress Christmas period, business guru Mike Clayton offers 10 traps that people fall into, and how to keep calm.
1. Not enough planning time
It is easy to skip planning and not prepare – especially when you are under pressure. But this is a false economy. Planning and preparation leaves you feeling in control and knowing how much time you need, to succeed without stress. Make time to plan and prepare fully and you will feel calm from the start.
2. Not giving yourself any contingency
Shift happens! Things go wrong. Allow extra time to get there early or finish before it's needed to reduce stress levels when unexpected problems arise. When you have enough contingency time, problems become “part of the plan” and you can handle them calmly and efficiency, without flapping – which means they will get done faster.
3. Doing too many things at a time
Not only is multi-tasking inefficient, but it adds to your stress levels. Don’t try to be an octopus – they
Not only is multi-tasking inefficient, but it adds to your stress levels. Don’t try to be an octopus...
have the benefit of more brains than you have. It is far better to do one thing at a time. You will be calmer, more efficient, and you will do better quality work. More than that, when you do it well, you will get a greater sense of pleasure and pride from it. Mono-tasking really the best way to work.
4. A problem shared...
Keeping problems to yourself rarely helps. If you do feel the first signs of stress, talk to others around you. If they are stressed too, then you will know you aren't alone. If they are not, then perhaps they can help calm you.
5. Stuck behind your desk
As stress builds up, two things happen – we start to connect it emotionally with the place we are in, and we start to tense our muscles, leading to aches, pains and more stress. Doing nothing more than getting up from your desk, having a stretch and walking about a little will reduce your stress levels and ease back, shoulder and hip problems. If you can take fifteen minutes to take a walk outside, the effect will be even greater.
6. Don’t get messy
For many people, an untidy work space increases feelings of stress. Deal with it. The time you take to tidy up will be more than compensated by subsequent increases in your efficiency, and getting your area tidy will give you an immediate sense of control and a reduction in stress levels.
7. From Junk Food to Smart snacking
Junk food, missed meals and hurried snacking can build up stress levels. They certainly rob you of an easy opportunity to lower them. If you cannot take the time for a nutritious and relaxing lunch break, at least choose healthy snacks, so you can feel virtuous. Drink plenty of fresh water, and eat nuts, fruit, dried fruit and raw vegetables. These will all help you to keep your body well, and enhance your physiological resilience.
8. Bottling up your anger...
… is one of the things that is strongly implicated in heart disease. So let off steam by having a rant from time to time. But choose your time carefully. Do it with the right person at the right time: a trusted friend, outside of work hours. Remember, if you spend too much of your home life moaning or being angry, you will damage one of your most powerful stress-busting assets: your family relationships. So invest time in strengthening them, with kind words, thoughtful actions and small gifts.
9. Stress is a part of success
We all need something to spur us along, so recognise stress as a part of the process. But don’t get into that macho game of taking on more and more, just to prove that you can. It is easy to over-step your limit and find it hard to step back. When you cannot escape stress at the end of the day is it time to worry. So make sure you plan treats and fun or relaxing activities for your leisure time.
10. Focus on failure and setbacks
When you let yourself dwell on your setbacks and failure, you inevitably notice every little failing. It can quickly become a destructive cycle. You will then focus still more on your failures and things you have yet to do. Focus on your successes and what you have done, to give you a sense of control. Celebrate your successes to replace feelings of stress with a sense of pride. When you do suffer setbacks, see them as temporary and focus on the resources you have that can help you resolve them and regain control.