How To Let Go Of Work Stress

The wise author and poet Maya Angelou once said: “be present in all things.” And while the advice may sound like poetry, there’s real science behind it.

Attentive presence, or what’s more widely known as mindfulness, is scientifically proven to not only alleviate stress but also to improve quality of life. Mindfulness lessens negative emotions, lowers blood pressure, stabilises heart rate, and decreases the body’s reactivity to stress.

Mindfulness can help you to let work stress go. It can help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work, when you’re worrying about something work-related, or when you’re having trouble relaxing and switching off from work.

It does this by helping you to unhook from the thought patterns associated with stress and worry. This, in turn, helps your body to let go of tension and relax.

The term mindfulness refers to an intentional awareness of what is happening in the present moment, and appreciating this in a non-judgmental way.

Eating your lunch with full attention to the flavours and aromas is an example of mindfulness. So is consciously setting aside thoughts about work while listening to your children talk about their day. Taking time to notice the unique detail of the buildings you pass on the way to work is yet another way of being mindful.

Action Steps

Simply taking 10 minutes out of your day (or longer if possible) to practice mindfulness can help you to let work stress go and reduce your feelings of stress over time.

Here’s how to do it…

1. Find a quiet room or private space. Simply sit quietly and focus on your breathing.

2. Let your thoughts come and go. As each thought comes, imagine it passing and floating away. Soon, another thought will come and you can let that one float past too. Keep doing this for a few minutes.

The purpose of this exercise is to focus on the rhythm of your breathing. Let thoughts come and go until they slow down and gradually settle. Simply focus on your breathing.

3. Practice this for 10 minutes, or longer if you can. If you can do this a couple of times a day, you’ll soon see a positive difference – in both reduced feelings of stress and a greater sense of calm.

This exercise may feel strange the first time you do it. That’s normal. Simply acknowledge your feelings and keep going.

Mindfulness exercises are simple but they’re not easy. Like everything worth doing in life, it takes practice. Yet the effort is worth it – the results can be incredible in terms of reduced stress and greater calm, focus, and overall wellbeing.

When could you spend 10 minutes practicing mindfulness today?

How to Stop Wasting Your Energy

Have you noticed that some tasks create more negative emotional energy than others? Some tasks are positive or neutral yet others you feel negatively about in some way. These will energise you when they’re done and reduce your energy while they’re not done.

When you’re reminded of those undone or incomplete tasks it creates an energy ‘drag’ or drain. You may feel a sense of dread about doing them, frustration that you haven’t got to them yet, or maybe guilt that you haven’t done them.

You know the ones. They’re often the tasks that you put off each day for anything else that pops up. It could be the boring admin task that only you can do, that broken tap at home you never have time to get fixed, or that dreaded phone call you need to make. We all have them.

The problem is, the longer we leave these dreaded tasks, the heavier the energy cost we incur. We ignore them and up rises annoyance, guilt, or frustration… a whole lot of wasted energy. Which, of course, increases stress and reduces our sense of wellbeing.

Action Steps

So how do you reduce these energy drags and drains?

1. Get them out of your head
Chances are, you’ll have more than one of these energy drag tasks annoying you at any one time. Make a list of these (noting that this is NOT your to-do list. It’s the tasks that have negative emotional energy attached to them).

Then prioritise the list so you can see which ones you’ll benefit most from tackling.

2. Be systematic
Dedicate time every day or week to chip away slowly. Whether it’s 10 minutes at the start or end of each day, or the first 5 minutes of your lunch break. Or lash out and dedicate a whole afternoon to completely square something away. Find an approach that will help you to get these tasks done.

3. Celebrate your wins
Enjoy the satisfaction and relief that tackling these tasks brings. Give yourself a pat on the back no matter how small the task. You’ve made another step towards greater wellbeing!

Small steps can often result in big changes. By clearing your energy drags and drains, you’ll reduce wasted emotional energy and enjoy the mental and emotional lightness of having those annoying tasks DONE!

What tasks on your to-do list create a drain or drag on your energy? Which would give you the biggest relief from having it done?

How to Stay Cool When Under Pressure

Pressure and stress are all too common in today’s modern workplaces. The good news is that although stress is an instinctive reaction, there’s always a short moment as the stress response kicks in where we can choose whether to respond constructively or react impulsively.

When in a state of stress, the body takes one of three options. Fight, flight or freeze. This is a natural instinct that happens automatically, yet it’s entirely possible to manage our stress responses so they happen less often and less strongly. These skills are particularly useful in times of pressure and challenges that all of us face at different times in our lives.

The key is to learn how to control and manage your stress responses when they come up.

This, as we all know, is a feat that’s easier said than done. It takes practice. And then some more practice. But it is possible and the outcome is worth the effort.

The better you become at managing stress-related feelings, the calmer and more resilient you will become over time.

And who doesn’t want to feel calm as often as possible?

Action Steps

So how do you stay calm and reduce feelings of stress when you’re under pressure?

Here are four ways that all make a positive difference…

1. Self soothing
Self-soothing isn’t just for newborn babies. It’s for full-grown adults too. Self-soothing can be achieved by any number of ways that suit you and your lifestyle, as long as their end result is to calm your body and your mind. Think yoga, mindfulness, spending time in nature, deep breathing…

Create your own go-to set of soothing techniques to use whenever you are under pressure. They will help to reduce the intensity and duration of your stress.

2. Minding your language
Words matter. They can inflame a situation as quickly as they can diffuse one. So aim to keep your words positive, both to yourself and to others. Positive statements such as “I can handle this”, “We’ll get through this together” or “One step at a time” are simple to do but are powerful contributors to keeping yourself calm and strong in pressure situations.

3. Cutting to essentials only
Clear the clutter so you can see the wood from the trees. Defer as many non-urgent, non-essential tasks as possible. Reducing these distractions will allow you clear air to breathe and get through the challenge at hand.

4. Seeking support
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether from colleagues, friends, family or support services, don’t shy away from calling in some favours or seeking assistance. If the budget allows, hire in help. Try to reduce the load you are carrying by whatever means possible.

Above all, be proactive in managing your stress and maintaining your wellbeing. It’ll make life much more enjoyable. And it’ll ensure that you can be calm and strong when pressure and challenges arise.

What could you do to proactively manage your stress and maintain your wellbeing?

A 3-Step Approach for Reducing Overwhelm

The feeling of overwhelm is particularly prevalent amongst working women. We’re often juggling work commitments with family commitments, friends, our health and fitness… and maybe even throwing in a hobby or two in the mix if we’re lucky. We get pulled in so many directions it can often feel as though our heads are spinning.

The key to managing overwhelm is having a range of strategies in your skillset. Ones you can resort to when you feel the levels of overwhelm rising and threatening to burst the banks.

Action Steps

This simple approach is for the times when your head starts spinning with overwhelm and the stress hormones start to kick in.

In order not to load you up with a list of steps you won’t ever remember, I’ve cut this right down to a very doable 3. Commit these steps to memory as your overwhelm toolkit and use them as needed.

1. Breathe. Deeply. Really Deeply. This will quickly drop your stress hormones and, as a result, slow your feelings of stress and bring calm in the midst of the storm.

2. Narrow your focus to the present moment. Not everything on your list needs to be completed today, this week, or ever. Stop worrying about what you could do, should do, must do etc. Come back to ‘right now’.

3. Ask yourself this question: Of all the things I have to do, what one thing will help tomorrow to be easier than today? Do that thing.

Repeat this process as needed.

Before you know it, your level of overwhelm will have subsided and you’ll be back to feeling on top of things again.

When could you use this 3-Step approach in your life at the moment?

A Low-Cost Way To Refresh Your Body & Mind

Put your hand up if you remember the last time you stopped. Actually stopped. Stopped everything you were doing and took some time to just be. Is it a stretch to remember?

You are not alone.

With so many societal pressures these days, it can be a challenge to take time to stop, relax, recharge and reflect about our own lives. How are we going? How are we feeling? Are we living a life that makes us happy?

A practice that really helps with this, and which is a great way to refresh body and mind, is to take regular time for solitude.

Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It can sometimes be unfairly associated with negative connotations such as loneliness, isolation or seclusion. Yet, solitude can be a powerfully positive thing. It can be a wonderful time of stillness, quiet and refreshment.

It’s an opportunity to be self-focused, just for a while. Not for selfish reasons but for self-care. Solitude is also a time to focus on what you ‘want’ to do – not what you ‘have’ to do. To concern ourselves with our own self, and block out everyone and everything else – just for a while.

Sounds good, huh?

Action Steps

If taking time out for solitude feels incredibly luxurious, that’s a great sign that you need some of it soon! :)

Here’s how to get started…

1. Start small
The smallest dedication of time is all it takes to start. The positive effects of solitude can be borne from the smallest amount of time. Start with 10 minutes and build from there. Most of us can find 10 minutes when we really try. Is it at lunchtime? A quiet pause on the way home? An evening walk perhaps?

2. Enjoy the moment
Drop the guilt. Ignore that nagging voice in the back of your mind, reminding you of your to do list. It can all wait. Just immerse yourself in the precious space you’ve created for yourself. You’ll feel happier and be more productive after you refresh your body and mind.

We can all benefit from making regular time for self care. When could you make some time for solitude this week?

Limiting the Effects of Toxic People on Your Wellbeing

We’re often reminded of the importance of limiting harmful toxins for our body. There are warning labels on certain foods, documentaries made, and even cleanse diets to rid our body of harmful toxins. Should we not enforce such warnings when it comes to the people we surround ourselves with?

Toxic people can wear down your mental and emotional wellbeing in the same way that a steady stream of junk food can throw your body out of sync.

You’ll no doubt be familiar with the traits of toxic people. Their behaviour is predominately negative. They are generally critical, self-absorbed and often create drama around them. They’re the people you feel a sense of dread rise up from your feet to your heart when you see them.

Sound familiar?

If so, the key is in how you manage these relationships. It’s often not possible to avoid these people completely or to expel them from our lives – particularly at work and particularly as we move into the festive season.

The most effective way is to limit the amount of time and energy that you put to the interactions, so that their negative energy doesn’t adversely affect your positive mood, energy and attitude.

Action Steps

1. Limit how often and how long
Set limits on how much time you spend with them. If your time is an obligation you can’t avoid, try to shorten the duration and frequency of your interactions.

2. Limit your emotional engagement
This may be difficult but do try to not take on their energy and opinions. Listen politely but keep an emotional distance to preserve your values and opinions.

3. Limit the interactions if they turn negative
Negativity can breed negativity so set boundaries and stick to them. If they try to engage you in negative behaviours such as gossiping or complaining, try to limit the interaction and exit the situation at your earliest opportunity.

Caring for your mental and emotional wellbeing involves many of the same principles as caring for your physical wellbeing – including limiting unhealthy influences.

Who comes to mind first when you think of ‘toxic people’? What steps might you take to limit the effects of that person on your wellbeing?


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5 Habits of Highly Stressed People (and What to Do Instead)

Out of 10, how stressed do you feel at the moment? I hope it’s a low number! If it’s not, today’s tip is designed to help you.

Often we spend time learning about new activities and habits that lead to wellbeing, yet we remain blind to the habits we have that promote stress instead. I hope this helps you to make some positive shifts towards greater health, wellbeing and resilience to stress!

5 Habits of Highly Stressed People (and What to Do Instead)

As humans, we’ often do things we know we shouldn’t do. Yet it can feel like we are helpless to stop.

Why?

One answer is stress.

When we’re under high levels of stress, we act out of instinct and/or habit – as opposed to knowledge. This is because it’s a faster decision that is made from within our mid-brain rather than our higher order thinking brain.

For many people, there are some go-to habits we resort to in times of stress. They give us quick energy and help us to feel like we’re tackling our challenges. Yet, these habits also eliminate vital elements that can actually reduce our stress levels.

Counterproductive right?

Action Steps

Here are some of the counterproductive habits of highly stressed people – and what to do instead. See which resonate for you and your life…

  1.    Regularly eating unhealthy foods and/or skipping meals 

When we’re stressed, our bodies need greater nourishment for energy, stamina and resilience. Not junk food, or worse yet, no food at all. We crave the energy of fat, starch and sugar yet they only give short term gain, long term problems. Try to choose natural, wholesome, healthy foods instead – at least most of the time. :)

  1. Skimping on sleep

Sleep is essential for a healthy and balanced body and mind, yet stress often leads us to go to bed later, get up earlier and sleep poorly. Adequate sleep resets your brain and repairs any damage in your body caused by stress. Don’t shortchange yourself!

  1. Withdrawing from people

When we’re stressed, we can become so task focused that we reduce interactions with people – even supportive people. Withdrawing from people can leave you feeling isolated which can contribute to even higher stress levels. Make an effort to interact even when you don’t feel like it – it’ll boost your happy hormones (which offset stress hormones).

  1. Not getting enough physical activity

A healthy body is a happy body. Our bodies are built to move. The more you move, the more you’ll clear out those stress hormones and reach a better sense of calm and balance.

  1. Falling into Superhero Syndrome

Yep, it’s a thing. Superhero Syndrome is characterised by thinking that you’re the only one who can do something. As a result, you run yourself ragged and can end up miserable. If you recognise this in your behaviour, try to delegate and accept help even when you don’t want to.

What are you doing at the moment that is enhancing your stress rather than your wellbeing?

Choose one thing and make a positive change. Then enjoy the difference it makes to how you feel!

When You Hate Your Job But Can’t Quit

Here’s the thing… we’re often told to ‘do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life’. That would be lovely wouldn’t it!

But the reality is that sometimes it’s just not possible at particular points in our lives. There are often little mouths to feed, mortgages to pay, and lives to be lived. And of course, they all cost money. Your body and mind might want you to quit but you can’t. The wheels just need to keep on turning.

Surveys show that the majority of everyday folk DON’T love their day job. People who do are definitely the lucky ones.

Yet, hope is not lost for everyone else. There are things you can do to improve your experience of work. It’s about being proactive, not passively waiting and wishing for your job to bring you ongoing happiness.

Action Steps

Here are 5 simple ways to make your job more enjoyable on a day-to-day basis…

1. Build new relationships
Positive and supportive relationships are crucial for our wellbeing. Take the opportunity to get to know your colleagues better. If you already have a staff buddy, step outside of your inner circle a bit. Make it a priority to get to know people outside your work team and build new friendships.

2. Look to learn
Actively seek ways to broaden your knowledge. Put your hand up for a new project, volunteer for a committee, or help someone who’s feeling overloaded. This may offer you new perspectives and new opportunities.

3. Use your breaks wisely
Instead of stuffing down your lunch at your desk or missing your break entirely, use it to your advantage. Do things you enjoy and wouldn’t make the time for otherwise. Indulge yourself! Read a book, call a friend, go for a walk, draw, or meditate. Do the same on your commute too, if you can. This will enrich your mind and spirit, and help to lower any tension before you arrive home.

4. Practice gratitude
This is such a lovely thing to do but one that we often don’t do enough. On your way home, spend a few moments identifying how many small yet good things happened in your day. You may be surprised at how much you have to be grateful for. It’ll also shift your focus away from dwelling on the negative.

5. Look at the positives
When all seems lost and your boss is driving you crazy and you are on the brink of losing it, try to shift to a big-picture view. Think of the benefits of being there – the financial stability, saving for the kids’ education, the skills you are learning, or simply that awesome feeling when the end of the week arrives.

It’s the little things that make a positive difference!

Which steps will you take this week, to make your work more enjoyable and fulfilling?


Want more tips like this?

If you like what you’ve read here, why not join thousands of people from across Australia and the globe for ideas, insights and inspiration every “Wellness Wednesday”. Every week, our founder and head coach, Adele Sinclair, provides practical tips, articles and inspiration to our growing community of subscribers.

Simply enter your name and email address into the form below. And be assured, we will never share your details with anyone. Ever.

How to Be Resilient to Rejection at Work

As we all know, rejection hurts. It’s true whether it’s as a teenager with your first crush or as an adult in the workplace. At work, it can be not landing that job you applied for, not being invited to be part of a particular project, being told that you’re not meeting client expectations… and the list goes on.

As we teach our young when they first fall off a bike, the best way to deal with rejection is to get up, dust yourself off and try again. To maintain our wellbeing – both personally and professionally – we need to be able to deal with these situations in positive and healthy ways.

That sounds simple, and of course the process rarely is. The good news is that negative experiences like rejection can help us to grow and to build our resilience to future challenges – so they affect us less often and we can bounce back more quickly.

Action Steps

Here are 5 key steps to moving forward positively from rejection at work…

1. Allow yourself to feel it
Rejection hurts. It sets off the same area in our brain as physical pain. So give yourself time to feel the emotions – disappointment, sadness, anger, embarrassment or fear. Don’t ignore or deny these feelings as they’ll only resurface later. Accept that they’re an appropriate response to the situation.

2. Be Self-Compassionate
Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Mistakes are how we learn in life and build ourselves as better people. Talk to yourself kindly, as you would to a friend who was going through a similar situation.

3. Be Objective
Take an objective look at the rejection. Step back from your own perspective and look at the situation from another angle. Was it warranted in some way? Is there something you missed? Is the time not right? Are your hopes realistic? What could you have done better? It can be a hard task to put yourself under the spotlight but the lessons learned can be invaluable.

4. Learn the lessons
This is crucial for building resilience for the future: Ask yourself, what can I learn from this situation? What can I take from this experience that will be useful in the future?

5. Move On
Finally, allow yourself to move on. Let it go and move forward. Don’t let it stop you from enjoying life, now and into the future.

Think briefly about past rejections you’ve experienced at work…

What could you learn from these situations that could be useful for you, now or in the future?

Take a mental note of these, so you can build your resilience and equip yourself for future challenges.

Need More Energy? Try This…

Rest. That one little word that is so simple yet often feels so far out of our grasp.

We often think of rest as doing as little as possible, like lounging around on the couch or watching television. Which is why we may often feel we never just ‘rest’.

It’s time to redefine what we consider rest to be. And in the process, hopefully help you to truly rest and recharge.

Passive vs Active Recovery
There are two types of rest and recovery – passive and active.

Passive recovery is when you’re kicking back doing nothing – having a lie down, watching television, sitting out in the sun. The problem is, when we’re passively resting we’re often not fully engaged in what we’re doing. Our mind is still elsewhere. Maybe glued to our phone. So we’re not truly resting and recharging.

You may be familiar with the term active recovery from the fitness industry. And you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m referring to recovery from a high intensity workout session at the gym. By all means, I encourage maintaining a good exercise routine.

But in this case, we’re taking this term and applying it to our whole body and mind.

Here’s the twist…

This form of active recovery doesn’t need to be physical. But it does require you to be fully present in the moment to the point where you immerse yourself so fully that you lose track of time (seems like a luxury, I know!).

It’s about being in flow, which is also known as being in the zone.  Flow is when you’re completely engrossed in what you’re doing, you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re completely lost in the moment. You complete the experience feeling refreshed and ready to take on the new week ahead.

There are many and varied ways of practicing active recovery: crafting, music, gardening, a game of tennis, tinkering in the shed, bushwalking, playing with your children, grandchildren or pets, a visit to the beach. Whatever takes your fancy!

Action Steps

So this long weekend, I invite you to incorporate some active recovery into your life. To do this, try to ensure the activities you choose have the following traits…

1.    You love it – by doing something you love, you’re more likely to become immersed in the experience.

2.    It fully absorbs your attention so you lose track of time – choose activities that free your mind from the everyday tasks and chores that beckon.

3.    The experience refreshes you both mentally and emotionally – after all, this is the result we are after!

What active recovery activities could you do this weekend?

Source: Flickr - Vic

A Practice That Can Improve Your Mood

Last Thursday was World Gratitude Day, an annual reminder of the importance of giving thanks for what we have.

Gratitude, thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation is a feeling or attitude in acknowledgement of a benefit that one has received or will receive. The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years.

Long-term studies show that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of wellbeing, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain.

So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a passing sentiment.

We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit.

And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of wellbeing.

Gratitude balances us and gives us hope. There are many things to be grateful for: fragrant spring blossoms, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, a warm bed, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies.

What’s on your list?

Action Steps

Finding things to be grateful for and expressing your gratitude will train your mind to begin looking for the positives in your life and can instantly improve your mood.

Here are 5 ways you can get started…

1. Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.

2. Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your night time routine.

3. Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.

4. When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.

5. Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Then write about it, say thanks to someone you has helped you out, express your gratitude for your colleagues in a team meeting and enjoy the reactions!

Which will you choose to do today?

 

Mental Health: An Inspiring Story We Can All Learn From

One of the most positive developments in the area of wellbeing over the past few years is the number of high profile people sharing their experiences with mental health challenges.

Earlier this week, one of the highest ranking people in the Australian Federal Police, Commander Grant Edwards, shared his mental health journey on the television program Australian Story. It’s an inspiring story that we can all learn from.

Here’s a summary of Grant’s journey, as described by the Australian Story website…

Australian Federal Police Commander Grant Edwards was once Australia’s strongest man. He was able to pull massive locomotives, aeroplanes and semi-trailers with his brute strength. But no amount of physical power could protect him from psychological injury.

Grant was at the coalface of the AFP’s most difficult work, heading up a team investigating child exploitation. The thousands of images and videos he was exposed to took their toll. But as one of those charged with protecting society, he’d always been taught to harden up, close those boxes in the mind and move on.

After a highly-charged year training police in Afghanistan, things began to unravel. It took a breakdown for Grant to understand he was injured in ways not seen by the naked eye. After the suicide of an AFP colleague, he decided to go public with his own struggles, becoming a lightning rod for change inside the AFP. Now Commander of the Americas, Grant is on a mission to remove the stigma of mental health not just in policing, but society-wide.

The program delved into post traumatic stress disorder and the need for greater support for our service men and women. It also shared a range of lessons and practical steps that we can all use in our own lives.

Action Steps

Here are some of the points that stood out to me as relevant for most of us…

For looking after yourself…

1. Speaking your truth can be an instant weight off. Sometimes the people around you can see that you are not your normal self, and are waiting for you to be ready to receive help.

2. There is always hope. As Grant said “You can go through this and you can still have your career and get your life back together”.

For looking after others…

3. You never can tell. Even people who are perceived as being strong can still struggle at times. Don’t assume people are okay.

4. It’s not about the situation at hand. Sometimes people come through a hard time and seem to be okay and then fall apart later. Things build up.

5. The manager’s response is all-important. It can make all the difference for a staff member to know that their manager has their back. Commissioner Andrew Colvin’s response to Grant in that initial meeting was the key to where Grant is today.

For a cultural shift in workplaces and society generally…

6. We need to remove the stigmas around mental health and make it okay to say “I might need a break” or “I might need a little bit of help”. We can all do that by being open and supportive to each other.

Watching this program is 30 minutes well spent. Watch the program or download the transcript here.

What could you do this week to use Grant’s story for positive benefit in your own life or workplace?