In western society today we are sold the idea that more is better, more money, more cars, more houses, more muscles, more protein, more stuff, the list goes on.
This is a common theme related to the work place and the hours that we work.
We are sold the idea that the more hours we work the more money we make and if we don’t work 40 hours, or more, per week, leave on time and work through our lunch breaks, that we are lazy.
Point 1 – Is it worth it?
Our aim is to work smart (not hard), reduce stress and relieve anxiety. So to put my first point into context I want to ask you 3 questions.
- If you were to take a half-an-hour lunch break or finish on time (not taking work home), would the company that you work for (or your own business) go into financial meltdown, crash on the stock market, burn to the ground and force you to beg on the streets? Probably not.
- Do you think that time away from your job will make you more productive when you resume work? Probably yes (see article on why rest and relaxation is important in the workplace).
- Will time away from your job create a better work-life balance and more meaningful relationships with colleagues, employees, employers, partners, kids, mothers, yourself and even your dog for god sake? (I’m getting on my soap box now; get down Gareth before you hurt yourself) Probably yes.
Now I’m not condemning hard work, I’m all for it, but there’s a big but (no not mine)…
POINT 1 MADE!
Point 2 – Are you a zombie?
More people a becoming depressed, taking antidepressant drugs and dragging themselves out of bed each morning only to wake when fuelled on enough coffee to power the Russian space programme.
This is clearly not a beneficial trend for society. Just one example of this viscous circle, taken from Mike Mahler – Live Life Aggressively, is that anti-depressant drugs are the biggest killer of natural Testosterone production in males, leading to even further depression.
But it gets worse! People then go to jobs they hate (or just tolerate) for a pay cheque, to purchase more things that they don’t need and go to bed at the end of the day having subconsciously drifted through like a zombie.
we need practical, time efficient solutions to manage our day.
Ask yourself this…
POINT 2 MADE!
Practical solutions for stress relief in the workplace
There are many ways in which we can reduce stress – exercise, improve our diet, relaxation techniques, meditation, again the list goes on.
What I am going to do, is break it down into spot drills that you can do within the workplace.
These drills will help you to remain calm and relive tension (you don’t want to turn into Vinnie Jones if someone beats you to the photocopier, your boss wouldn’t like it)
Don’t worry if you are not comfortable with some of these methods. There is no right or wrong and no set way. Do what feels comfortable and makes sense to you.
1. Paced Breathing:
Inhaling through your nose fill your belly and diaphragm with air. Inhale for 4 seconds and then hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale, pushing your belly into your spine for 4 seconds then hold your breath for 4 seconds. Repeat this pattern from 3 minutes upwards depending on your stress level and your location. Try to keep the breath smooth with no sudden starts up stops and release any tension in your body as you exhale.
Try to breathe through your nose if you can as this encourages a more diaphragmatic breath and, if you are a bit of a science geek, it also releases trace elements of Nitrous Oxide which helps your body utilise Oxygen more efficiently.
This drill can be done at your desk, in the car or while you are standing or walking. It is now being used by Special Forces operatives such as the US Navy Seals to keep them calm in intense battle situations and fire fights.
If you talk about Yoga to a stressed out male teen, he will probably just ignore you, but tell him you can show him how to breathe like a Navy Seal and he will jump at the chance.
2. Three Conscious Breaths
Every so often, throughout your day, stop what you are doing and take three conscious breaths in and out. This will have the affect of bringing you back into your body and back ‘into the now’.
By “bringing you back into your body,” I mean actually being aware of how your body feels at that present moment because, after all, how you feel in each moment is all that really matters.
Your entire life is taking place IN THE NOW! Not in the past, not in the future, IN THE NOW!
A good tip is to set an alarm every hour so you develop the habit of being present throughout the day with 3 conscious breaths.
3. Body Scan
While seated or standing, start at the top of your head and scan down your body sensing any tension, tightness or sensations. Scan your body one section at a time. Try to keep the body soft, breathe naturally and release any tension as you exhale.
At regular intervals throughout the day ask yourself: “what am I doing with my body/breath at this moment” and notice how you feel; is there tightness or tension?
4. Feed The Courage Wolf
A Native American story tells of two wolves that reside inside us all, the wolf of COURAGE and the wolf of FEAR.
Both of these wolves want to be fed but which one you feed is up to you.
The meaning of the story is that we all have positive and negative thoughts and emotions that occur throughout our lives and whichever ones we choose to focus on get bigger.
If you focus on positive emotions they get fed and increase but the same also applies to negative emotions – you feed them, they will get bigger.
Throughout your day at regular intervals or before a major event like a meeting or speech, ask yourself WHAT WOLF AM I FEEDING? This will bring your attention to your current mental state, allowing you to adjust as necessary.
The best description I have ever read about fear and courage is in the book Way of the Warrior Kid by Jocko Willink. The book describes fear as that temporary emotion you feel between deciding you are going to do something and actually doing it. Everyone gets it and it’s a good emotion because it warns you of danger; however, you can control it by being well prepared and courageous.
Asking yourself what wolf you are feeding, helps you shift from a feeling of fear to a feeling of courage!
Reducing stress and resources
Reducing stress will no doubt make you a better person, employee, employer and leader. Do this by utilising the tips provided to remain calm and happy at work.
Please share some of the recommendations in this article – you may be surprised by how many people feel the same way about getting stressed, burnt out, tired or even depressed.