“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another “ William James.
An alarming study by Bloomberg recently ranked South Africa as the second most stressed nation in the world. The key reason? A fast-paced and high pressure work environment where employees feel pressure to deliver, even when their training doesn’t meet the demands of their work.
Bloomberg found that over half of South African employees are skipping their annual leave due to the high demands of work – and that stress and burnout are escalating furiously.
So, what can South Africans do to take back their lives and win this war against stress?
Learn to outsmart it. Here’s how: “Worry is a misuse of the imagination.” (Dan Zadra)
Focus on what you can control
Stress stems from things you can’t control, such as being stuck in bad traffic. Your mind is trying to handle a situation you perceive as threatening, and your body, caught in a state of perpetual fight-or-flight, has limited time to recover.
Outsmart it: Instead of stressing about the traffic and worrying about being late, give your manager a call and explain the situation. Accept what you can’t change and focus on what you can.
Remember to breathe. It is, after all, the secret of life.” (Gregory Maguire)
When you think stress is getting the better of you, focus on your breathing. Studies show that chronic stress changes the way we breathe. Instead of using your diaphragm like you’re meant to, you begin to use your chest muscles, your shoulders and your neck – a condition that makes restricted air flow seem “normal”.
Outsmart it: Practice breathing in deeply a couple of times using your diaphragm.
- Breathe in for 7 seconds
- Breathe out for 11 seconds
- Always make sure you breathe out longer than you breathe in.
This controlled way of breathing will reduce the level of stress hormones in your blood and lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
“I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.” (Louise Hay)
Recognise your Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive distortions occur when your mind tries to convince you of something that isn’t true. They reinforce negative thinking and are a great source for stress and anxiety.
Outsmart it: When you feel stressed, take a good look at the story you’re telling yourself; try to pin it down and then ask yourself “Is it true?”
Walk away (for 15 minutes)
When you’re stressed, you’ll often fixate on problems from a certain angle and blind yourself from the solutions.
Outsmart it: Temporarily remove yourself from the situation and do something else – for at least 15 minutes. Go for a walk outside, or even do a short walk around the office. The act of walking will lower your stress, clear your mind and help you gain a fresh perspective. This is how you’ll get your “aha” moment.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” (Nelson Mandela)
Break it down
With a high pressure job comes a lot of responsibility. It’s easy to feel so overwhelmed that you end up spending most of your time stressing about the sheer magnitude of what lies ahead.
Outsmart it: Every task, no matter how big, can be broken down into smaller parts. The easiest way to prevent the feeling of paralysis, is to start small, one little task at a time. Each time you complete a task, a sense of momentum will start to build and stress will begin to dissipate.
“Personal power is the ability to take action.” (Anthony Robbins)
Inactivity is food for stress. The longer you leave something, the more stressed you’ll become. So, when you have a stressful thought, take it on immediately.
Outsmart it: Remind yourself that you’re the CEO of your life; that 85% of what we worry about never actually happens, and that stress can be beaten by choosing to find another perspective.
Remember, stress is the strain on your mental state resulting from the perception of events around you. So always maintain an honest dialogue with yourself and listen to what you’re saying. Is it really true?Stress is the strain on your mental state resulting from the perception of events around you. Click To Tweet
Few people can claim that they never feel stressed
The truth is that we actually need stress from time to time. It keeps us challenged and, helps us meet our goals. It is therefore safe to say that stress is not altogether a bad thing. However, there are times that stress can become overwhelming and render you close to breaking point. It is under these extreme stress periods that we really need to manage our stress better. Way too many people are booked off for stress related illnesses. It is therefore critical that we all learn to manage our stress on a daily basis.
Here are a few simple tips to ensure that you stay on top of your game:
Control your Surroundings
Identify the issues that create stress. If it is a noisy office, annoying colleague, or a heavy traffic route, look at ways you can remove yourself from this stress. Take a different route to work, leave earlier and avoid being around the colleagues that cause your blood pressure to rise.
When under stress, this is easier said than done. Take a quiet moment and make a list of what has to be done ‘now’ vs what can be done tomorrow.
You can say NO!
Have you ever heard the saying, if you want something done give it to a busy person? Busy people need to learn to say NO! You are not shirking your responsibilities, just merely acknowledging what you can cope with.
Let it out
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Speak to your manager and HR about your work load. Do not let yourself build resentment. Be honest and open.
Exercise is a great way to release stress. Try to find time to visit the gym or have a gentle walk. Eat well. Avoid foods that provides minimal nutrients. You need to keep your energy levels up and feed your brain!
Take a Break
Step out of the office and breathe in some fresh air. Stretch and take some deep breathes. You will be surprised how this gets the blood flowing and increases concentration levels.
Get rid of distractions
All online chat groups and social media eat into your productive work time. Avoid these conversations whilst you are busy. Check emails and text messages at set times.
We all need sleep. Aim to get seven to eight hours a night. This will restore your energy levels and you will be better equipped to concentrate and cope.
Take time off
Take the odd early afternoon and indulge in some relaxing activities. A massage, a leisurely walk or a quite picnic are all good ideas.
Year and Exhaustion
With a tight economy and pressure on performance and income, the expectation on staff has generally escalated.
I know, that my team chase regular daily/weekly and monthly targets. Pronel Personnel like others in the recruitment industry, is very target driven and input is constantly measured. Just as you have met the targets for the previous week the new week begins. The pressure is never ending and can at times become unsustainable.
To avoid burn out and to stay on top of your game I strongly suggest the following:
- Lunch/Coffee Break: Often when the work load is intense lunch breaks become non-existent and at other times, lunch breaks are pure madness whilst you roar around running chores. Try to take a proper lunch break from time to time. A lunch break where you actually sit, ignore your phone and focus on the food in front of you.
- A Duvet Day: If you are exhausted, take a long weekend or a duvet day. A day where you completely switch off. Watch movies, go for a leisurely walk, sleep, eat and read! You will be surprised how a day of allowing yourself space and a break can recharge those tired batteries.
- Exercise: Make time to exercise. There is little doubt that exercise has wonderful results when you are stressed. Not only does it release stress, it will keep you healthy.
These three simple things are not overwhelming. The challenge is making sure you take the time for the necessary breaks. You have to factor this in to your day and set yourself strict boundaries. Not adhering to the signs of exhaustion will impact on your productivity and you will limp to the end of the year. This is clearly counter-productive. Making sure that you look after your energy levels in order that you can sustain the pressure is the smart action to take.
Yours in Personnel