“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work, or to-do list, is terribly important.” – Bertrand Russell
At various points in our lives, we all experience some form of stress. From when we were kids it started as we learnt the dynamics of the adult world around us, to then the awkward teenage years of puberty. Then finishing school and figuring out how the hell to be an adult…and then…. work. The 9-5 drudgery that many of us feel stifled by.
It’s a fine art learning to balance stress without it tipping over into the type that is unmanageable and destructive. Unfortunately for me I had to be broken first in order to fix myself, and over the course of my life and career I’ve learnt quite a few tips, tricks and techniques that may help you during highly stressful situations.
Visualisation smashes doubt
Now I know a lot of people would shrug this off as just immeasurable fluff, but I wouldn’t put it as my first point if it wasn’t truly powerful. For me, my biggest stumbling block was presenting and talking in front of people. Apparently I came across fine, but I was D.Y.I.N.G inside. It got so bad that when I had to voice my opinion or even introduce myself to a room, I’d get shaky, start stuttering and stop breathing! It got so bad that at one point I thought my career was stuffed because being at a manager/director level, I would be required to do LOTS of presenting and even pitching – worse. nightmare. ever.
Late last year I finished Tony Robbin’s book “Unlimited Power” and found some visualisation techniques that I found really helpful, and took me from an un-resourceful state (flight/fight mode, panicky, anxious and irrational) to a resourceful state (calm, clear, confident and rationale) in a matter of minutes. These included things like double dissociation, comic replays and switching up auditory/visual/kinesthetic experiences. Something I’m happy to do another blog post on if you guys were interested! Regardless of profession, visualisation is something that all top performers practice, as they know how important it is to picture themselves succeeding in their minds before they act upon it in real life. So to be a top performer, you need to think like one!
Figure out what’s important – and delegate the rest
As a perfectionist, I just couldn’t hand my work over for fear that it wouldn’t be done properly. However I quickly learnt that your sanity is more important than getting a task done to perfection. Instead, find the difference between:
- what’s urgent and important,
- what’s urgent but not important, and
- what’s not urgent, but still important.
To go into this further, we need to define what’s important, which is your personal development and career growth, and it’s the tasks that contribute to this that are most important. Everything else can be delegated. We’re not superheroes. Your team are there to help you, that’s why they come to work everyday and get paid. So delegate, share your knowledge and train others up to do the things that may be urgent but unimportant for you, and focus the majority of your time on what’s most important for you and your goals.
Take control of your mornings
I hear so many people say “but I’m not a morning person” (tip: read my blog post on having excusitis) and to tell you the truth I wasn’t either for a VERY long time. I was forced into it by having a boyfriend who would get up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym every morning back in Australia, and I’d get dragged out with him whether I liked it or not. Four years later, exercising is deeply ingrained in my morning routine, and I notice what a difference it makes to my mental stability on the days I don’t exercise. It structures your morning, clears your head and sweats out the cortisol, releases endorphins, and doesn’t allow time for excuses or things to pop up unexpectedly (that’s if you don’t hit the snooze button a million times!)
Self-care becomes the focus
When you don’t have time to relax, that’s when you need it most
I distinctly remember being on the brink of a panic attack at work, a million deadlines, clients breathing down my neck, jittering with coffee screaming at a colleague “who has time for breathing exercises!?! I don’t!! I don’t have time for yoga, and I’m too wound up to bother with meditating! Now give me that fucking chocolate muffin!!!!!”
Moral of the story? Like exercising in the mornings, self-care is probably the last thing you feel like doing in this state, but it is SO important to schedule it in during these times. When you’re stressed you’re not giving yourself what you need, and instead giving your all to everything else. For me I try to do little and consistent things that don’t have to be expensive. I have a foam roller and trigger ball that I roll down my back to release the tension in my shoulders from hunching over a desk all day. I book discounted facials and massages on groupon. I put a treatment in my hair most weeks and even schedule in quiet weekends occasionally where I completely retreat from the world and do solo activities that energise me (at the moment it’s reading and blogging!) Self-care is any activity that refreshes you and recharges your batteries, so you can come back into the craziness a little more rationale and resourceful.
In the end, your quality of life is what truly matters. So, ask yourself these questions:
What matters most to you?
How much does it matter what other people think of me?
How much should it matter what they expect of me?
How much should it matter if my life doesn’t work out as planned, predicted, or hoped?
What can I change right now to make my life more satisfying?