Today, Monday November 1st marks the start of International Stress Awareness Week. Stress can be damaging and can affect our ability to thrive - but research also shows that we can actually use stress to improve our health and well-being. You can find out more in our 'Learn' section below. There are great expectations as we turn our attentions towards the festive season. But with great expectation often comes enormous pressure and a sense of obligation. This month, we'll look at how the need to look and feel busy can feed into our work and social lives, and how we might be able to break away from that narrative to slow down the pace and avoid burnout.
If you feel that you need some support or assistance with anything you have read today, either from a coaching point of view or as an organisation wanting to implement mental health performance training then please do send us an email here - we'd love to hear from you!
Pace yourself as Life Picks Up Speed Do you sometimes feel that life is moving too fast for you to keep up? Finding the breaks can often feel like a challenge, but if you continue to move at such high speed, you're bound to eventually crash, or simply run out of gas. Slowing life down should not be perceived as a luxury - it's often a necessity to keep yourself from spiralling out of control. Now that we find ourselves balancing hybrid working with a return to our faster, pre-pandemic pace, now is a great time for us to revaluate our current trajectory, to ensure that we're keeping on track, at a speed that works for us. Try to leave spaces in your calendar. Sometimes we get too caught up in trying to be as productive as possible, that we overcompensate by working to our absolutely maximum capacity, using up every last bit of our time and energy. The key to good mental health is to stay productive, but within your own means. Remember that time spent resting is not time wasted. Resting will enable you to continue at a more methodical yet consistent pace throughout the day, and increase both your enjoyment and productivity. Here are some tips from Mindfulness at Work on How to Schedule Intentional Breaks Into Your Working Day. It's important to listen to your body's cues. When life is moving at a fast pace, your body can get neglected in many ways. By being attuned and responsive to your body - noticing posture, responding to pain, thirst or hunger - you force yourself to slow down. In addition, exercise and eating well helps you reduce stress and make sure your body is in it for the long haul. Stop multitasking. You might not get your work done much faster, and you’ll be sacrificing the potential for quality by dividing your attention. In addition, looking back on avoidable errors will cause you to feel even more stressed than when you started. For further insights, take a look at the article 'Why You Shouldn't Multitask & What You Can Do Instead', brought to us by Forbes. Take breaks. Part of the reason life might be going by too quickly for you is because you’re not taking enough time to pause. Taking your 15-minute break from work isn’t a sin; it’s your right - and could give you a chance to recalibrate your mind before finishing off a long day, in or out of the office. Life will never stop moving entirely, but you can learn to control the pace. The better you get at regulating your time and effort, the better you will be able to manage stress while maintaining your productivity. We hope that some of these tips work for you!
How to Make Stress Work for You We are living through stressful times. People aren’t just worried about their health, but also about their livelihoods and futures, their families, climate change, and the planet as a whole (no wonder that we often feel so overwhelmed!). At the same time, ironically, warnings that stress itself is bad for our health and might even make us more susceptible to the illness.
Fortunately, there is an alternative approach: We can actually use that stress to improve our health and well-being. Over a decade of research suggests that it’s not the type or amount of stress that determines its impact. Instead, it’s our mind-set about stress that matters most. There are three key steps that we can take: First of all, acknowledge your stress. Labelling your stress consciously and deliberately moves neural activity from the amygdala - the centre of emotion and fear - to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive control and planning. This step is also an opportunity to understand what’s at the heart of your personal stress or anxiety. Acknowledging our stress moves us from operating from a fearful, reactive place to a position where we can be thoughtful and deliberate. When we try to avoid thinking about something - say, how stressed we are about delivering a speech - our brain tries to help us not think of this thing by constantly checking in with us to see if we’re thinking of it.
Secondly, learn to welcome, or 'own' your stress. We only stress about things that we care about. By owning our stress, we connect to the positive motivation or personal value behind our stress. If we deny or avoid our stress, we may actually be denying or disconnecting ourselves from the things we value and treasure most.
Finally, learn use your stress to your advantage. Connecting to the core values behind your stress sets you up for the third and most essential step: using or leveraging stress to achieve your goals and connect more deeply with the things that matter most. There’s so much happening right now that we can’t predict or control. But - as many people are noticing - there are also unprecedented opportunities amid the uncertainty. Some psychologists argue that true transformative change can only occur only during stress or crises. The trick is to channel any stress that may have accumulated as energy to make the most of this time. You can learn more about how stress can work for you by reading these tips from Harvard Business.
Socialising On Your Terms - Enjoyment vs. Obligation Having spent so long in relative isolation, we may now find that we struggle to expand our lives and balance our social activity with our wellbeing needs, especially in the busy run up to Christmas. For some, there is is a sense of needing to 'make up for lost time' - but it's important to ease in gently. Be choosey about the social events that you commit to, and feel empowered to act in your own best interests. Ask yourself: 'Do I actually want to go?' It might be that – if you are are honest – you are just not very keen. We often feel the need to look and act as if we’re busy, and that narrative feeds into our social life as well as our work life. But in reality, all that this tends to lead to is burn out, avoidable errors, and an unsustainable work/life model. According to Techround, entrepreneurs are especially prone to this danger. Maximising their work and networking time is perceived as being simply 'what it takes' to succeed. Don't feel guilty for sending a regretful RSVP, or for leaving an event when you are no longer having fun. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that time and energy is precious. Take whatever steps you need to feel happy, and be honest with others if you are experiencing social anxiety - you are likely to find that you are far from alone. Even socialising with people we love, at events we enjoy, takes its toll on our energy levels and can cause anxiety. The more in control we feel before we step into these potentially overwhelming situations, the better time we’re likely to have. You can read some tips from Happiful Magazine on Managing Social Anxiety in the run-up to the festive season. Don’t drink if you don’t want to. It can be tempting to lean on alcohol to get over any initial social awkwardness, but remember that alcohol is a depressant, and that it may also exacerbate uncomfortable emotions and disrupt your sleep. So during November and December - when events are often back to back - these factors can have a detrimental affect on your ability to work, perform and function at the level you need to. And finally, accept that feelings - and people - may have changed. The collective eagerness for the pandemic to be over has amounted to pressure to push on with life as if everything is back to normal. But everyone will have experienced the past 19 months very differently. Respect the choices of others, respect your own time, space and energy - and most importantly, enjoy this time of the year - but feel free to do so on your own terms.
Our Book of the Month is 'My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open: How to Untangle Our Relationship with Tech'’ by Tanya Goodin In 'My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open', digital detox expert Tanya Goodin is on a mission to help us have a healthier relationship with our electronics. Here, she collects hours of conversations to form a fascinating compendium of everyday problems we all struggle with, plus solutions to stop them taking over lives. This witty but insightful book covers many topics, including:
Doomscrolling – endlessly consuming doom-and-gloom news
Comparison Culture – 52% of teens feel inadequate when comparing their social media profiles
Vampire Shoppers – dead-of-night, sleepless shoppers who spend a third more than daytime shoppers
Digital Legacies – before the end of the century there could be 4.9 billion deceased internet users
Cyberchondria – Dr Google is causing a wave of misdiagnoses from anxious searchers
So - if you do manage to schedule in some all-important 'pause' time - we highly recommend that you pick up this book. It's truly refreshing, funny and insightful, and helps us to shine a spotlight on our own unhelpful digital habits. Relax and enjoy!
For further support or guidance on any of the topics we've covered this month, or if you are an organisation that wants to expand your mental health and wellbeing training with a unique emphasis on performance, then please do get in touch - we'd love to hear from you. Wishing you a happy and healthy month ahead!
Kind regards, Stacy Thomson Founder of The Performance Club sent on behalf of all of the team