As the weather begins to warm-up, we’re making our summer vacation plans. The past two years of restrictions and lock-downs put something of a crimp in our usual vacation travel.
Instead of sitting around moaning about our circumstances, we took advantage of the break. We engaged in a few more hobby activities than normal. We tackled a few jobs around the house and went out for more nieghbourhood walks than usual.
This year we have plans. We’re looking forward to visiting family and getting our camping in our trailer.
Right now, I’m sitting here, enjoying a coffee and taking it easy, I’m thinking about stress. We all have stress; there’s no way to avoid it. In fact, some degree of stress is a good thing. Just as the stress of weights during exercise can help build muscle, so life-stress can build emotional, psychological or mental “muscle”.
Stress becomes a problem when it controls us. If you want to remain balanced, you need to manage the stress in your life.
How do you do that? Here are six secrets of stress management:
- Know yourself: If you don’t have a clear sense of who you are and what you stand for, people and circumstances will try to shape you. Trying to be someone or something you are not is stressful.
- Set clear goals: Define what you want or need to do. If there’s a big, undefined task looming in your subconscious, you’re going to be stressed about not getting it accomplished. Setting clear goals allows you to see the end and set the steps toward reaching the goal. Just meeting each of the milestones leading to a completed task can go a long way to reducing stress.
- Set your priorities: You can’t do everything all at once. You can set your goals and know the steps to reach those goals, but if you don’t know where to begin, you’re going to build stress. Figure out the priorities and you’ll know where to begin.
- Set your focus: Once you know where to begin, focus on that task. If you try and focus on more than one thing at a time, all things will suffer.
- Delegate: You can’t do it all yourself. You can plan a major project, set all the steps, plan dates for the deliverables and then stress over all that needs doing. Get the team involved. Even Jesus enlisted 12 disciples.
- Relax: Take a break. Successful weight-trainers know constant stress on the muscles will soon become counter-productive and even damaging. They know their muscles need to have periods of relaxation to get the best benefit from training. Stress can compound. You need to take breaks to relax and refresh, thereby coming back stronger.
Stress is never eliminated, but it can be managed and controlled. A few simple steps and you can make stress work to your advantage.
I wish I had written this, or something like this:
The one possible weakness of this otherwise terrific little volume (The Dip, by Seth Godin) is that it is aimed solely at people who are creative, intelligent and want to succeed. Those who are mediocre, unmotivated or just coasting through life will probably not get much from Godin. He is not an elitist, but his message is squarely aimed at those who want to succeed or at least achieve excellence. ~Know a Dip from a Dead End.
I’ve read most of Seth Godin’s output: books, magazine articles, blog posts, etc. I’ve often thought there was a disconnect between the new generation of forward-thinking consumers Seth writes about, and the people I encounter day-to-day.
I was watching television a couple of weeks ago and this commercial came on that made no sense whatsoever. (I don’t remember the product.) I complained about the stupidity of it and the three others watching with me spent ten or a dozen minutes explaining what they felt the advertiser was trying to say. They did not see anything incongruous about having to take ten minutes to explain a 30–second ad spot.
There are at least three reasons why most people accept mediocrity:
- We have become inured to bad customer interaction in all its forms. There’s a sense that bad marketing and desultory customer service is the normal cost of doing business. We may be entertained by creative advertising at Super Bowl time, but we expect something that shouts the latest no-interest, no-payment “deal” at our local furniture outlet.
- Most people will sacrifice quality for convenience. It doesn’t matter that WestJet has great customer service if the Air Canada flight gets me there 30 minutes earlier. We’ll eat tasteless produce from Safeway rather than spend an extra hour and five more dollars at the farmer’s market.
- People find it hard to break with tradition. My grandfather drove a GM product, my father drove a GM product, I’m going to drive a GM product. So what if the bank adds to its already obscene profits by raising my fees, I’ve banked there all my life and I don’t want to change.
These are my quick and dirty thoughts, with lots of room for discussion and debate. I agree with Richard Pachter that there are those that seek constant improvement. But I also think they are in the minority.
How about you? What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes,” and Rita Mae Brown said, “Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement.”
Experience can teach us much if we open ourselves to the lessons it contains. But we must be careful. The results of our bad judgements can create so much fear that we’re unwilling to try and learn new things.
Here are five ways we can take the best advantage of our experiences:
- Keep aware of the past – To learn from our experiences, we must be able to recall what we have done. Then they can serve as guides for the future.
- Let go of the past – Don’t hang on to the past too tightly. Don’t waste energy wishing for the “good old days” or being afraid to try something new, because of past experiences. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.
- Don’t make the same mistake twice – Learn from your bad judgement. If you’re still making the same mistakes five years later, you’re missing the point.
- Make the most of each experience – As new experiences come along, don’t spend too much time analyzing. Jump in and get the most from it. Then, if there are lessons to learn, take the time to study.
- Live your life to the full – life is not just random moments or individual events. Life is the sum total of all you do and are. Don’t live your life as if it is some sort of checklist where you can’t move to the next experience until the previous one is complete.
I’ll finish with another quotation, this from Henry David Thoreau. “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life…”
Relationships with others, both at work and in your personal life, are an integral part of whether life will seem manageable and enjoyable. Nurturing and fostering interpersonal relationships take time and energy. People who do not achieve a sense of balance may feel fragmented or overwhelmed.
Work and relationships will suffer if you are not managing to meet your needs and responsibilities, in addition to considering the needs of others at your workplace and in your personal life. Of course you cannot do everything! Ask yourself, “Am I doing things that are the most important to me? Am I spending time with those I love? Am I making time for both work and play?”
Having balance in your life will be easier if you:
- Know your values
- Identify priorities
- Reduce unnecessary things
- Set some goals and make a plan
- Revisit priorities and goals occasionally
A value is important to the person who holds it. What changes with time and growth is the ranking of values in relation to other values. Values are expressed:
- Through talk and action; how we use our time and energy
- Through actions at work and play (leisure)
- Through choices in the market place
Priorities are activities and relationships that receive first attention because you have ranked them as highly important. When setting priorities, ask yourself:
- Is this important? To whom? Is this urgent? To whom? Is this necessary at all?
Unnecessary things in your life include some stressors, unresolved conflicts, bad habits, poor planning skills, and unrealistic expectations. For example, do you have unnecessary conflict with a co-worker or have unrealistic expectations by striving for perfection?
Finding balance with your work and personal life, including play, can be accomplished.
- Select goals and dreams that support values.
- Do things that will bring you closer to your goals.
- Take action to do things out of your comfort zone. Be willing to take some risks.
- Respond to challenges and disappointments positively. “What can I learn from this?”
- Share your needs with others and seek their support. Be willing to ask for help.
Getting a handle on the stress in your life will help you make time for work and play and feel good about your general well-being.
- Locate the sources of stress.
- Physically work off the effects of stress.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Talk with someone you trust about your concerns or problems.
- Accept what you cannot change.
- Organize what you can, without being a perfectionist and unduly hard on others.
- Realize that you do not control the emotions or behaviour of others; you influence others.
- Avoid self-medication and the misuse of alcohol and drugs.
- Make time for recreation and for having fun.
- Do something for others.
- Take one thing at a time.
- Compromise. You don’t always have to have it done your way. Agree to disagree.
- Get away from it for a while (this can be done on a tight budget with limited time).
Ask yourself these questions.
- What things cause me stress (my stressors)? How might I reduce my stress load?
- What are the most personal things (work, activities, relationships) to me?
- Is my personal life in balance? Do I feel good about my personal life?
- Is my work life in balance? Do I feel good about my work life?
- Am I spending time doing things (work, activities, relationships) most important to me?
Here in Canada, there are Federal and Provincial laws that govern how organizations protected the personal information in their care. There are steps you should take to protect your privacy and safeguard your personal information in the marketplace. Here are just a few:
- Before you reveal any personal information, find out how it will be used and if it will be shared.
- Always read the fine print on sales agreements and magazine subscriptions and check the “no thanks” box if you don’t want your information shared.
- Minimize the identification and number of cards you carry.
- Never disclose your PIN to anyone. No one from a financial institution, the police or a merchant should ask you for your PIN.
- Carefully check your bank account and credit card statements and report any discrepancies immediately.
- Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you are certain you are dealing with a reputable company, or you initiated the call yourself.
- Tear or shred receipts, credit offers and insurance forms you get in the mail before disposing of them.