Archive for Reduce Stress – Page 2

It’s that time of year again – have you got the Burnout Blues?

Have you got the Burnout Blues?What is it about this time of year that pushes 'busyness' over the top? Artificial deadlines appear for things that must be finished by the end of the year. Then there's the Christmas preparation overhead.  No wonder we feel like we're running on empty.

If you’re feeling stressed and time poor, rest assured you’re not alone.  Latest figures from the Race Against Time Report, show that balancing work and family remains a big issue for Australian men and women, with around 40% of women and 30% of men feeling often or always rushed or pressed for time.

The report shows how the sharing of household tasks, longer working longer hours (including more early starts, late finishes and weekends at the office) and more time spent commuting  are all impacting the quality of our lives.  It also seems that the more we earn, the less free time we have, with those in the upper quartile having between 1.5 and 2 hours less per day to play than those in the lower quartile.

Seems like ‘busyness’ is a way of life but it’s not necessarily good for us.  Left unchecked, this state of being can lead to a nasty dose of the Burnout Blues.

What are the Burnout Blues?

The Burnout Blues (BBs) are a side effect of relentless 21st-century living. They feed on society’s expectations, an unhealthy lifestyle of too much work, lack of direction, time and purpose, loneliness, and disempowering beliefs.

Put simply, the BBs create an abiding and ever-increasing sense of despair, discontent, disenchantment, and disconnect. Rarely attributable to one definable cause, they start slowly and gradually pervade every part of a sufferer’s life.

A chronic, insidious condition, the BBs have become a way of being for many people. They feel powerless to control or change anything, yet often invest a lot of energy, time and emotion ineffectively trying to control and change everything. Nothing they do alters the outcome and prolonged sufferers inadvertently become sitting duck victims.

The BBs are a common response to the pressures of juggling work and life, though not a clinically diagnosable mental condition.  However, failure to recognise and address them can lead to prolonged anxiety, exhaustion, physical illness and depression.  So… how are you feeling?  Let’s see if you’re suffering from the Burnout Blues.

Top 5 Burnout Blues Symptoms

While there are over 20 common symptoms of the Burnout Blues, here are five that may be familiar.  If you had to rate how often you’ve experienced these over the last year    (0 = never ? 5 = all the time), what score would you give yourself for these:

Symptoms                                  Beliefs                                               Typical feelings

1. Stress……………..…….  too much to do, too little time  …………………… pressured

2. Demotivated…………..  whatever………………………………………………….. bored

3. Frustration……………..  my best is never good enough………………………. irritated

4. Controlling……..    if it’s going to be right, I have to do it myself…………….. inflexible

5. Guilt………………….   I can’t say no or let people down……………….. compromised

If you scored 3 or above for any of these, don’t despair.  We all inhale the exhaust fumes of life yet it is possible to filter out those which contribute to the Burnout Blues.  By identifying the cracks in your life that need attention, you can take out the polyfiller and repair them.

Top 3 Tips for Beating the Burnout Blues

Simple life repairs and renovations now will prevent major problems further down the track.   Here are some actions you can take right now to stop the rot setting in:

1.  Step back and notice how you respond to events

One of the most common reasons we suffer the Burnout Blues is that we ‘buy in’ to the drama and invest precious emotional energy in it.  Notice how you feel when your work phone rings while you’re having dinner with the family at night.  When work pressure increases, the stress levels of those around you quickly rise.  Before you know it, you’re also time poor, stressed out and struggling to maintain perspective.  This often leads to an instinctive reaction, driven by your fight or flight reflex as you go into an auto-pilot survival mode.

Mentally step back, as if you’re a fly on the wall, and simply notice what’s happening, without reacting.  Take a walk outside and give yourself space before consciously deciding how you will respond to the situation.  Ask yourself, how do I need to be to manage this situation effectively?  By consciously choosing how you’ll respond, you create the ability to conserve your energy, maintain perspective and know that ‘this too will pass’.

2.  Instigate a ‘Be Kind to Me’ Strategy

The busier we get, the more we tend to neglect ourselves.  Believing it to be ‘selfish’ to put ourselves first, we mistakenly focus on helping others while our own energy bucket empties out.  Before you know it, you’ve become tired, unfit and struggling to get everything done.

Although it may seem initially counterintuitive, putting yourself first is vital.  When you carve out time each day to do something that refills your energy reserves, you’re much better placed to help others.  What’s more, when your wellbeing is regularly nurtured, you have more capacity, opportunity and perspective.

What’s one thing you can do every day to take care of you?

3.  Keep what’s working well and ‘ditch’ the rest.

Nothing’s all bad and it’s important to recognise the parts of your career and life that are working well.  What parts are OK or even terrific and what have you done to make them this way?  Having identified your success strategy for these parts of your life, how can you apply them to the other areas?

For example – I’m pretty successful at resolving problems at work by taking time to understand them first, involving and listening to others and agreeing on what ‘fixed’ looks like.  This is a strategy you could also use at home to encourage your partner and children to share more of the household tasks.

Whatever’s not working has to go or change.  Identify the main contributors to your Burnout Blues.  Specifically, what’s the main cause of your anxiety, exhaustion and discontent?  If it’s your job – what’s within your control that you can change?  If the work is no longer fulfilling, interesting and enjoyable, maybe it’s time for a career change.

Consciously reducing tasks that add little value is immediately liberating.  Seriously, if you don’t check your emails every 5 minutes, will it really matter in a hundred years?  Close email and check your messages 3 times a day instead and notice how much more you get done.

The pressures of 21st century living are not going away anytime soon.  However, there’s far more within your control than you may think and living with the Burnout Blues doesn’t need to be inevitable.

So what’s one small thing you can change that will make the biggest difference today?

Carpe diem

Caroline Cameron

 
This blog is an extract from THE GREAT LIFE REDESIGN – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen TODAY .  Available online and in all good bookstores.

A Simple Solution to the Work/Life Balance Puzzle

It seems like the harder we try to solve it, the busier, more
stressed and exhausted we become.

A Simple Solution to the Work Life Balance PuzzleYou only have to Google ‘Work Life Balance’ (over 32 million results) to know it’s something we all aspire to yet struggle with.

Reality Check:  Work/Life Balance is actually an unattainable myth and the quest to achieve it is futile!

Think about it.  The idea of a ‘balanced’ life is actually flawed. Taken literally, balance suggests equal amounts of everything you’d love to cram into each day and it’s simply not possible.  If we spend 8 hours sleeping, this leaves 16 hours for everything else.  Do you really want or need to devote equal time to your work, health, family, leisure, daily incidentals and other priorities?

The other flaw in the work/life balance proposition is the inherent assumption that work is ‘bad’ and the rest of life is ‘good’ and we should therefore strive for less work and more of the rest of life.  Once you uncouple work from life, it all starts to unravel.  If you didn’t work, how would you support the rest of your life? Besides, many people actually enjoy their work which provides challenge, social connection, variety, routine,
certainty and financial stability.

Lifestyle pressures pull the pieces apart.  These are often self-imposed and it’s relatively simple (not to be mistaken with ‘easy’), to change them when you know how.  Like a jigsaw, all the parts of your life interlock and you are the common denominator.  So now you’ve been freed from the struggle, let's see how to piece together the puzzle and create a seamless picture of your life.

An Integrated Life – a realistic and attainable alternative

Rather than striving to achieve balance by enforcing strict boundaries between work and life, it’s much easier to integrate your life and treat it as a whole. Once you’ve mastered the art and skill, all the parts work harmoniously to support rather than compete with each other.

How to live an Integrated Life:

  • Decide what's important (our priorities often get lost amidst the 'busyness' of everyday life) and let go of that which isn’t.
  • Consciously devote time to what's important – scheduling self-appointments in your diary to get things done; learning to say 'no' without guilt, planning and responding rather than reacting.
  • Change your expectations – many of us are notoriously hard on ourselves believing we can and should 'do it all'. Be kind to yourself and take the pressure off.  You can have and do it all once you’ve decided what ‘all’ is, how much you really want it and what’s possible.

Living an integrated life is vital for your physical and mental wellbeing and once achieved, creates a positive impact on the lives of those you care about.  This includes
being a great role model for your children, friends and colleagues.

If creating an integrated life seems hard, these 3 steps will make it easier:

  1. Check in on what you're telling yourself.  For example, if you believe you have to  work a 50+ hour week, how do you know that? What evidence is there and who said so? We often fail to challenge work place norms and in doing so hold fast to limiting beliefs such as, I have to be at work before the boss arrives and stay till after he/she has left.  How do you know that?  Have you actually asked him or her directly?
  2. Turn statements and beliefs into better questions.  Instead of I have to work long hours to be successful, ask yourself If I could be successful by swapping the long hours for working smarter, how would I do that?
  3. Learn how to influence others constructively.  Creating an integrated life requires compromise and effective negotiation techniques are a powerful skill to master. Positive conversations with your boss (eg about working shorter hours or working from home), partner and children (to help out more around the house) are simple when you know how.

All puzzles are easy to solve once you have the solution.  Remember, you don’t have a ‘work’ and a ‘life’ – you only have one life. Don’t you owe it to yourself and those you care about to integrate the parts to make it work well for you?

Find out more about how to create an integrated life in my book, The Great Life Redesign – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen today.  It will be available from all good bookstores and online in January.

Carpe Diem

Caroline Cameron

 

 

 

Beat the Back-to-Work Blues

Dreading the thought of going back to work?

Beat the Back to Work BluesYou know you’ve got them when that gnawing dread that started on Sunday afternoon moves to the pit of your stomach.  As you head off to work on Monday morning there’s a sinking feeling that just won’t shift and when you think back, this isn’t the first time you’ve felt like this.

With an endless stream of back to back meetings, relentless emails to deal with and looming deadlines, the thought of going back to work on Monday is often the low light of the week. To make matters worse, researchers have found that Monday morning is the most common time of the week to suffer a heart attack and the link with workdread seems more than a coincidence.

Yet the start of the work week doesn’t need to be dreaded.  Imagine how it would be if you looked forward to Monday morning as much as you do Friday evening? Even if you don’t love your job, it is possible to convert that sinking feeling by shifting the way you think about work.

Here are some simple ways to get you started:

Identify what’s within your control and forget the rest

Many people feel frustrated about things they actually can’t or don’t know how to influence.  This includes the behaviours of others, the direction their company is taking or the tedious trip to work.  Investing energy in these is wasted.  The only person you
have full control over is you – including the way you think and act.

Decide what you want control over and take constructive steps.

You actually do have more control than you realise over many of the stressors that are driving your Monday morning dread.  This includes your workload which can be successfully negotiated with your manager and others (when you know how). Taking time on Monday morning to set clear goals for the week ahead will keep you focused on what’s important and help you achieve more of what matters. This can be as simple as blocking out a sacred hour on Monday morning in your calendar for planning.

If your job really has ‘done its day’ and there’s nothing more to do or achieve, take steps to plan and implement your next career move.  This could be as simple as identifying what you love to do and how you can best use your strengths and then researching all the options.

Notice what you’re telling yourself – it’s absolutely true!

Nothing has meaning except the one you put on it and this can be easily changed. If you believe your job is stressful, boring or frustrating, you’re right, it is.  Yet by shifting your ‘truth’ to a more empowering belief, you’ll instantly change the way you feel about it.  I used to believe that my 2 hour daily commute on the clogged freeway was a complete waste of time.  Regularly stressed about being late to work or collecting my daughter from day care, I resented that freeway like nothing else!

Yet I soon realised there was nothing I could do about how slowly the traffic moved and as the alternative routes were equally slow, the only thing I could change was my attitude.  Allowing an extra 10 minutes each day was a practical first step – if I
got to where I was going early, that was a bonus.

I also saw my twice daily commute as ‘my time’ – time between work and home where I could sit in my own little bubble, listen to my music rather than the Wiggles and reflect on the day that was.  The positive effect of changing my thinking was instant and dramatic.  I planned the day ahead on the drive into work; no longer took work problems home (they were solved on the drive home) and had regular, daily time to just ‘be’.

There are many other ways to shift that back-to-work-Monday sinking feeling.  What’s your best tip for bowling into work eager and ready to enjoy the week ahead?

Carpe diem

Caroline Cameron

 

 

Too much to do, too little time – are you busier than ever?

Something’s puzzling me and I can’t quite work it out.

Too much to do, too little timeToday, we have more time-saving, convenience creating, effort reducing resources than ever before and yet we seem to be busier, more stressed and time poor.

I just don’t get it.  There’s now an app for everything and you can DIY or outsource pretty much anything so in theory, life should be getting easier, right?  Wrong!

As as an executive coach visiting clients in various city offices, I notice an insidious, entrenched and common theme.  My clients are smart people working for  corporate, government and non-profit organizations, all with very different purposes and yet one way or another, they all lament their lack of time.  Here are some of the expressions I hear often – maybe you relate to them:

  • I don’t have the bandwidth
  • I’m in back to back meetings all week so won’t have time…
  • My inbox is killing me
  • We’re really stretched at the moment
  • There isn't time (the common cry of a pressured project team juggling multiple priorities as they stare down the barrel at a ‘go live’ for their system in 3 weeks)

The ‘inbox’ one was interesting.  One guy had over 2,000 unread emails in his inbox and his way of surviving the email tsunami was to ignore them until the sender spoke to him directly.  “I figure that if it’s important enough, they’ll come around and talk to me or pick up the phone.”  Hmmm, sounds good in theory but I wonder how that works if the email is from the CEO.

Yet, he’s also onto something here – he's Filtering.  By prioritizing his emails based on a set of criteria (in his case the personal contact effort made by the sender), he’s filtering in what he believes is important and ignoring the rest.

With millions of bytes of information coming at us every second, we’d soon drown in overload if we didn’t filter it.  Our natural reaction is to distort, delete or generalise as a mechanism to keep control of our lives.  Yet, if that was an effective technique, why are we all still so busy?

If this is how it is for you, it's time to spring clean your filters.

Like every other useful resource we can call on, our information filters need routine maintenance.  Over time they become clogged with the exhaust fumes of life.  Rather than consciously and regularly sifting out the obsolete and unnecessary crud whilst keeping the important, they become blocked.

Understand what’s driving your ‘busy’.

Our actions are driven by an underlying cause that often isn’t connected to the activity or its outcome.  This can include ‘a need to be needed’, a determination to be seen to be 'on top of it all' ( superwoman/man syndrome – a common one for perfectionists and high achievers), or procrastination because we’re not sure what to do or how to do it.  This can lead to aimless ‘fluffing’ and before you know it, you’ve blown hours or days and achieved little more than frustration.

Recognising the real cause of your lack of time helps you take steps to reclaim it.  Think about it – if we valued time as much as we value money, wouldn’t we have more rather than less?  Imagine how different it would be if you had plenty of time in the bank and were time rich rather than time poor.

Decide what's important

The best way to get the ‘busy’ under control is to check in on what’s most important and ensure you’re focus is largely on your main priorities.  Do you really need to attend that meeting that you know will go round in circles or is it just that you don’t want to
miss out on being 'in the know'?

Know what matters most

Check that your priorities will make a real difference.  One of the best ways to identify this is to ask, “Of all the things I’ve got on my plate, which will make the most difference a hundred years from now?” Chances are not many, but it’s a sobering thought.  If it doesn't really matter – don't do it!  Choosing not to do something is surprisingly liberating.

Identify the best return on your time investment.

If there were no limits, what would you choose to be doing right now?  Yes, you do have a choice as to how you spend your time, far more often than you realize.  Which task is going to pay back far more than the time you'll invest in it?  This is a great way of stripping out the time wasters from your day.

Clogged filters are making us busy.  That’s my theory but I’m sure it’s not the whole story. With so much more at our fingertips to ‘save time’, why do you think we’re still soooo busy?

Carpe diem

Caroline Cameron