Most of us live our daily lives on autopilot. We have our own set routine and cram so much into our lives that we don't give much thought to our own well-being. A decade or so ago, if we asked others a simple question like, "How are you?" the standard response we expected to hear was "Fine."
In today’s technologically advanced, fast paced, vastly competitive and economically driven world, the answer to that question is more often than not, "Busy." Busy has become a permanent state of "normal" to a point that when we are not busy, something seems to be wrong.
Being busy, to a large extent, is acceptable as long as we are productive and are able to manage our stress levels. Stress, if not managed properly, can be life threatening.
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death, i.e. heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. More than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
What causes stress at the work place? Unreasonable deadlines, a toxic environment or fear of losing one’s job are some of the reasons people experience high stress levels at work.
Stress, if channeled properly, can help us focus, speed up our learning and memory as well as accelerate our output, giving us a competitive advantage over our peers. However, if our stress levels are unmanageable and are sustained over a long period of time, it can result in mental, emotional and physical damage.
The good news is that in order for us to manage our stress, we don't need to radically overhaul our lives. Small changes that are consistent and applied over a long period of time can make a great impact and reduce our stress levels drastically. Here are some quick tips to manage stress:
Heighten your sense of awareness: Being aware of ourselves and what thoughts we entertain is the first step towards managing stress. We need to "think about what we think."
Whilst we may not be able to choose what thoughts enter our minds, we have the power to choose what thoughts we entertain and what thoughts we dwell on.
Learning to be aware of our thoughts and having the power to choose them is life changing. One sure way of learning to become aware of our own thoughts is to start and end each day with gratitude. Most mornings, no matter how much of a rush I am in, I spend a few minutes "giving thanks" for all the blessings in my life and committing my day to wonderful things that lie ahead of me.
Be proactive instead of reactive: As soon as we recognize what triggers our stress levels, we need to create a "time out" before we respond or retaliate. This can be as simple as pausing and taking a deep breath several times or stepping out of the meeting room for a quick stroll or to grab some coffee.
Being reactive means not only have we have allowed negative thoughts to enter our minds, but we have also given power to them to control us. Recently, whilst working on a deal, I was caught off guard when one of my counterparts made a personal and negative comment. I knew I had a fraction of a second to decide how I was going to respond.
At that particular moment, I reminded myself that I was going to be rational and deal with the issue at hand and not be succumbed into his personal frustrations. The right response to a wrong question/statement can never be right.
We can never reason with an irrational person so it is better to preserve our own sanity and establish clear boundaries of what we will allow into our personal space.
Take charge of your body: Exercise not only produces endorphins, which are also known as "happy hormones," but it also gives us clarity of mind, reduces stress and strengthens our bodies, thereby giving us a stronger sense of self-esteem.
Many of the successful people in the world, such as Warren Buffet, Mark Cuban, Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Michelle Obama and countless others, find a way to incorporate some form of physical exercise into their daily routines. In addition to physical exercise, as the phrase goes, "eat well, live well." We are what we eat so we need to also be mindful of choosing foods that lift our mood instead of making us crash.
Do Things You Enjoy: Engage in extra-curricular activities outside of work to channel your positive energy and creativity. I personally enjoy writing, working out at the gym, baking and taking online courses that contribute to my personal growth and development.
Make an Impact: Contribute your time and/or money to your community or a cause that you feel passionate about. It can be anything from grooming young leaders to supporting a charity, teaching street kids or public speaking. I support a local charity and also speak in schools and universities as much as I can. Making an impact is not only a great act of kindness but it in turn contributes to our positive state of well-being.
Change things you can, if not change your attitude towards them: This is often easier said than done but ultimately, we only have two choices. If we can’t change things, we need to change our attitude towards them. Life is about mountain and valley experiences and we need to get through them both. Having the right attitude during those experiences will lighten the load and enrich our lives.
Take responsibility for your own well-being. The only one who will be with you throughout your life is YOU.
Meena Kumari Adnani is an inspirational writer on social media. Her writing can be found on Facebook under "Strong and Shine" or on Instagram @strongandshine. She is also THE executive vice president of content development and business affairs at First Media.