Lately, I have been noticing that the stress levels of everyday life - my own and many
other people's - seem to be escalating, even though it seemed not so long ago that they couldn't get much higher. By now it's commonplace to bemoan the 24/7 quality of all our lives, the near-impossibility of untethering from the office, the constant clamoring for our attention on all channels at all hours. A lot of the stress we experience is a product of the life we lead today, with no real down time to rest and recover.
The funny thing is, the stress seems to build whether we are dealing with bad situations or good news. There is just constant pressure to do more and be more in all parts of our lives. I frequently hear people who have just been promoted or are starting a new job wondering how they will adjust to what they see as the inevitable extra demands of the new situation. Despite some statistics showing that all of us "information workers" have
become far more productive in the past few years thanks to exploding technological advances, we all feel that we have less time, while we are being asked to attend to a lot more.
Even the acknowledged need to be more balanced in our lives seems to be adding to the pressure: When will there be time to go to the gym? How can we make more time for family and friends when our lives are already scheduled six months out? How can
we find a block of time to take a vacation? You can find the cultural clues of this life-induced stress everywhere as the marketplace responds by offering condensed versions of what used to be called recreational activities.
There are plenty of stress management techniques available, many of them tailored to fit an overburdened lifestyle. Many of them work quite well, at least for a time; some of
them can become additional stressors in and of themselves - am I meditating the right way? I'm convinced, though, that the best way to manage the kind of global stress we are dealing with is with a more global solution: a change of thought.
The experts will tell you that the biggest cause of stress is the feeling of not being in control of your own situation. That's easy to understand, because we all connect to
that feeling of helplessness in the face of larger forces. What we forget, though, is that we are always in control of our own thoughts and our own internal response to the external events we can't control. It's that verity that can change your entire stance in your world - mental, emotional, and physical. Simply stated, no one can put stress on you if you don't choose to experience it as stress.
When you begin to see stress from that perspective, you are able to manage it - really, manage yourself - much more easily. A helpful analogy might be the principle at work in the practice of the martial arts - moving with the force rather than against it. The feeling you get is one of lightness, almost weightlessness, rather than the pressing heaviness of stress as we are used to experiencing it. This is more than a mind game;
it is a fundamental shift in how you manage your own energy. And as a leader in your organization, the energy you project will reverberate throughout the group.
The best way to begin working toward this shift in thought is to practice pausing briefly throughout your busy day, noticing your own energetic state, and imagining for a moment how you would feel if you were totally at rest. Moving back and forth between
these states will help you begin to flex the anti-stress muscle that's already there inside you.
Coaching can support you in developing your capacity to shift your own thinking as a leader in your organization. Call (410)626-6008, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to explore your options.
Here's one of my favorite quick techniques for pausing and shifting the
energy within yourself, and it relies only on your own breath; this is a yoga breathing exercise from Dr. Andrew Weil:
- Sit up, with your back straight (eventually you'll be able to do this exercise in any position).
- Place your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- Repeat this cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Try to do this breathing exercise at least twice a day. You can repeat the whole sequence as often as you wish, but don't do more than four breaths
at one time for the first month of practice. (This exercise is fairly intense and has a profound effect on the nervous system -- more is neither necessary nor better for you.)
Today's smart phones contain more computing power than the Apollo moon rockets.
Companies that have put new systems into place to comply with government regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are finding these investments can also help them to improve business processes, according to a survey of 332 companies by AMR Research. Nearly 75% of respondents plan to use their compliance systems to support other activities.
A survey of 2,000 senior executives and managers in hundreds of businesses, conducted by Darwin
magazine, found that less than 1% of them thought most people in business today were extremely balanced when it came to work and personal life.
Using search engines to find systems vulnerabilities. Hackers can use carefully crafted
searches to find things like open ports, overly revealing error messages or even password files on a target organization's computer systems. Any search engine can do this; Google just happens to be the name that has become almost synonymous with search engine.
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success by Karl Albrecht. What I like about it: Many of my executive clients tell me that they are "just not good at" being "touchy-feely"; the author of this book explains why
the ability to get along with others and get them to cooperate with you is not only important to success, and that it is a competency that can be learned and practiced using a set of practical models and tools.
Executive Coach, Strategy Consultant
Principal, Bloomfield Associates
Share what you're into - books, articles, movies, music, websites
- with others on the list! Send us the title and author or other pertinent information, along with a sentence or two on what you like about it, and if we use it in A Different Optic we'll not only quote you, we'll provide a link to you or your website.
"Happiness is realizing that nothing is too important."
- Antonio Gala (Spanish writer)
|Do you know someone else who might be interested in reading this? Send it to them now by clicking here.|
If you wish to subscribe to
A Different Optic, please click here to send an email request or visit the newsletter section of our website.
Beth Bloomfield is serving as a coach for students in the Executive MBA Program at the Robert H. Smith School of Business of the University of Maryland.
Other recent additions to the client list of Bloomfield Associates include the
MITRE Corporation and Lockheed Martin.