We live in a world where chronic stress seems to be the norm, from demanding jobs, lack of time, high pressure, economic uncertainty, and just general busyness.
The feelings of being stressed, overwhelmed, frazzled, distracted, exhausted, at the end of your tether, and hurried seem to be regular themes in our conversations. (How often do we look or feel this way?!)
And the effect on us is not going unnoticed. Bear with me while I give you some stats (because everyone loves a stat, right?): The 2014/2015 national statistics in the UK show that there were 440 000 reported cases of illness related to work stress, depression and anxiety. 48% of Americans say stress has a negative impact on both their personal and professional lives, with stress being the root cause of burn out, which costs US businesses $300 billion lost in productivity each year.
Ironic though, that the main factors cited as causing this stress were work load pressures, tight deadlines, too much responsibility and not enough support. Not to mention the effect chronic stress has on our personal lives: it is not unreasonable to assume there is a relationship between stress and our lifestyles with obesity and high divorce rates.
I’m painting a gloomy picture, I know – but this blog post is not to depress you, rather to acknowledge the strain we live under and to help you and me keep our wellbeing a top priority in our lives!
I myself have felt in this ‘survive mode’. The sort of place were I was thinking/worrying about work all the time; had very little time off, and when I did I was exhausted and didn’t want to see friends, only to hole up in my room and watch endless Netflix series while eating M&M’s. And yes, I had a few cries too – cue Bridget Jones moment with a bottle of red wine singing All By Myself at the top of my lungs – due to work, not a man though (which probably didn’t help matters!).
This was not how I wanted to live. This was not my best me.
The thing is, a bit of stress and challenge is necessary in order to become more resilient and better able to cope with things in the future. It literally stretches our ability to do things. And let’s be honest, when you’re ambitious you’re going to have to keep putting yourself in uncomfortable places to get where you want to go. However, being chronically stressed and overwhelmed for long periods of time is not good, obviously. Bridget Jones singing as just one example.
There will be times in your life where it’ll be easy, and thriving will come effortlessly, hallelujah! But there will be times you will have to brace yourself and prepare to deal, and sometimes you may even choose to put yourself in those situations to get what you want.
I am thankful for those times, because it has made me realise how passionate I am about thriving, and about understanding what makes me and other people thrive, and creating cultures and environments where that happens – from our relationships to our business and places of work. How can we create environments where people perform at their best, AND feel great?
As a performance coach, my job is to help people find their ‘thrive zone’, and I am particularly passionate about it, because as I said I’ve experienced that survive mode. And I know, just know, that my wellbeing, happiness, health, relationships, performance, creativity and everything else, can do so much better when I’m thriving.
But we don’t always have control over the situation and sometimes need to tough out circumstances by choice, or not. So where can we take the control back? Because ultimately it comes down to control. If you’re in survive mode, you’re more than likely not in control of many of the things happening in your life; if you’re thriving, there is probably a very large element of autonomy and control in your life. We humans want, and need, to feel empowered.
So here is where the control goes to you… You can determine what you will use to create your magical formula to thrive, that is unique to you. You can start small, you can start with one big hit, you can tweak something, you can experiment and reflect and come up with your own elixir – because you know you best, your lifestyle, the challenges, the circumstances, what has worked, what hasn’t.
It’s worth keeping in mind that there is no hard and fast rule, no threshold for coping, no magic formula for thriving. There are however obvious risk factors which cause stress and burnout to happen, and there is a lot of research into what works to buffer stress, and help you cope better, feel good and thrive.
So here are some of my suggestions for your wellbeing plan, to help you combat stress, and take back your ‘thrive’ in this often hectic world we live in. It’s based on research and on my own personal experimentation. Think of it like alchemy – a dash of creativity, a regular daily dose of wellbeing, a pinch of playfulness… A pick-and-mix to help you thrive and flourish!
Top Tips to Combat Stress and Thrive!
In Body, Mind and Spirit...
The Basics – If you do nothing else, do the basics! Sleep, eat, exercise and repeat and just that will change everything. You cannot build a house on a dodgy foundation – consider these your building blocks to a solid foundation. Everything else is just the coconut flakes sprinkled on top!
The Therapies – Talking, dancing, creative pursuits like art, making music, or acupuncture, sex… Whatever floats your boat – in a healthy way of course.
Downtime and rest – Sometimes bingeing on your favourite TV series is a necessity!
Affirmations – I’m not going to lie, whenever I read about people who pontificate about the benefits of ‘positive thinking’ and affirmations I kind of have a little reflux. And now, I am one of those people. I, am a convert. Feel free to roll your eyes, but then try it, seriously!
I’m not talking about silly little affirmations in the mirror like ‘You’re great!’ said with Leonardo Di Caprio smugness (but if that works for you, go right ahead!). I decided to write my own affirmations – things that I need to remind myself, things that mean something to me, things that resonate deeply with me. And I read them every morning. And it has changed my mood and my attitude. So perhaps write your own affirmations and it’ll work for you too.
Worry time – Set aside some worry time. I use my runs for this. I let my mind ruminate on all the things I’m worryied about or feel anxious about, and by the time I’m finished my run, I’m done with the worrying (worrying is fairly boring, is it not?).
Journalling – Being able to splurge my thoughts and feelings onto paper is therapeutic (it is also freeing to not have to worry about spelling, grammar, and just write without judgement!). Plus there is also a lot of evidence that it helps you gain perspective on things, and even just the act of getting it out of you helps matters.
Be organised – We live in a busy world, make your life easier by being organised, planning and looking ahead and preparing for tough periods, and learning to say no.
Take action – If you’re worried about something or need to change something, figure out where you have control, and do something, however small, about it. This small action can turn the tide on your power.
Know your why – My personal favourite: know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Is it because you have to or need to? Is there a purpose or end goal to it? Knowing our why can dramatically help us get through things. Though saying that, if you’re really going through a crap time, you need to ask yourself if the why is worth it. Hard times are good for making us reflect and consciously decide what we really want, or don’t want as the case may be.
Go Zen – Though I don’t practice meditation as much as I’d like to (new goal), I’m a big believer in its benefits. If you don’t feel the meditation vibe, even the act of being mindful is a form of meditation – it is about being present in the moment.
Get outside – Go outside, to a park, by water, anywhere in nature and take some deep breaths. There is something wonderfully calming about being outdoors, and it puts the universe and our little worlds into perspective.
Take a holiday – Sun, sea, sand, and sangria, I’m feeling relaxed already!
Take up a hobby – Thriving outside of work, makes us thrive in work! People who flourish in non work activities report 80% better health and 89% greater thriving at work.
Have fun and laugh!
Your tribe – The wonderful people who listen to you, support you and see you through the good and the bad. My advice is you need these people at work and at home.But you also need to know the value of alone time. I really enjoy and quite frankly need alone time – but know when you need to be alone to top up your resources, and know when you need to be with other people. Find your own awesome balance of alone time/social support – everyone is different and has different needs in this department.
And finally, good luck! My wish to you is that you find places where you thrive and bloom, and also find your own magical formula for thriving in those tough places!
I leave you with some resources that I myself use and whole heartedly recommend:
If you want to know more about thriving read Flourish by Martin Seligman or Thrive by Arianna Huffington.
I love my Happiness Journal from Kikki K – it is a great tool for reminding you of the big picture and what is really important.
Calm is a free and simple to use app for beginning your meditation journey.
If you would like to get in touch or talk more about this topic, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via social media: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for some daily inspiration and quotes.