Archive for March, 2014

Finding Your Balance: At Work and Home

March 27, 2014

For a lot of people, the pursuit of a healthy work/life balance seems like an impossible goal. In our rush to “get it all done” at the office and at home, it’s easy to forget that, as our stress levels spike, our productivity plummets.

While we all need a certain amount of stress to spur us on and help us perform at our best, the key to managing stress lies in that one magic word: balance. Achieving a healthy work/life balance is an attainable goal.

Here are a few practical steps we can all take to loosen the grip that stress has on us and win back the balance in our lives.

At Home

Turn off your PDA. The same technology that makes it so easy for workers to do their jobs flexibly can also burn us out if we use it 24/7. By all means, make yourself available – especially if you’ve earned the right to “flex” your hours – but recognize the need for personal time, too.

Divide and conquer. Make sure responsibilities at home are evenly distributed and clearly outlined – you’ll avoid confusion and problems later.

Don’t overcommit. Do you feel stressed when you just glance at your calendar? If you’re overscheduled with activities learn to say “no.” Shed the superwoman/superman urge!

Get support. Chatting with friends and family can be important to your success at home – or at work – and can even improve your health. People with stronger support systems have more aggressive immune responses to illnesses than those who lack such support.

Treat your body right. Being in good shape physically increases your tolerance to stress and reduces sick days. Eat right, exercise and get adequate rest. Don’t rely on drugs, alcohol or cigarettes to cope with stress; they’ll only lead to more problems.

At Work

Set manageable goals each day. Being able to meet priorities helps us feel a sense of accomplishment and control. The latest research shows that the more control we have over our work, the less stressed we get. So be realistic about workloads and deadlines. Make a “to do” list, and take care of important tasks first and eliminate unessential ones. Ask for help when necessary.

Be efficient with your time at work. When we procrastinate, the task often grows in our minds until it seems insurmountable. So when you face a big project at work or home, start by dividing it into smaller tasks. Complete the first one before moving on to the next. Give yourself small rewards upon each completion, whether it’s a five-minute break or a walk to the coffee shop. If you feel overwhelmed by routines that seem unnecessary, tell your boss. The less time you spend doing busywork or procrastinating, the more time you can spend productively, or with friends or family.

Communicate effectively. Be honest with colleagues or your boss when you feel you’re in a bind. Chances are, you’re not alone. But don’t just complain – suggest practical alternatives. Looking at a situation from someone else’s viewpoint can also reduce your stress. In a tense situation, either rethink your strategy or stand your ground, calmly and rationally. Make allowances for other opinions, and compromise. Retreat before you lose control, and allow time for all involved to cool off. You’ll be better equipped to handle the problem constructively later.

It’s Not My Fault!

March 10, 2014

Why is it that we seem to experience the same problems and issues over and over again? Often our unexamined thoughts create what happens in our lives. For example, on the day you are in the biggest rush, it seems every light turns red and every driver is in your lane. But it is really your own hurry that makes you sensitive to what is between you and your destination. The obstacle is internal.

Some obstacles are external. Circumstances out of your control sneak up on you and knock you out of your routine. For example, your flight is delayed, you receive a call that a relative is having emergency surgery; or a coworker quits and leaves you to do the job of two people.

So some obstacles are internal, and others are external. As obvious as this may seem, most people are not aware of the difference. Nor are they aware of how critical it is to understand this distinction.

Internal obstacles are generated entirely on our own. These internal obstacles often get in the way of achieving our personal goals.

External obstacles are imposed or dictated by outside agencies, individuals or forces. Like flight delays and hospitalized friends, some things are simply out of your control. The trick is realizing the difference, and then taking action.

“As humans, we have a natural tendency to take the internal obstacles and assign them an external cause, thus perpetuating the problem,” says self-help author Dr. David R. Cox. “Once you identify and understand that your obstacles and determine whether they are internal or external, you can deal with them and achieve your goals.”

“Life is about what we make happen,” says Cox’s colleague Dr. Don Sanders. “As manager of your own life, once you recognize the truth of this you can proactively deal with both the external and internal problems that life presents.”

According to Cox and Sanders, your choices about how you deal with these factors will determine the following:

  • Will you achieve your goals or give in to unconscious compliance?
  • Are you enthusiastic, purposeful and productive? Or do you experience reduced personal productivity, frustration and burnout?
  • Are you optimistic, positive and upbeat? Or do you experience bouts of depression and self-doubt?

Once you understand the obstacles you face, you become committed to ensuring a healthy and productive life.