"The proportion of being to doing determines your life character."
So many of us have an accepted standard to be busy, to have too much to do, to rush from one thing to another. We are trying to keep pace with the world's growing expectations for speed and efficiency: overnight delivery, fast food, same day professional services, email, instant messaging. The Internet has created a giant, global store that's never closed. Common strategies to keep up the pace are reliance on caffeine, adrenaline and life drama: using crisis, chaos, deadlines, and fear of negative consequences to keep ourselves moving. This reactive stance is a formula for burn-out, and a major obstacle to energetic and balanced living.
Stress-related illness is on the rise. Recent studies report that 72% of workers assessed experience chronic stress-related physical and mental conditions. Depression has doubled every year since the 1920's. At least one million workers per day are absent from work due to stress-related conditions; and one in three workers expect to experience job burn-out. Unmanaged, chronic stress increases the risk of heart disease more than tobacco or high cholesterol. Some studies have shown that people experiencing depression, anger and anxiety due to chronic stress are two times more likely to contract a major disease or serious illness. Stress is also a key element of the loss of business productivity. Chronic stress reduces the capacity of the human system, creating overactive responses from our adrenal and nervous system leading to chronic fatigue, burnout and serious illness.
But more important than these sobering statistics, stress zaps our energy and robs us of our potential to enjoy life. Energy for life comes largely from taking superb care of yourself. You need to rejuvenate with good sources of fuel to compensate for the energy used in daily life. Yet thoughts of self-care often evoke negative images of selfishness. Many people think that by taking care of themselves, it takes something away from those around them. Our desire to take care of others is healthy. But true generosity flows from a source that is full and overflowing. We best serve others and let our highest potential shine through when we take the time to nurture ourselves and make sure our own deepest needs are met.
Taking extreme care of yourself will help you go beyond just trying to manage the stress in your life. A healthier goal is stress relief. Here are some essential energizers to get you started on a zero-tolerance, stress-busting campaign.
Connect Actions to Values - Your Bottom Line:
Half-hearted, inauthentic commitments are huge energy drains. Make sure every decision and commitment you make is driven by what is most important to you. There are many great exercises to help you connect with your deepest values if you don't already know what they are. You can find these in books in the self-help section of your favorite bookstore or through using the services of a personal coach. (Some tools to connect with your core values can be found in the May 1999 issue of On The Learning Edge coaching newsletter at www.TheEdgeCoach.com/may99.html).
Explore Your Beliefs:
Beliefs are our unconscious, shorthand system of drawing meaning and conclusions from our observations of the world around us. Many of the beliefs that once served us well become obsolete, but we don't take the time to slow down and check them out. These are the beliefs that keep us from changing and growing, and going after what we truly want in life. When you find yourself saying something like "it can't happen", or "that's just the way it is", or "I can never...", try making that assumption visible by testing it out further. Look for other perspectives that include how it may not be true. (For more information about exploring your beliefs see the March 99 issue of On The Learning Edge newsletter at http://www.theedgecoach.com/mar99.html).
Invest in "Down" Time:
When we operate at a healthy pace, we're much more creative and productive. Take some quiet time every day. Meditate, write in a journal, doodle, take a walk, do your workout without any visual or audio distraction. Find your best way to slow down and tune in to your inner wisdom. If your body has to compete with the noise of your busy life to be heard, you could be headed for an illness to slow you down. Check in with yourself several times a day. Breathing, stretching, sitting quietly with your eyes closed for a few moments are also wonderful ways to slow down and tune in. When you make these small investments every day, then even during the times when you need to move quickly, you will bring a more centered, mindful quality to your work.
Hire a coach or join a support group to help you define what is truly important to you. Start eliminating the annoyances in your life you're letting yourself put up with. Gain clarity in the standards you want to live your life by, and be clear with others around you what you need and how you want to be treated. In addition to investing in "down time", spend some time every week doing things that give you pleasure. This is even more critical if you don't enjoy your work.
So start right now where you are, and do what you can. Make your well-being an equal priority to doing well. Get yourself the support you need to stay on track. Be patient and persistent with your progress toward stress relief. Unlike Federal Express, it won't happen overnight.
Sheila Adams, M.A. draws on 16 years in business as entrepreneur, executive, trainer, and coach, to guide you toward living your vision. For more information about workshops, teleclasses, and coaching customized for your success, visit The Learning Edge Coaching web site at www.TheEdgeCoach.com or send email to LiveYourDreams@VibrantWomen.com.