WMB’s Ten Stress-Busting Tips
4th March 2015
In an effort to combat stress, or at least learn to cope with it, Rosemary Delaney has devised the WMB Ten Stress-Busting Tips to keep you in harmony when all those nail-biting moments creep up on you.
They are based on experience, rather than science, and are just some ways that she has learned to be more proactive.
Our current economic situation has forced all of us to stretch ourselves even more. As businesses cut their staffing levels in order to stay afloat, there is little room for manoeuvre. Those left behind express feelings of relief tempered with frustration. You not only have to be as good as your last deal, you now have to be better. Projects take twice as long to complete, because clients demand twice as much. The atmosphere is constantly changing as battles are won, and lost. The pressure is on and you must rise to the challenge repeatedly.
Perhaps, instead of looking at where you are now, reflect on how far you have come. Seldom is acknowledgement bestowed on us for a job well done – such are the crisis management roles many of us find ourselves taking on. But you can pat yourself on the back and acknowledge how far you have come on your journey and how much you have achieved. I recall speaking to an audience of female entrepreneurs and I asked them to take a moment and literally pat themselves on the back. They had survived the cull, and they needed to acknowledge this great feat. They bashfully laughed, they patted, then they understood. Lesson learned.
Getting the work−life balance right is a somewhat clichéd debate. Balance implies a state of equilibrium and I have, as yet, to meet a person who exudes this aura of perfection. As I attempted to balance my private and professional life, I began to notice that all I was doing was stressing myself out. On one hand, I wanted to be a domestic goddess and, on the other, a publishing diva – all I was achieving was half-baked cupcakes on the back of half-finished project plans.
I recall attending a networking event and sitting at a table of strangers. We were having a discussion about our challenges and, as I heard myself speak, my little inner voice was saying the words, ‘This is it. Learn to live with it.’ Another more seasoned businesswoman at the table piped up to inform me that the life of an entrepreneur doesn’t get any easier – it’s the path we choose. I decided from that point that I would not strive for balance but would learn to accept with open arms the positive state of imbalance.
I’m haphazard at exercise. Despite having two dogs and a fabulous park facility nearby, I always make excuses. I’m usually too busy or just too tired to get those walking shoes on. All of us are time poor. However, we know that the more exercise we get, the more energy we have. I’ve done two things to rectify the status quo. During the finer months, I leave the car at home on at least two days in the week. I am therefore ‘forced’ to take the Luas, and to walk the twenty minutes to the stop in the morning and back in the evening.
If everyone decided to take this initiative, not only would they be healthier but they would also satisfy their ‘green’ conscience. Job done. For the not-so-nice evenings, I have invested in a cross trainer and, five out of seven nights, I do twenty minutes’ exercise, which equates to 7 kilometres or 160 calories lost. When you do this, and see how much sweat it takes to work off 160 calories, you soon question that little biscuit that’s saying ‘Eat me’! I can confirm that the more I exercise, the better I feel. It releases all that pent-up emotion and unwanted stress from the day’s happenings.
If you go into the office each day, you probably tend to dress according to the company culture. Therefore, when you come home, it’s a good idea to change out of your work clothes into something more relaxing. Basically, you’re shifting your mood and acknowledging that you’re now in a different, more stress-free space. If you, like many, now work remotely from home, it’s vital that you get into an appropriate routine. Don’t linger in your dressing- gown just because you can. Ensure your office space at home is sufficient to allow you to function efficiently and effectively.
Avoid positioning your chair with your back to the door and ensure there’s plenty of natural light. Be aware of time but not overtly so. I have never used an alarm clock to get up. In fact, Jack Black, founder of MindStore, teaches people who attend his programmes how to live without this ‘alarming’ device. It has been an accepted ritual by millions over the decades to actually be awoken out of a deep sleep with a jolt – not a great way to kick-start the day and even, I would say, rather stressful.
It’s amazing how little basic planning we do. I’m always disappointed by the lack of goal setting that goes on around me. I’m not suggesting for one moment that people have to strive for greatness, but they should aim for those goals that will give them a more fulfilling and happy life. As demands for our time increase tenfold, it’s the omission of the little details that can sometimes scupper the bigger picture. Each evening before you finish work, plan the next day and commit your plan to paper. Prioritise those tasks that need to be done and ensure that you’ve allowed yourself enough leeway to complete them.
Technology can be your best friend when planning. As I type this book on my laptop, I can access my office computer by remote dial up. I’m also surrounded by my other gadgets: my iPhone, which is as much a part of my handbag as my credit cards, and my wonderful iPad. All help me connect, all help to organise my day, if used appropriately. Avoid those time stealers (e.g. constantly checking your emails and Twitter) and you’ll avoid unnecessary stress and distraction.
6. PMA – The Opposite of PMT!
A positive mental attitude is something that you may have inherently.For those not so lucky, you can develop this trait once you become aware of its effectiveness. Each morning I routinely ask my young daughter if she has everything – her homework, lunchbox and her positive mental attitude. She has a lively disposition and always cracks a laugh. In fact, she wakes up singing. Her positivity is contagious. Not only is it important for you to recognize and nurture this positivity in yourself, but you also need to ensure that you surround yourself with like-minded individuals.
We all know the adage ‘Life is too short’, so don’t make it any shorter by allowing others to stress you out. A positive mental attitude is one that sees the glass half full, not half empty. It comes into play when you look at a problem and see an opportunity.
7. News Blackout
Let’s face it, you rarely see good news hit the headlines. We’re bombarded by news through so many avenues – radio, newspapers, TV, RSS feeds and various social networking channels. Unfortunately, as serious crimes such as murder and rape become more the norm than the exception, we become somewhat desensitised. As we read about tsunamis, earthquakes, war and famine, we thank our lucky stars that it’s not on our own doorsteps.
But look at what is – human trafficking, paedophile rings and gangland slayings. News is obviously important from the point of view of understanding the society in which we live. It is important to be informed. And since I work in the media, it would be difficult to abide by a news curfew anyway. However, news should be digested at a rate that is acceptable to your own well-being. I have often read stories, especially those to do with neglect or abuse of children, that send tears rolling down my cheeks. Empathy is a positive human trait. However, overdosing on news can cause anxiety and increased negativity. Continuous over-exposure is a recipe for disaster.
8. Passionate Pursuits
Although time is a scarce commodity these days, and we may struggle to give time to things not work- or family-related, it is good to remember that taking time for your health is a worthy thing to do. I find that, when I’m in the thick of so many projects and deadlines, it’s important to be able to take a step back in order to find the impetus to move forward again.
A walk in a leafy park can bring you closer to nature and to a more balanced state of being; a brush and blank canvas can inspire your visual senses; an impromptu spa treatment can unlock the aches and pains of a stressful and demanding schedule. I’m a confirmed shopaholic and nothing beats a morning of retail therapy followed by a leisurely lunch. It all sounds perfectly decadent, but when you work hard you also need to occasionally be good to yourself – after all, you’re worth it!
9. Motivational Messaging
Over the years, I’ve come across some great authors and speakers, people who seem to have a unique window into life. I’ve already touched on Jack Black’s MindStore and Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. Hill also co-wrote a book with W. Clement Stone entitled Success through a Positive Mental Attitude. He introduces the work with the line: ‘The greatest secret of success is: there’s no secret’ (p.17). I’ve been touched by Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, James Redfield’s Celestine Prophecy and Eckhart Tolle’s spiritually enlightening The Power of Now.
However, inspirational soundings can come from closer quarters, provided we open our ears – and minds − to hear them. As a woman in business, I was inspired when Mary Robinson said: ‘I was elected by the women of Ireland, who, instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.’ Motivational messaging is all around us, provided we are tuned into its airwaves.
A recent study led by a team of Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital has documented meditation produced changes over time in regions of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The study’s senior author Sara Lazar, a Harvard Medical School instructor in Psychology, referred to the common link between meditation and a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, but also demonstrated possible cognitive and psychological benefits. This is all good news, as I, for one, would be happy to improve my memory capabilities while decreasing my stress levels.
For me, meditation is visiting a peaceful place that quietens the brain and allows total rest. It’s escapism of sorts. I use visualism, a form of seeing something clearly in my mind. I think of somewhere that I have visited in my past – a place where I have felt totally at one with nature.
We all need to find these memories, these episodes in time, that allow us to feel totally content and at peace. Achieving this state can take time and effort and you may find you want some help with the process. Jack Black of MindStore teaches how to achieve this state of mind. Many people who practise yoga enter a similarly calm state of mind. Meditation, visualisation − call it what you will. We all need to positively connect with nature and with our souls.
This is an edited extract from Rosemary Delaney’s book: Women Mean Business: One Woman’s Journey into Entrepreneurship (2011).
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