As anybody how they are and the likely answer will be “busy, just so busy”. We all know that keeping pace with the fast-changing business environment and the sheer quantity of work, especially in a more globalised world, means work is eroding our down time. For many of us lunch breaks seem a thing of the past and work follows us home intruding into the time we want to spend with friends and family. How often doesn’t an email ping at the dinner table or you need to take an urgent call while on holiday. In the recent Australian Psychological Survey on Stress and Well-being 32% cited the workplace as a major cause stress in their lives.
Although a little bit of pressure is good for us when we spend too much time in what psychologists call the ‘Doing’ mode it can making us feel stressed, over-whelmed and out of balance. In order to cope we often run on auto-pilot that makes us very head driven and reactive which in the end can work against use. Instead we need to learn how to be in the ‘Being’ mode where we can step back and make choices about how we respond and restore some feeling of balance to our lives. Here are my favourite ways to bring some balance into your daily life.
- Take a Break – learn to pace the day rather than going for hours upon hours of sitting at your desk pressing on and becoming less productive. When we do stop, we feel exhausted and resort to caffeine and other stimulants to re-start us for the next marathon round of work. A better alternative is chunk the day up into little pieces of say 30 minutes. Use a timer on your phone to remind you. Then get up, stretch, take a walk, fetch some water and take a few deep breaths. Try this for a few days, your body and your mind will thank you.
- Schedule email time – it’s very tempting to react to every email as soon as it lands in the inbox but this can often lead to multi-tasking which has been proven to increase stress levels and reduce productivity. It’s better to set aside specific time slots in the day to work on emails and attend to them properly. Giving yourself time to read and respond to them.
- Make Time for Relaxation – prioritise times in the week when work doesn’t intrude into your life or even into your mind. It’s important not to see this time as an opportunity to slump in a chair, watch TV and drink. Use this downtime to pro-actively to improve your physical and mental. Doing things that get you out of your head into a more ‘sensing’ mode are particularly beneficial for example having a massage, going for walk in nature without your phone, having a swim or going for a surf. Whatever you choose to do make sure you tune to the senses – really smell the flowers, feel the water on your skin, or the sensations of the massage soothing away your tension.
- Breathe – we can use the breath as an anchor for the mind. When you feel frazzled, stop and take a few long slow deep breaths. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, releasing calming hormones like oxytocin which counter-balance the stress hormones. Sense the breath in the belly and then see if you feel the breath in the back of the body. After a minute or two you’ll feel more centred, calmer and able to return to whatever you are doing.
My overall advice is be gentle and kind to yourself, take breaks before you need them and use the ever present breath to restore a sense of balance wherever you are and at any time of the day.