How Successful Are You If Stress Is Ruining Your Health?
It is not uncommon to hear of a highly successful person who succumbs to a heart attack or some form of cancer. We all have that friend who works crazy hours and constantly has a cold or an infection.
The question is, how successful are you if you bring in a big salary but suffer through a preventable health condition? What retirement are you going to be able to enjoy if you’re not taking care of your health now? It’s not just about eating and exercising, though these two components are certainly foundational. It’s about managing your stress level so you don’t have the “fight or flight” hormones (adrenaline and cortisol, to name two) raging through your system on an ongoing basis, compromising your immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, overexposure to stress hormones puts you at a greater risk for heart disease, sleep problems, digestive issues, depression, obesity, memory impairment, and skin conditions.
To ensure you can enjoy the success for which you’ve worked so hard, start taking the opportunity to reduce your exposure to the stress hormones and increase your exposure to the “feel good” hormones.
1. Get away from your computer and go for a walk or get in a quick workout.
There are multiple benefits to this. Not only are you getting some fresh air, improving your circulation and burning some calories, you’re giving yourself some mental downtime. Oftentimes, creative ideas come when you get a change of environment or activity. Mental fatigue is much more debilitating than physical fatigue. You can push through physical fatigue for a short while, but there’s no hiding mental fatigue.
Signs of mental fatigue:
- You find yourself staring glassy eyed at the same document and not reading anything.
- You have to ask people to speak slowly and use small words so you can keep up with the conversation.
- Common problems become overwhelming.
- You have become addicted to Solitaire or some other game or require two or more hours of TV after work. (What’s important to note is you require an activity that doesn’t require you to think too hard.)
- Creativity, innovation and solutions are slow in coming.
2. Limit the amount of hours you work.
I know, I know…you HAVE to work that many hours to get ahead. I’ve been there myself, and I know how powerless I felt at first to make a change. Consider how many extra hours you are working because you mentally check out throughout the day and tasks take longer than they should. This is your mind’s way of telling you it is overwhelmed. This is a vicious cycle. The more you overwork yourself, the less productive you’re going to become. Don’t work more hours trying to fix the problem. In this case, more hours is the problem.
Start with looking at all your responsibilities:
- If you’re someone’s boss, what can you delegate? There are likely people working under you who would love the opportunity to show you they can do more and be trusted with more complicated tasks.
- Can you trade off tasks? Is there a coworker responsible for a task you would prefer? Would they be open to the one you dread? Sure, there are tasks you have to do that represent a hoop you must jump through to get to the next level. Barring that, be creative. Just because you don’t like a task doesn’t mean everyone feels that way. Tasks you enjoy will get done more quickly and will give you more energy. At the very least, they won’t drain you.
- What process or task could be done more efficiently? Look for unnecessary redundancies, time wasters, tracking that could be automated…etc. You may need to invest some extra time doing the research and development of a new system, but if the payoff is hours saved, it’s worth it.
3. Use centering techniques throughout the day.
This is a proven method for maintaining focus, reducing stress and promoting creative thinking. The only investment is time and can be as little as 5-15 minutes. More often than not, people avoid this because it requires practice or they feel foolish. Get past those initial hesitations and you’ll reap big rewards. Find a place you will not be disturbed and go for it.
4. Spend more time with people who make you feel good (and your pets).
Oxytocin is one of our body’s hormones that has been dubbed the “trust hormone” because it promotes bonding and empathy. While increasing feelings of trust, it concurrently diminishes feelings of fear and anxiety. Hugging naturally causes the release of oxytocin, but don’t fret if you are not a hugger. Oxytocin can be released just in knowing someone better, being supported by a friend or giving people chances.
To ensure you are enjoying the benefits of all your hard work, be sure you are taking care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. Would it be nice if you could leave work at work and explore pleasurable pursuits during your down time rather than just shutting down when you get through the door? If you didn’t need several days of your vacation just to unwind? It takes awareness and a commitment to look for the signs of stress and overwhelm and respond to them, but the payoffs are huge.