Whether it’s fleeting, in-the-moment stress or elevated, long-term stress, it’s important to find healthy techniques that allow your mind and body to unwind, relax and regroup. Having spent a decade in wealth management and now running my own business as an entrepreneur, I am no stranger to the fast-paced nature of the work world. Long hours, mounting demands and deadlines, high-pressure — you name it, I’ve felt it. And it wasn’t just taking a toll on me, it was impacting the physical and mental fitness of my colleagues as well.
I had a moment of clarity and realized that I needed to take a step back from my work and focus on what was really important: me!
Avoiding stress, or a feeling of being overwhelmed is nearly impossible; this is a natural part of life and overcoming challenges is what allows us to grow and become even stronger, more powerful versions of ourselves. What is possible is shifting the way you view your stress and learning to better understand and partner with it in healthy ways. If stress isn’t acknowledged and properly managed, it can lead to weight fluctuation, digestive problems, brain fog and even depression. After acknowledging my own levels of stress and its effects on my health, I started implementing four simple concepts into my daily life that helped reduce stress while improving my focus, productivity and creativity.
1. Reduce stress by putting yourself first.
You are the only CEO of your brain and body and the biggest factor in your success, so try to invest in your peace of mind with relaxation activities a little bit each day. Meditation is one of the best techniques, but it can be challenging at first. If you want to become successful at meditation, you must first be able to do two things: relax and concentrate. These are two abilities that our stimulating modern culture of technology, social media, overworking and multitasking have made very difficult. Start with gentle breathing techniques, restorative yoga and finding small ways to be good to yourself and have more fun. You could try walks, time spent in nature, writing or journaling, artistic activities and playing or listening to calm music without lyrics (lyrics can trigger memories.) If you can practice one of these things every day for just ten minutes per day for the next three weeks, you should see a lot of results.
2. Don’t forget to breathe.
Proper breathing will help you release physical tension, calm the nervous system, bring new energy into the brain and hit the reset button when you run into challenges and feel overwhelmed. The breath is the best method to shift away from whatever thoughts may be causing you to feel stressed or anxious, and back into the present moment, where you can take effective action from a more peaceful state of mind. Try this quick one-minute exercise: close your eyes and count ten long, slow breaths in and out. Breathe deeply all the way into your belly. Most of my clients prefer to repeat to themselves “inhale one, exhale one, inhale two, exhale two…” and so on, to keep a natural rhythm and pace. Stay fully absorbed in counting, practicing letting go of thoughts and distractions as you breathe out.
3. Take it one task at a time.
Once you have grasped meditation and self-care practices, become mindful of your work and streamline your workflow. Mindfulness is simply the art of living more fully in the present moment, experiencing life as it is happening. When you work from this state of mindful intention, you reduce distractions and improve productive focus. To bring mindfulness into your daily workflow, try time-blocking your activities and focusing on one task exclusively until it’s complete before moving on. Instead of multitasking, focus first on the areas that add the most value, working through your to-do list one item at a time. When working on tasks you don’t particularly like, rather than treat them as a chore, allow yourself to get creative and discover new experiences within a familiar routine by noticing every aspect of your actions as if for the first time. Become aware of every step and fully immerse yourself in the progress until that item is complete.
4. Give yourself a break and celebrate.
Remember to be proud of all that you accomplish in a day or during the week. No matter how big or small it might seem, take pride in what you do and who you are. Take the top three things you’re grateful for or the accomplishments you want to celebrate and write them down on a piece of paper or Post-It. Then stick it on your bathroom mirror, the keyboard of your laptop, a cupboard door or somewhere else you would see it often as a consistent reminder of what you’ve achieved and what you’re working so hard for. It’s a great motivator to stay on track with goals/passions and what brings you joy. Switch them up daily or at least weekly, but never forget the older ones either.
Turn stress into an asset.
By working towards implementing each of these four ideas into your daily life, you will start to find yourself managing stressful situations with more ease of being and increased mental clarity. You will begin to move towards your goals and ambitions with renewed energy, purpose and motivation. These techniques didn’t come to me overnight. They take time and patience to become second nature and part of a daily routine. It’s worth every minute. Together these four practices helped me find balance in my life and connect with my intended purpose and career path. These techniques allow you to not only improve your physical and mental strength but to allow you to truly thrive at your fullest as you harmonize mind, body and purpose.