The alarm bell rudely jolts you from a restless nights sleep. You reach over to hit the snooze button and reluctantly drag your tired body out of bed early, to miss the traffic.
You’ve already had too little sleep; you’ve probably skipped breakfast and by mid morning you’re flagging, so you turn to caffeine for a boost to help you deal with the next thing on the list.
The afternoon is a slog, but you push through the fatigue, eventually you head home exhausted to be greeted by an excited family, but you’ve little energy for your kids or your partner, whom may be feeling neglected.
You continue to check email through the evening via your phone just in case the one you’re expecting arrives. You work weekends and limit your holidays. The joy and excitement of life, feels like it was a lifetime ago…
The details might not be exactly true for you, but as an employee or business owner maybe you can relate to this?
The Boiling Frog
You’ve probably heard the story of the boiling frog, which suggests a frog will boil alive if you toss it into a pot of warm water and then turn up the heat slowly.
This is because the frog adjusts to its new environment. The small changes in temperature aren’t noticed until it’s too late and the frog has been cooked alive!
Scientist have now proven this to be untrue, a frog knows exactly when it needs to get out of the water, but I’m sure you get the point.
This powerful metaphor has been told many times in movies like Dante’s Peak, the 1997 disaster movie in reference to the accumulating warning signs of the volcano’s reawakening.
Al Gore used a version of the story in the 2006 movie An Inconvenient Truth to describe ignorance about global warming.
And in life, this is what excessive busyness can do. If you are facing ever more demand, complexity and uncertainty, your initial response might be to do what you’ve always done and get busier, work harder and more relentlessly.
Sometimes this is necessary, but if this is your default setting, whilst you’re getting busier, you might be oblivious to other areas of your life suffering beyond repair, such as your health, relationships and your enjoyment of life.
Sam Walton, left it too late.
His final three words are reported to be “I blew it!’
He invested most of his energy, time and passion building an incredible business which no on can doubt, but when it came to the crunch, he realised when it was too late that what was really important was his wife and his kids, which he’d neglected in favour of building his empire.
Sam got cooked without noticing.
The Human Condition of Busyness
Many of us find it hard to slow down. Instead we dash through life in a state of desperation and urgency, rather than embracing each moment.
We let the perceived pressures of work and life drive our actions. Instead of being present to life, we anxiously react and apart from losing perspective, physiologically, you go in to a state of hyperarousal — flooding your body with stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol.
“Allostatic load” is a term coined by the neuroscientist Bruce McEwen which refers to the physiological consequences — most especially on the brain of chronic exposure to relentless demand.
When fight-or-flight hormones circulate in your body for too long, keeping you on high arousal, they become toxic — not just physically, but perhaps even more importantly emotionally and mentally too. When this happens your pre-frontal cortex begins to shut down.
You become reactive rather than reflective. One of your most precious tools is ignored as your mind becomes busy and frantic. You limit access to precisely what you need most in these complex times – the capacity to recognise your own wisdom, which would tell you to slow down and get back to what’s really important to you and for you.
5 Ways to Relieve Stress
The last figure I read was that stress is responsible for approximately 85% of all diseases, so it’s important learn how to relive stress, recognising and minimising the impact it has on our mental and physical health.
Here’s 5 ways to help you slow down, escape the busyness and relieve stress.
1. Take Some Time Out
Your business, your sanity, your health and relationships are at risk if you’re constantly busy. Physiologically and mentally you need to take time out to perform optimally.
It may seem counter intuitive to go for a walk, to the gym or whatever makes sense to you to help you take your mind off things, but when your more relaxed, you’ll make wiser choices, have some of your biggest ideas and allow your body to get back into homeostasis and rediscovers it’s natural health.
2. Do One Thing
I’m sure you’ve found that when you give something your full attention, rather than trying to do two or more things at once, you produce better results. It makes sense.
When I try to do more than one thing at a time, often neither get finished and I find myself becoming frustrated because the progress I want isn’t being made. It’s proven that if you leave a task open, and then come back to it at a later date, it takes longer – you waste time. This is because your have to re assimilate and get back to the place in your mind you were before you started something else.
If you want to do something really well focus on that ‘one thing’, the most important thing you have to do. Once it’s done move on to the next. This way you’ll get more done, make faster progress and feel less like you’re spinning plates.
3. Get Enough Sleep
For you to function at your best both physically and mentally you need good quality sleep. You can’t operate at full effect if you feel mentally and physically fatigued, you know that.
Most of us require at least 7-8 hours a night to feel fully rested – even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a significant effect on your ability to function at your best.
So put down your ipad, lap top, phone in the evening, avoid caffeine in the afternoon, alcohol in the evenings or any other distractions that can erode one of the essentials of health – a well rested body and mind.
4. Move Exercise to the Top of Your Things to Do
Exercise increases your overall health and sense of well-being, but it also has some direct stress-busting benefits such as increasing endorphin levels, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters.
Exercise can also helps take your mind off your perceived stresses and help improve sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety.
5. Look After Those That Matter
As a human your core needs are to love and to be loved. Ask yourself really honestly – if the people you care about most feel this way?
If your job or business gets in the way of your relationships, these core needs are at jeopardy and they are more important. So maybe you need to show them they’re important too.
They know you’re passionate about your work – that’s obvious. But can they see that you really care about them?
Taking care of yourself and appreciating those that matter most builds respect and trust. One without the other might not be enough.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees in our fast paced lives, so take time out to slow down, so you that you can gain perspective and avoid blowing it!
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