Picture this: it’s 7 a.m. You’re standing in the shower. Your brain is on fast-forward, mentally writing the day’s to-do list while hyperventilating over yesterday’s disastrous sales meeting. Sasquatch could climb into the shower and you probably wouldn’t notice.
Or how about this? You’re at your desk. It’s noon and your stomach is rumbling. But you’re slammed with deadlines so you ask a co-worker to pick you up a sandwich at the deli. Later, when your spouse asks you what you had for lunch, you don’t remember eating anything.
Face it, my friend—you’ve got stress!
Thousands of books, blogs, magazine articles and more have been written on how you can manage the stress in your life. We’ll save you a ton of time. It all boils down to one simple thing: you’re either obsessing over the past or fantasizing about the future. If you can train your brain to focus solely on the present moment, you will slow yourself down and your stress level will diminish dramatically. Here are three steps you can begin to take immediately.
- Stop multitasking
- Start listening
- Ditch deadlines
Stop multitasking. Trying to do two or more things at once (returning emails while sitting in a meeting for example) simply means you’re not doing anything effectively. Multitasking slows down productivity, crushes creativity, makes you uptight and anxious and can actually be addictive. It creates a constant adrenaline rush that puts both your brain and your body into permanent overdrive and can be at the root of a lot of physical and emotional problems.
Your mind operates in one of two modes: either you are in an analytical or processing mode, or you are in a creative free-flowing mode. Both mindsets are useful but the analytical mode should be used like salt—sparingly. You need it for processing information and making decisions where all the variables are known. You don’t need it to overthink and replay yesterday’s client meeting or last week’s confrontation with a co-worker.
Put these things on the back burner and focus instead on what is happening in the present moment. Slow down and experience life as it happens. If you’re in the shower, feel the water running through your hair. If you’re eating lunch, taste the chicken salad (I can’t tell you how many times I ate a nice meal and never tasted it). This puts your mind into a free-flowing state (some people call it “the zone”) where great ideas and solutions to problems come naturally.
Start listening. Being present in the moment means listening actively to what is going on around you. It creates a powerful connection with other people and promotes teamwork and cooperation on the job. In order to be a real listener, you have to give up your analytical thought process. Listening with an analytical mind means you’re constantly hearing the other person in the context of what his words mean to you and what you’re going to say in response. Really being there with co-workers means hearing their intent, not just their words.
Listening creatively is a powerful factor in conflict situations. Operating in this mode means you can see differences as positive, interesting, and even useful. You can come up with areas of agreement rather than disagreement. Often hybrid solutions to problems are born out of two widely divergent opinions.
Ditch deadlines. The stress created by deadlines comes from two different factors: who is setting the deadlines and our attitude about deadlines. Many of our deadlines are self-imposed. We take on more projects and responsibilities than we can reasonably handle and then try to rush through them. We put off big projects until the last minute and then shift into panic mode. We operate with a time-clock mentality, even when it’s not necessary.
If you are spending most of your time in the analytical mode instead of the free-flowing mode, you may see deadlines imposed by your boss or your clients as a burden or an imposition rather than a framework for accomplishment or a means of organization. When you’re free-flowing, your mind is relaxed and you can actually accomplish more in less time and enjoy the process besides.
Now, this minute, is the most important moment of your life. Actually, it’s the only moment you have. Everything else is either a memory of the past or speculation about the future—both highly unproductive places to live. Be here now. Focus on the words you’re reading, the color of the flowers outside your window, the sound of your child’s voice. Slow your life down and enjoy the journey. The rabbit, like the Energizer Bunny, may look like a whirlwind of accomplishment. But the turtle wins in the end.
Ok, I’m speaking from experience…you don’t want to let stress take you down, it’s a long process to get back up.