Archive for July 23rd, 2014

Recently I attended a talk on managing stress and overwhelm in life, and I decided to share a few simple suggestions here.

1. Take things in segments.

Once upon a time I stumbled upon a technique for handling confusion. The author illustrated the point with the following demonstration. Take a few handfuls of little bits of paper. (Tear up an old newspaper that you were going to put in the recycling anyhow to save wasting trees.) Throw them up in the air and watch them all flutter to the ground. It probably looked like a confusing array of floating pieces of paper, didn’t it?

Then the author suggested the following. Pick up all the pieces of paper and repeat the exercise. But this time, as they start to fall, you eyeball one of them and follow its trajectory. As you follow the path of that single scrap of paper with your eye, you find you are able to follow it relatively easily while ignoring for now the rest of the fluttering pieces of paper.

Let’s turn our attention to how to apply that principle in the real world.

Have you ever had the feeling of just “not knowing where to start”? (For what it’s worth, I think that is a major reason why people procrastinate.) There is just too much to do, or too much to study, and the sheer volume of information or tasks is highly daunting.

The key thing is to start somewhere. Even if you are unsure right now what is the most urgent and important, and don’t really feel sure how to prioritise, let’s pick one thing and take positive action now. As the series of tasks starts to unfold, you may find you have a clearer picture of what needs to take priority.

2. Take significance down – less emotional investment.

It is too easy to invest too much energy in things that do not deserve that much emotional investment from you.

Panicking about deadlines, getting in a flap about the amount of things to be done, or getting unnecessarily upset or angry about the situations around you only sap your energy and distract you from the tasks at hand. They do not help you or the task, and reduce your productivity.

You may need to take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this worth getting so emotional about?”

An exercise that I always find helpful in such circumstances is to imagine for an instant that I am looking at the entire Earth from a distance. In the grand scheme of things, where does that thing that made me so angry really rate? It helps to put things in perspective.

3. Managing empathy.

I think one of the flaws (if you can call it that) of the gifted, or of HSP’s (highly sensitive persons) is that of caring TOO much.

It is very easy to hear of injustices in the world and get all riled up on other people’s behalf.

Social concern is one thing, but it can reach a tipping point where it is not healthy.

Sometimes it may do us all some good to take a break from the news media. Watch a nature documentary instead of the news one day. Or forgo your daily newspaper and buy yourself a small treat instead. No one is asking you to bury your head in the sand regarding what is happening in the world, but to acknowledge the fact that sometimes a bit of personal “information hygiene” is healthy.

4. Be aware of the technology trap.

What did we all do back in the days before mobile phones?

It can be very tempting to be constantly checking for texts, checking your emails, checking social media, or looking for news feed updates.

But think about this – how much of the information you checked on in the last 24 hours was actually important to you, and how much time did you spend randomly browsing instead of engaging in a productive task?

Not only do many people waste too much time with their head buried in their phone, but it crosses a line in their interpersonal relationships too. I have even heard reports of people attending a job interview, and the interviewer spent the entire time checking for messages instead of paying attention!

I rely on a certain amount of technology because I am building a business, and there is a minimal expectation that a trader or company will join the 21st century. I also find the Internet an invaluable resource in terms of online textbooks and courses and other study materials.

However, there are days when I just want to go out for a change of scenery and all I take with me are my house keys, my travelcard and enough cash for a snack or drink. It’s actually liberating to go “off the radar” for a few hours.

5. Find time for practices that promote mental and emotional balance and regeneration.

Even with a busy schedule, it is important to get some regeneration time. I’ve been doing biofeedback recently for relaxation.

Some suggestions are:

  • Exercise
  • Engage in a hobby
  • Take a walk
  • Listen to some music
  • Go somewhere different
  • Catch up with an old friend
  • Spend some time with the family
  • Find a green space to enjoy
  • Learn something new
  • Take a really long soak in the tub
  • Meditate or pray
  • Do something else that makes you happy

Whatever it is, just find something that recharges the batteries whenever you need to, and take time to do it!

Feel free to share your own stress-busting and productivity tips.

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