Is Your Stress a Habit?
For professionals in all fields, including sales, marketing or data analytics, stress can be a driving force that pushes them toward greater productivity. With processes to streamline, deadlines to meet and goals to achieve, we may relish in feeling busy and needed. Many of us believe we work better under pressure, yet we simultaneously feel burdened by the stress. Is there a way to strike a balance?
Studies show that multiple demands on our time and energy can create a neurochemical dependence on stress. By activating the dopamine reward center in the brain, stress can temporarily boost performance, explaining why some appear to get so much done when under extreme pressure. The good news is that the current state of stress dependence isn’t inevitable. There are actions you can take to break the habit.
Just like a drug, the feelings of stress and preoccupation are addictive. The transition between being hyper-busy to more reasonable levels of activity may be a foreign feeling and withdrawal symptoms may come along with it. When one becomes addicted to non-stop thinking, worrying, striving, and stressing, to allow oneself to be truly relaxed and simply breathe can be a major adjustment. It may even feel boring!
If you are a self-diagnosed “stress junkie,” start by asking yourself a few simple questions to be sure your efforts support your true intentions:
- What is it you really want to accomplish? How do your activities support those goals?
- What are the most important elements of your life? Your family? Your health? Your spirituality? How much time and focus are you dedicating each day to those elements?
- What comfort do you find in being stressed? Why is it uncomfortable to be relaxed or reflective?
Break the Cycle
One suggestion is to evaluate, and then trim away, all of the non-essentials in your day. What obligations could be less frequent or eliminated entirely? How many social networking sites do you really need to update or check, and how often per day? What professional responsibilities could be delegated to others? Eliminating a few non-essential tasks or activities gives you the time and energy to invest in those things that are essential for your balance and wellbeing. Make a list of all your current important projects that are not urgent, and then assign at least two one-hour slots a week to work on them.
Add activities into your schedule that you enjoy, and be fully present as you’re doing them. You may feel you don’t have the time, but consider how much extra energy and motivation you receive from pursuing hobbies, and how that energy can help you with your regular responsibilities.
Finally, stop trying to be all things to all people! It is okay to say “no”, or to set expectations as to when it is realistic for you to accomplish the task at hand. In today’s busy, demanding world, we will likely always have more to do than we can ever get done in a single day. Find joy and fulfillment in the process!
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