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Your Stress Management Toolkit

Tools, tips and techniques to re-energise and relax you.

Richard Hawkey

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To date, this series of columns has described the what, why and how of stress:

What stress is (positive and negative);

Why different stressors (situations, events etc.) affect people differently; and

How stress affects us physiologically – ie what it is doing to every major system in our bodies and why we should be concerned!

We explored a technique to help identify major stressors in your life and then started to talk practicalities in terms of managing those stressors and building your personal resilience. Self-development on any level – be it a skill, knowledge or health issue – starts with self-awareness. If you have followed these columns to date you should now have a greater self-awareness of how excess negative stress is manifesting itself with you physically, cognitively, emotionally and behaviourally. If you are ‘in the green’ – that’s great!

However, if you are in the majority who have been surprised (shocked even) of how negatively stress is impacting your wellness, read on as we delve back into the stress management toolkit and extract a few more tools.

Sleep à we described why sleep is so critical in a previous column, indeed, latest research coming out of the USA has medical insurers paying for their members to visit sleep specialists to learn how to sleep better, in much the same way as we would visit a nutritionist to learn how to eat more healthily.

  • Your bedroom needs to be cool, dark and quiet. Light activates certain hormones in our bodies that aid falling asleep and waking up (namely melatonin and serotonin). We also form strong unconscious associations with places – make sure you associate your bedroom with sleep (and not working on the monthly sales report on your laptop!).
  • Routine – go to bed and get up at the same time. This helps reinforce the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep. If you are still awake after 20 minutes of tossing and turning, get up and do something mundane like fold your t-shirts or pair your socks up. Then try again.
  • Log off. You are used to shutting down your computer and in some ways we need the same ‘logging off’ process. Do not engage in mentally stimulating activity at least an hour before bed. Meditate, pray or just sit quietly reading some popcorn literature.

Diet à We are essentially made up of squishy pink bits and chemicals (no, I didn’t take biology in High School) so what we add to our bodies has a direct impact on how we operate and feel. Certain foods/chemicals are known to aid a good night’s sleep and others are known to hinder it:

  • Alcohol may well help you fall asleep, but it has been proven to interrupt one of the stages of sleep we need to go through to have good quality sleep.
  • Foods high in the amino acid tryptophan are known to aid the serotonin – melatonin production cycle (hence promoting the sleep-wake cycle as well as the production of what is arguably the key hormone responsible for positive mood – serotonin). Tryptophan is an essential amino acid – i.e. the body cannot synthesize it and it therefore needs to form part of our diets. Foods high in tryptophan: baked potatoes (with skin), cheese, bananas, eggs, fish, pumpkin seeds, turkey, tofu and yoghurt. NOTE: this is not an exhaustive list and you should always consult with your medical professional before making any radical changes to your diet.

Small, sometimes simple changes can add up to make a significant positive difference. Try one or two of the listed suggestions, feel the benefits, celebrate them and then try a few more.

**The next column will offer some more practical tips and techniques to assist with stress management and your personal resilience-building **

Richard Hawkey is an anti-stress evangelist, author, speaker and productivity consultant. Having suffered from a stress-related breakdown himself, he has since combined this general management and leadership experience with the profound lessons he learnt from mismanaging stress and subsequently burning out. He is the author of Life Less Lived and the founder of equilibriumsolutions – which has developed the first online stress management tool aimed at both employees an employers. Richard can be contacted at richard@equilibriumsolutions.co.za

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Self Development

Listening To These 8 Audiobooks On Success Is A Better Use Of Your Long Commute

Commuting is mostly just unpaid work, unless you make an effort to learn something along the way.

John Boitnott

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Commutes are getting longer, and in some cities they’re up to two hours each way. I have a friend in Los Angeles who does this. He passes the time with audiobooks. Now that’s still a lot of time to be stuck in transit, but he doesn’t view it that way. He says it allows him plenty of time to feed his personal and professional goals.

I’ve spent years listening to literature in the car while commuting, but somewhere along the line I switched over to books on business and personal improvement. I mostly gravitated toward amazing people who built their success from scratch and who experienced tremendous hardship. It stands to reason that if you’re dealing with hardships like a long commute, it’s important to hear motivational words that can help you transcend the difficulties.

Here are eight audiobooks that will help grow your success, both personal and professional, on your next commute:

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Self Development

3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

Erik Kruger

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3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Goal setting as a concept makes perfect sense. At the most basic level you decide on the destination and then plot the way to get there. But as with many things, we like to overcomplicate that which should be simple.

Before you know it, you end up with 2 big goals in 15 different areas of your life and 100 micro goals that will help you reach your 30 big goals.

Complicating something simple. Some of the biggest obstacles to people in reaching their goals are:

  • The overestimate the effort it will take to achieve those goals
  • They want to go from 0-100km/h in the blink of an eye
  • Life is dynamic and static goals often do not make sense
  • They get so entrenched in the day to day running of things that goals get pushed aside.

What if instead of goals, we just focused on giving our best every day?

Of course, you still want to have an indication of where you are going.

But, if you are giving your 100% every day then you can forego the micro goals for a better way of calibrating your compass… using questions.

Related: Goal Setting Guide

I suggest you ask yourself these three questions regularly:

1. What does better look like?

The question at the heart of development and incremental improvement. This question allows you some creative space in which you can imagine a better future.

  • What does better health look like?
  • What does a better business look like?
  • What does better customer service look like?
  • What does better leadership look like?

By reflecting on this question, you materialise the gap between where you are and where you could be. Now, the only thing that is left is to align your daily actions with the better future you imagined.

2. What can I control?

Borrowed from Stoicism this question highlights the power of decision in your life. Epictetus said we should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”

Once you ask this of yourself regularly you will feel more in control of your life and more in control of your business.

Why?

Because your focus is solely on the things that you can influence. It restores the belief that you can actually impact the world around you in a meaningful way.

3. Was I impeccable with my actions today?

One inherent flaw with goal setting is that the goal setter often feels judged. As if we need more of that. In addition to the constant negative self-talk we have to endure we now have an additional source of judgement – whether we reached our goals or not.

As we discovered in question #2 We cannot control everything. Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

So, instead of judging yourself, commit to giving your best every single day.

Related: The Tim Ferriss Approach to Setting Goals: Rig the Game so You Win


Accountability

What I love most about these questions is that they provide a built-in layer of accountability. Use them every day.

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Self Development

To Be Successful Stay Far Away From These 7 Types of Toxic People

You need a network of talented people, not toxic personalities who undermine you.

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Surrounding yourself with prospective mentors is an excellent way to build lifelong success. When Steve Jobs founded Apple, he learned from colleagues like Steve Wozniak about what it took to build computer hardware. And he learned from early investors like Mike Markkula about what it took to build a successful company and market a product. Now imagine if Jobs had surrounded himself with toxic personalities instead. It is likely that he would not have been able to create a company that is on course to be valued at $1 trillion.

If you interact with people who demonstrate questionable behaviour, you’re more likely to model that behaviour yourself or to become stressed as a result. At the very least, you will be missing out on the opportunity to network with more successful and inspiring individuals.

This article will review seven personality types that should be eliminated from your life in order to build your most successful self. Once these people are gone, you can work on building a network of people who influence you positively.

1. Micromanagers

According to a report by NPR, micromanagement is one of the biggest factors associated with employee dissatisfaction, lowered motivation and lack of professional creativity. To be successful, you must learn to solve problems independently. Micromanaging can make it difficult to develop these skills.

Related: Keep An Eye Out For Toxic Employees

2. Short-term thinkers

If you surround yourself with short-term thinkers, it will be difficult to know if an idea is destined for long-term success. Those who are narrow-minded may be more likely to dismiss one of your ideas because it will take time to develop into a meaningful success.

Take the creation of Airbnb as an example. The company was founded in 2008. At the time the “sharing economy” did not exist, and hotel chains like Starwood and Hilton dominated the lodging market. A short-term thinker would have criticised an idea like Airbnb.

In order for the company to be successful, Airbnb would need to change people’s attitudes and expectations about travel. They would need to encourage people to be comfortable staying with strangers, and they would need to find ways to mitigate possible liability should something tragic happen during a customer’s stay.

Well-respected venture capitalists decided to pass on Airbnb because of these short-term concerns. The Airbnb founders were only able to find success once they connected with people who were comfortable thinking long term.

3. Pessimists

pessimistsPessimism is not always a bad trait; at times it can help entrepreneurs to recognize certain pitfalls that might otherwise be overlooked. However, a steady diet of pessimism is toxic when it comes to taking big professional risks.

As David Armor, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, says, “An entrepreneur starting up a company, for example, might drive himself to work 18-hour days for months and even years because he optimistically believes that there will be a big payoff for him at the end.” Conversely, a pessimistic attitude would make it difficult to tolerate such a prolonged stressful situation.

For those interested in taking on stressful professional situations, pessimistic people should be avoided in most cases.

Related: Tips on how to Survive and Thrive in a Toxic Workplace

4. Selfish people

Relationships that contribute to success are mutually beneficial. This dynamic cannot exist when dealing with selfish people. As a result, it is best to eliminate selfish people from your life in order to make room for more giving relationships.

A recent study found that a job applicant who is referred by an existing employee is 15 times more likely to be hired than someone who applies via a job board. If you befriend a selfish person, you probably can’t rely on them to introduce you to new career opportunities. However, forming connections with someone who is altruistic could give you a professional leg up.

5. Risk-averse personalities

Business success is about making informed decisions by weighing risks and rewards. If you are surrounded by people who over-index on possible risks while ignoring the possible rewards, it will be challenging to identify good business opportunities.

Take Amazon as an example. In 2014 Amazon launched a smartphone called the Fire Phone. In the end, the phone was not successful. Following the unsuccessful launch of the Fire Phone, risk-averse people might have avoided developing another piece of computer hardware.

But instead, Amazon correctly assessed the opportunity for an in-home smart speaker, and launched the Amazon Echo just one year later. Today, Echo has 75 percent of the smart-speaker market in the United States.

6. Unmotivated individuals

People who lack motivation or work ethic set a bad example for those interested in working diligently to become a professional success. There is no worse colleague than someone who simply does the bare minimum to get by.

Rather than associate yourself with people who cut corners or avoid hard work, try to surround yourself with people who are motivated to succeed. Collaborating with people who have a healthy drive for success can instill an extra dose of motivation in you.

Related: 3 Strategies for Dealing With Toxic People

7. Spendthrifts

Financial responsibility is a critically important quality to develop if you want to become successful. Warren Buffet is perhaps the supreme example of a financially responsible and successful person.

Buffet is the third wealthiest person in the world, worth nearly $80 billion. But despite his professional success, Buffet does not spend his money on flashy cars or large homes. In fact, Buffet still lives in the modest home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he purchased in 1958.

Those who associate with spendthrifts may be more motivated to make irresponsible financial decisions in order to fit in. At the very least, it will be harder to associate with people who make good financial choices, as these personalities are frequently diametrically opposed.

Conclusion

Business is all about who you know. From landing a new job to launching a new company, your network will enable or prevent future professional success. When developing a network of talented people, it is best to avoid toxic personalities who could set a bad example or demotivate you.

Be sure to avoid people who are micromanagers and short-term thinkers, as they can make it difficult to think autonomously. Risk-averse individuals or pessimists may cause you to think twice about great business ideas, and spendthrifts or selfish people may hamper your ability to grow. Last but not least, stay away from unmotivated individuals, as your success is dependent on your willingness to work diligently in order to succeed.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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