Viva Values!

I have been working with several clients this month who are at different stages in their careers. One client is starting a new business, another client is looking to move vertically or laterally in his organization, one is at the succession planning stage and looking for what’s next, and the final is recently graduating with a Masters degree.

The thread I found in common was all of them needed a better clarification and understanding of their core values. No matter what stage you are in your career, whether you are a graduating student or a seasoned professional, knowing what your core values are, is an important start. This applies to not just a career search, but for anything in life. As well, I am sure you know how important a role values play in our relationships.

How would you define your values? Values are who we are at our core. They drive the decisions we make which greatly impacts our lives. Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; a person’s judgment of what is important in life. Values have a major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations.

Whether you are looking to join a company, club, group, going on vacation with others, or getting married, what values do you have in common and share with those with whom you’ll interact? What do you believe in? What do you stand for?

When the things you do and the way you behave match your values, life seems to move smoothly…you are satisfied and content. When what we do is not in alignment with our personal values we have a feeling of dissonance. For example, if you are honest and have integrity, and you are with someone who lies, that can create a feeling of dissonance for you. That feeling of dissension is because they are stepping on your values.

To help identify your values, think of a time in your life when you were happiest. What were you doing and why were you so happy?

When was a time when you felt proud of yourself? Why did you feel proud? When did you feel satisfied and fulfilled? What need and desire did you meet in these situations? Think about why these situations were so memorable.

Next, make a list of the values that led to these outcomes. There are hundreds of values, such as honesty, respect, integrity, success, independence, creativity, fairness, and more, of course, to choose from, so focus on the values that best define you.

Finally, prioritize those values that are most important to you at this time of your life. Your core values do not change, however, they do shift in priority depending on what is going on in your life at the time. Take your time with this exercise. You can Google and pull up a values list if you would find that helpful.

What is important is that by knowing your values you can use them to make decisions about how you choose to live your life. How do you make your decisions?  It may help you answer questions like the following:

What job should I pursue?

Is now a good time for me to start my own business?

What can I do that will afford me more of a work-life integration?

How will this affect the relationships I’m in?

Is this the best choice for my family?

It is imperative that we know what our core personal values are because that awareness can make a huge difference in all areas of our lives. Our values inform us of whom we are.

Knowing your values will help you interact with others.

For example, say you are going on a job interview or you are looking to collaborate with someone, personally or professionally. Listen for what their values are. What are their beliefs? What is important to them? How we think and what we believe is going to guide our decisions. And if your beliefs are different, is their respect for someone else’s opinion?

Take a time-out for yourself and define your values. Doing this is best for your current and future happiness and satisfaction. By deepening your awareness of your values, you will be able to use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation. Use your values to help you navigate through life. It is time to take command of your life!

Practicing the Art of Negotiation

Sometimes life feels like one big negotiation. Whether you are at work and speaking with your boss or colleagues, or at home and talking to your spouse or children, learning the art of negotiation can provide you with a powerful tool.

Recently, a client told me he was looking to close a deal. The goals he set gave him direction and clarity. Yet his expectations gave him conviction and the mental advantage conviction at the negotiation table. He was very self-assured, and that confidence gave him a winning edge.

Another client told me of an experience she had with her son. He wanted to have a later bedtime.

When my client’s son asked to extend his bedtime from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00, she asked him to make a list of reasons justifying his request. His list included the fact that since he was a year older and should be able to stay up later. In addition, he vowed that he would continue with his regular responsibilities like walking the dog, doing his homework when he got home from school, and practicing the drums.

My client said she’d extend the time to 9:30 p.m. as long as her son’s grades remained the same or higher. She told him she was giving him the benefit of the doubt based on his previous track record that what he says is what he does.

She added that if, after six months, things were going as expected she would raise the bedtime to 10:00 p.m., and if he weren’t reaching his expectations, his bedtime would drop back to 9:00 p.m.

Whether you’re negotiating with your kids or at work, here are some helpful tips for negotiating success:

  • Know your style. You need a confident attitude based on tested and reliable knowledge. Anxiety hampers negotiation.
  • Take a minute to focus on what you have to gain and what you want to achieve.
  • Get rid of all negative self-talk (our internal dialogue) involving speculation on what you might lose or what could go wrong.
  • Set your goals and focus on your expectations.
  • Leverage wherever you can by paying close attention to the other party’s needs and interests.
  • Be fully prepared, and create a list of everything you hope to accomplish including the ways you will benefit if you are successful.
  • Re-read your list right before the negotiation begins.
  • Listen to the other party.
  • Be prepared to walk away if negotiations do not succeed at first. Sometimes taking a break for a day or two allows each side to reflect, which can work wonders.
  • Act with integrity.

 

The best negotiators stay focused on their ideal target despite the risks they face. If you practice focus training, it will become easier and then become virtually automatic. Keep in mind that what you aim for often determines what you get. Make it a WIN-WIN.

Book suggestions:

To learn more about negotiation, Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell and Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

Discover and follow core values for a values-driven life

Can you answer the following questions?

  • What is the key to having a higher success rate for accomplishing your personal and professional goals?
  • What drives the decisions you make?
  • What does not change in life except for their priorities?
  • What impacts whether something resonates for you or causes a feeling of dissonance in your life?

The answers to these questions sum up your Values.

Why are values important?

Values help define who we are. They point us in a direction that, if we choose to follow, can lead us to discovering our life purpose, accomplishing our goals, and finding what we are passionate about.

For example, for me, the value of freedom means independence, financial independence, and doing things on my own. For someone else the value of freedom can mean patriotism, the flag, or our military. Check in with each other. It is a fun way to connect and often an enlightening one.

Our values are our principles or standards of behavior. They are our judgment on what is important in life. They are principles that we hold to be worthy.

Our values represent who we are right now. They are not chosen. Our values are intrinsic.

Here is a word of caution: Often we internalize our parents’ rules and values. For that reason, it is important to look inward to be able to distinguish between our parents’ values and our own.

So who are you?

What makes you tick? What are you passionate about?

Spending quality time to get a better grasp of your values, interest, personal style, and skills will allow you to better assess your personal and career wants and needs. Ultimately the assessment process will allow you to make better-informed decisions and judgments on situations in your life, be they big or small. Our choices and decisions are made easier when they are in relation to our purpose, values, and what is important to us.

Here is a tip if you are currently seeking a job.

Understanding your values will be helpful. As the interview proceeds, make sure to listen for the values of the interviewer. In order to be truly happy in the workplace, the organization’s values must be aligned with and support your personal values. Otherwise, the variance will create a feeling of dissonance in you and the prospective job may not be a good match.

For example, if you are working with someone who is not honest, and one of your core values is honesty or integrity, it will create a feeling of dissonance for you that you will actually feel in your body. The reason is that person who is not honest is “stepping” on your values. Or put another way, this individual is violating what you believe in. Such a situation is not likely to produce a positive outcome.

Remember: When you know your values, you can draw on them at any time to help you make decisions, determine what your priorities are, and guide you to the best direction for you and your goals.

Change and Transition: Embrace Both to Thrive and Prosper

Jumbo shrimp, act naturally, accurate estimate, a little big, almost pregnant, astronomically small: the list of everyday oxymorons goes on and on. The oxymoron I want to focus on is this one: change or transition is constant.

Whether we like it or not, the one thing we can count on as a constant in our lives is change and transition. But our brains are hard-wired to resist change, even when it is positive. Fear of the unknown, trying something new, stepping out of our comfort zones, and even the anticipation of future happenings can create anxiety in individuals.

While some of us could never imagine sitting behind a desk all day or giving up a steady job, others can’t function that way. Some of us prefer to seek out new experiences, to take risks, and to frequently step out of our comfort zones. What is needed to accomplish this is the ability to focus…but that’s another article! So let’s first take the time to examine change and transition in and of themselves as well as our reactions to both.

Change can be difficult. Often, we resist change even when it will enhance our lives or make them easier. We create justifications for our resistance. Over time, these justifications become accepted reasons for not changing.

When it comes to terminology, many of confuse the words “change” and “transition,” freely exchanging one term with the other. However, they are not the same. Change is not an event, but rather a process. And that process is called transition. Transition is the inner movement or journey we make in reaction to a change. For that reason, there is actually a clear distinction between change and transition.

The essential difference between change and transition can be boiled down to this: Change is situational while transition is psychological. It’s not the events outside us that make the transition. It’s the internal process we go through to incorporate those changes.

Transitions are times when we mentally cross from something old and familiar to something new and unfamiliar. Most transitions are small and pass by almost unnoticed, while others can involve major disruptions in routines, forcing us to look at our values and lifestyles.

Many of us are instinctively afraid of change and resist it. We prefer routine and stability and remaining within our individual comfort zones. But eventually, that puts us at odds with what life really is: a series of frequent changes.

Some changes or variations are welcomed, of course, while others range from inconvenient to catastrophic whether in reality, in our minds, or both. How well we handle or cope with change and the resulting transition process can depend on the attitudes we have toward life and what our resilience level happens to be.

Having a productive, positive attitude along with the capacity to be resilient will help ease any transition. An ability to make transitions successfully frees up precious energy enabling us to live more fully in the here and now.

Transitions range from changes that affect everyone, like natural disasters, to more personal transitions that affect one’s career and relationships. Transitions can be predictable or unpredictable. They can be voluntary, like moving to a larger home, or involuntary, like an accident or an illness. Transitions and their disruptions challenge us to grow, while they can also help us focus on today and the present moment.

One way people sometimes deal with the discomfort of change is by avoiding it. Avoiding uncomfortable feelings surrounding change, however, eventually establishes patterns that stand in the way of making new beginnings.

The solution ultimately requires that we stop striving to avoid change and the inevitable transition that must follow. When we refuse to accept a transition, when the fear of what lies ahead prevents us from moving forward, we can get stuck and overwhelmed as life passes us by. Again, our response to situations is directly influenced by our attitude and how well we have developed our personal level of resilience.

Along with any kind of transition, the change that affects it can often have a negative impact our self-confidence. Think about it, when you’re not feeling confident, trying something new or out of your comfort zone or even something you may fear can be even harder. Negative self-talk can stifle professional development and advancement, making it a real challenge to sustain healthy professional and personal relationships.

Here are some tips about transition:

  • To handle present and future transitions: Use the insights gained from the past along with newly acquired skills to navigate your path ahead. It’s helpful to recall the strengths that we’ve developed that have helped make transitions easier in the past.

 

  • How to cope with and challenge our thoughts:
  • Create a rite of passage: Our culture frequently lacks formal rites of passage that recognize passage from one situation to another. To remedy such a situation, a solution to this could, for example, be to hold a ceremony to acknowledge someone for a job well done. Another idea: After you’ve made a commitment, cross over a piece of tape to honor that commitment, symbolizing that you’ll follow through with it. Look at different perspectives: Weigh out the costs and benefits of each perspective.

We have the opportunity to change the way we think about something whenever we learn anything new about any topic that in turn will change our thinking. Ask yourself, how invested am I in holding on to old opinions, despite having obtained the latest information that may contradict those opinions?

  • Have realistic expectations: Transition can be difficult. Be compassionate with yourself instead of being hard on yourself. Often times, negative self-talk makes us our own worst enemy. Accepting change to the fullest extent means allowing mistakes to be made along the way as you transition to the change. If you do not allow yourself to make mistakes on the journey, you will not be able to adapt well with life transitions, and will not be able to enjoy living life to its fullest.

 

  • Transitions in the workplace: These can often be personally and professionally fulfilling. Yet they can also be difficult to manage. Switching roles and increasing responsibilities at work entails not only making adjustments to new tasks, but can also lead to a new relationship with ourselves and with those around us. The transition process can actually feel like the world has gone on “Tilt!”

 

  • Take control of your life: Be open and flexible.

In conclusion, practice finding the good in each of life’s transitions. It’s not what happens to you that causes you to respond the way you do, but how you choose to react to what happens. Take charge of your thoughts and actions and you will be better able to control how you respond, and enhance the quality of your life.

Plan Your Untouchable Day

As I sit here going through the second round of proofreading for my new book, I saw an article in Harvard Business Review in my email inbox that caught my attention. It was called “Why You Need an Untouchable Day Every Week” by Neil Pasricha. Boy, that sounded good!

I thus want to share a bit about my current experience and how an “untouchable day” fits.  I knew my book project would take a good amount of time, so I planned for extra time in case it was needed. Even more, because it was a first-time project for me, I knew that there would be things that I just was not aware of, so I figured I would deal with those things as I went along. We all juggle our schedules. My attitude was plan to the best of my ability and be flexible along the way.

An untouchable day?  Wow. I have always kept a healthy business-life integration. If I added something to my schedule, I made sure before I said “yes” that I had the time, and if not, I could take something out of my schedule that would create the time I needed. This process has worked well for me and for my clients. I try to set healthy boundaries and not deplete my energy.   Almost everyone I am in contact with has a busy life.

When I saw the article I was absolutely ready to try an “untouchable day!” I’d like to share it with you. Your circumstance may be different and you can substitute yours. Everyone fills their time with “things”- appointments, meetings, traveling…The hope is that you will free up some time, energy, and be able to be more energetic, more creative, more at peace, and experience way less stress.

What is an untouchable day?  These are days when I will literally be 100% unreachable in any way…by anyone.

Untouchable Days are now going to be my secret sauce for getting back on track. They’re going to be how I achieve my most creative and rewarding work. The author of the article said he was 10 times more productive on his Untouchable Days.

Pashrica said planning Untouchable Days involves looking at your calendar sixteen weeks ahead of time, and for each week, blocking out an entire day as UNTOUCHABLE, and putting it in all-caps.  

But, what about emergencies, you might be wondering? Pashrica says that there really aren’t any, unless they are truly REAL-LIFE EMERGENCIES.

Pashrica has a simple rule. He says Untouchable Days may never be deleted, but they can move between “the bowling-lane bumpers of the weekends.”

I like Pashrica’s thinking.  He says when you plant the Untouchable Day flag on your calendar, it feels permanent in your mind. You start feeling the creative high you’ll get from such deep output as soon as you start booking them in.

To read more on the untouchable day: https://hbr.org/2018/03/why-you-need-an-untouchable-day-every-week?autocomplete=true

Boomer Transitions: When Mom Has to be Moved

For years I have been coaching and giving workshops on life and career transition. When Boomers are involved, I consider them the cream part of the Oreo cookie, nestled between the two cookie pieces. Boomers are sandwiched between their kids and elder parents.

In my own situation, my husband and I became that cream! I moved my mother, who is now 88 years old, from New Jersey to an assisted living facility in the DC area. After so many trips up and down the turnpike—yes, we know the standing joke that all people from New Jersey identify themselves by the exit they are from—it was time for her to leave Princeton (Exit 8).

Often during a move like this, the focus is primarily on the elder parent who is being moved: his or her health and healthcare changes, whether he or she will meet new people, and so on. But the Boomer who is taking care of these issues is equally important, as there are also big changes going on in the Boomer’s family because of the issues presented by the elder parent.

For me, it is easier to have my mother living locally. But as a consequence, I have much more time-consuming involvement in her day-to-day living. As everyone in my household works, there are a number of things that come up, mostly logistical. For me as well, there are also emotional factors that come into play.

I know from focusing my work on life and career transition, confidence and resilience, that many people resist change, even when it is positive. Moving a parent many miles brings up a wide range of feelings, ranging from excitement and joy to fear of the unknown.

My mother is resilient, thank goodness. I know that resilience is all about our thinking style. It’s about the ability to persevere and adapt when you are going through change and adversities in your life. My mother has done pretty well and I am very proud of her.

But Boomers can be the ones most affected by this type of transition. I have been hearing this more from clients in similar situations.

In those first few months after moving a parent, the emotional impact can be deeply felt, particularly if the parent is declining, either physically or cognitively (or both). In a manner of speaking, it is as if a grieving process presents before the parent actually passes on. I was aware in advance that this occurs. But such awareness does not make it easier.

Grieving can begin when you see physical and mental changes in an aging parent that make you feel like your parent simply “isn’t the same.” By having my mother here, I was exposed to witnessing more and more changes. I knew that on a logical basis that this happens. But I didn’t realize at first the extent of the emotional adjustments I would have to make.

Typically, I would go to visit my mom in New Jersey two weekends each month. We would talk daily on the telephone, share stories and discuss what was going on with family, friends and work.

With more contact and exposure now that my mother is living locally, I have really felt a deep sense of loss. Remembering my mom over many years, beginning when I was growing up (particularly because we were always a tight-knit family) is bittersweet in light of our current situation.

Now, most of my mom’s needs are met at the assisted living facility. She has been here for approximately 8 months, and we are in a rhythm of doctor’s appointments, food runs, and personal items runs.

My mom’s transition process had one genuinely great thing going in her favor: she knew that the timing for this was right. Living on her own was becoming too difficult for her to manage by herself.

I’ve noticed with clients and friends that they minimize the emotional adjustments that come along when working with aging parents. I strongly urge you be aware that this occurs, to notice it as it happens, and embrace it. As a result, you will be able to deal with it.

And remember: Talking is a great outlet. Appreciate each day for the gift that it is.

Feeling Good by Giving Back

Today there is tremendous research being done around the topic of happiness. One way this desirable state can be achieved is by giving to others.

There is a Chinese saying that goes: If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody. Happiness is found in helping others.

I learned a long time ago that giving and helping others makes you feel better about yourself. Moreover, once you experience the wonderful feeling that you get by giving, you will understand why giving can be so transformative. It can be even more powerful when you combine your passion with giving.

I recently spoke at a wonderful organization, Hope Connections. These people help those with cancer and their loved ones, and they counsel them and teach them how to deal with the emotional and physical impact of cancer.  I know I gained as much from giving the workshop as the participants who heard my presentation. When I think about my experience at Hope Connections, I get that good feeling.

According to a Time magazine 2017 article, there is scientific research supporting the saying that we’ve heard since we were kids…”It is better to give than to receive.” Through fMRI technology, research shows that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. By helping others we become happier, and healthier, and we live a more meaningful life.

Having said all of this giving, there can be a downside.

Giving may not always make us feel great. Giving can be depleting, and at times, we can end up feeling taken advantage of. You want to monitor your time and how you spend it.

Here are a few tips that may help:

Give where you find meaning

We tend to feel happier when we are giving to something that has meaning to us. Choose what feels right for you.

Give with self-care in mind

Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, says it best, “It is important to be ‘other-ish,’ which he defines as being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight.

Give your time

Giving does not have to be financial. Look at your schedule and choose some time to be of service to others. It can be a few hours or days a year.

Give to an organization

Make sure the organization is transparent with their goals and results. According to Harvard scientist Michael Norton, “Giving to a cause that specifies what they’re going to do with your money leads to more happiness than giving to an umbrella cause where you’re not sure where your money is going.”

Give by Role-Modeling

Teach your children and others the gift of giving. It teaches us to look outside of ourselves. There is nothing like matching your actions and words.

So whether you choose to give based on scientific reasons or from your heart, it is a win-win situation.  

Expect the Unexpected

How do you manage your expectations? Do you fit into one of the following categories? Expectations can be categorized as high, low or none.

I recently was listening to a forum discussion about expectations. One person offered that they used to have high expectations about different things and they often were disappointed. Another person said they have low expectations so that they were not setting themselves up to be disappointed.  Still a third view I heard was that they had no expectations at all because, again, they did not want to be disappointed.

Expectations impact our lives both positively and negatively. David Rock, author of “Your Brain at Work” (HarperCollins, 2009) and the director of NeuroLeadership Institute, says there are two sides of expectations. The first is what we expect from others, and the second is what we expect from ourselves. How we manage those expectations is critical to how we view our experiences and pursue our goals.

Rock says there is a physiological reason we are disappointed when life does not meet our expectations. He states, “When we don’t hit our expectations our brain doesn’t just get slightly unhappy, it sends out a message of danger or threat.” It suggests that the well-known cliche ‘hope for the best but expect the worst’ has much truth to it.

Rock also mentions that when the neurotransmitter, dopamine, a ‘feel good’ hormone, is released it makes us feel good when something positive happens.

Rock explains, “If we expect to get x and we get x, there’s a slight rise in dopamine. If we expect to get x and we get 2x, there’s a greater rise. But if we expect to get x and get 0.9x, then we get a drop.

What is the downside when our expectations are not met? Our negative feelings of disappointment are much stronger than our ‘feel good’ feelings when expectations are exceeded.

Knowing this is helpful because understanding what is in our control and what is not can help us manage our expectations. For example, if you are currently seeking employment in a not-so-great job market you can look at things two different ways. With a job market that isn’t flourishing, you may have an unrealistic expectation of being hired quickly, or, you might make an assumption that you’ll never work again. One remedy may be that you control what you can control. For instance, you can research the market, network and build relationships, and apply for positions you are qualified for.

So what is the takeaway here? Learn to be adaptive and more flexible. Understanding what we can and cannot control is key. Consider the choices you have, weigh them out, and make a decision based on realistic expectations.

As Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, says “A good teacher sets really high expectations, but lets a student think he can reach them. That’s most motivating for students.”

I believe we are all students here on earth school. Set realistic expectations with solid strategies to reach those goals and manage those expectations. As Dweck says, “It is having flexibility in our expectations and being willing to change tracks without self-blame that has been shown to increase well-being.”

And to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the flamboyant and quick-witted cultural commentator, expect the unexpected!

Electronic Overload: How to Spot It, How to Overcome It

Do you suffer from electronic overload? Lately, wherever I have been – coffee shops, restaurants, in cars, at the park, and even the library, I have made it a practice to see what people are doing. Here’s what I observed: nonstop electronic overload.

People were speaking, messaging, plugged into music or fiddling with apps on their smartphones, iPads, laptops, iPods, you name it. Ranging from teens to adults, people seemed occupied with if not totally consumed by their electronic gadgets. Even children were more likely to be playing games on their latest electronic toys than doing anything else.

With the constant barrage of media coming at us these days, which also includes television, radio, social media, and that endless flow of emails, more of us are finding it hard to pull away from our gadgets and step back into what used to be the real world.

Today, there doesn’t seem to be any downtime from the endless electronic onslaught. Even when people stopping “doing” this message or that app, they feel they should be doing something. This frantic mode of operation doesn’t give us a chance to wind down and truly relax. In today’s society, I imagine we should emphasize “relax” as a verb.

One wonders: what does all this nonstop messaging, chatting, emailing, texting actually accomplish in the end? Are we getting more done today with all these devices at home or at work than we were, say, ten years ago when such equipment options were less ubiquitous?

How do you relax and unwind during a busy week? What do you do to take care of yourself? Here are a few suggestions for improving that situation:

  1. Set boundaries and limits to ensure you take time for yourself. Chances are if you don’t establish a “me” time, it won’t happen.
  2. Schedule some of that “me” time to sit quietly and do not do anything.
  3. Focus in instead of out on everyone else. It’s okay to be a little selfish. Focusing on yourself and recharging your battery will allow you the energy, patience, and enjoyment of being there for others.
  4. Establish a policy in your household that there will be no electronic gadgets at mealtime so you are present and in the moment, and not distracted and disconnected. One of the greatest values of sitting down to a meal together is to connect and catch up with each other. While often neglected in modern families, this is incredibly valuable time. Don’t miss out on the opportunity.
  5. Schedule a massage. It is healthy for us mentally and physically. Electronic items are not allowed!
  6. Go out and enter into nature. A park or someplace similar is a great place to clear your head. If you have to take a phone with you, always turn it off unless you’re involved in an ongoing emergency situation.
  7. Get the sleep your body requires. This is crucial. Sleep deprivation has us feel foggy and grouchy. The appropriate amount of sleep for each person helps maintain clarity and focus. We need enough sleep to stay healthy.
  8. Do breathing exercises. Feel free to contact me and I will send you an exercise or walk you through one. Deep breathing allows you to get some toxins out of your body.

For more information or to get your complimentary breathing exercise, contact Susan by phone or email. susan@selftalkcoach.com 
301-706-7226  & 703-574-0039

Stressing Out: Making Better Choices

With a growing number of people complaining about the stress in their lives, how many are actually doing something about it? I say don’t wear stress like a ‘badge of courage.’ Being busy is fine, but if it is too much it can be stress producing, and that is not desirable.

The impact stress has on your immune system over time can negatively affect your health.  Stress can manifest in many ways and sometimes you can feel it in your body. Other times it can shift your personality. Are you abrupt or impatient with people? Do you feel the tension? In what part of your body does stress show up? The good news is you can do something about it. Your family and colleagues will appreciate it and you.

I found the following in the December 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review. The article referenced a 2017 Stress in America survey. It said that the American Psychological Association (APA) found that “constant checkers” – people who check their emails, texts, and social media on a constant basis – experience more stress than those who don’t. More than 42% of respondents attribute their stress to political and cultural discussions on social media, compared with 33% of non-constant checkers. While it may feel impossible to take a cold turkey break from technology, the APA says that periodically unplugging or limiting your digital access can be great for your mental health.

As a coach I hear some common themes from people in the C suite to the head of the household. No one is immune. Stress is a part of our world. How you deal with it and react to it will make the difference in your life. Giving serious thought and focus to how you want to lead and live your life is vital. You need to take a time-out, without technology distractions, where you can think about how you want to live your life.

There’s a reason there is a wellness revolution taking place today. I believe people want to take breaks and don’t believe they can. There’s the feeling that there’s not enough time; that we are on the hamster wheel. But as they are beginning to see, businesses are shifting their perspectives on subjects like getting enough sleep and eating healthy as serious subjects because we are seeing the toll stress is taking on the health of their employees, and therefore, their ROI.  

Not too long ago, I was visiting a friend who works at Bloomberg News in NYC. I noticed the company provided healthy snacks and lounging areas for employees to take a break. We know scientifically that we are more productive and creative when we’ve had enough sleep. I remember an interview with Arianna Huffington after she was diagnosed with exhaustion. She started making changes at the Huffington Post. She created areas where employees could nap. She said that well rested employees were more productive and creative. We all know how much better we feel with a good night’s sleep.

The APA article also said that chronic stress floods our nervous system with cortisol and adrenaline, which short-circuits important cognitive functions. Researchers have studied the negative effects of stress on focus, memory, and other cognitive functions for decades. The findings are consistent – short-term stress raises cortisol levels (the so-called stress hormone) for short periods and can jump-start our adrenalin and motivate us to perform more efficiently in response to impending deadlines. Long-term stress, however, can lead to prolonged increases in cortisol and can be toxic to the brain. We also have lower resilience level and a negative or non-productive self-talk.

Here’s something you can try:

Increase your self-awareness so that you can improve your focus. In other words, pay attention to what might lead to your losing your focus. You then have the ability to dismiss distractions and stick with what you were originally focused on. This is an area where you have the ability to change things.