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When and How to Make Stress Good for Your Body and Mind

When and How to Make Stress Good for Your Body and Mind

Today, more than ever, we are experiencing record levels of stress at work, home and in our everyday lives.

We are bombarded with messages from the media telling us that, as a society, we are more stressed than ever before. Sitting in commuter traffic is making your blood levels rise. Thinking about your credit card debt makes you break out in a sweat. The state of the economy has you concerned, and you’re anxious about losing your job/ partner, health or any other important thing in your life.

What’s more, we have become conditioned to think that stress is a bad thing, that’s it’s harmful to us and toxic for our health. And it is true. While the ‘fight or flight’ mode is a physiological response that can save our lives, being in a state of constant stress, where your adrenal levels are raised can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain and eventually wear and tear on your organs.

When you’re chronically stressed you’re more likely to experience irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia. But what if I told you that not all stress is created equal, and certain forms of stress can actually be very beneficial for you?

The Three Levels of Stress

According to Professor Bruce McEwen’s article in Aeon, there are three levels of stress:

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  • Good stress’ involves taking a chance on something one wants, like interviewing for a job or school, or giving a talk before strangers, and feeling rewarded when successful.
  • ‘Tolerable stress’ means that something bad happens, like losing a job or a loved one, but we have the personal resources and support systems to weather the storm.
  • ‘Toxic stress’ is something so bad that we don’t have the personal resources or support systems to navigate it, something that could plunge us into mental or physical ill health and throw us for a loop.

So how do you handle your own levels of stress and use them as a force for good, or better yet avoid the ‘toxic’ stress and welcome in more ‘good stress’? Most people have heard of the “fight or flight” response I mentioned above, a vital part of our nervous system, the way in which the body reacts to stress or danger. Many, however, have never heard of the “rest and digest” response, where the nervous system activates the more tranquil functions of the body; those that help us maintain a healthy, long-term balance.

Using Stress for Positive Good

While a little bit of stress can help motivate you to achieve things like hitting a deadline for an important project, and bungy jumping off a bridge can raise your adrenal levels through the roof and make you feel on a high afterwards, the less time we spend in this mode, the better. Although it makes us alert and better able to respond to the challenges ahead, it takes a huge toll on our bodies after a while and can lead to adrenal fatigue or burnout.

I came close to having a mild form of burnout in 2013 when I was self publishing my book, The Suitcase Entrepreneur. At first it was exciting to work on the launch of my first ever book that I’d worked so hard to write. I used a positive stress to achieve so much and be ridiculously productive. I felt on a high and in flow. As time wore on, I was juggling so many facets of publishing the book that I simply couldn’t switch off. I was working really long days and forgoing exercise and time out just to make this thing a bestseller. As a result, mid way through my book tour, I realized I was only getting a few hours sleep a night, I wasn’t handling the project as well as I could have, and I certainly wasn’t enjoying or laughing as much as I should have been.

Once I recognized this and started to take more time off, get plenty of fresh air and exercise and set boundaries, I felt better. But my body took months to recover, and for some people it can take years. So anything we can do to keep ourselves in the “rest and digest” mode as much as possible is worth the effort, since our long-term health may depend on it!

Three Practical Ways to Reduce Stress Today

The best way to stay on top of your game and feel less stressed is to learn what truly makes you feel relaxed. For you this may mean spending time on a hobby you love like building train sets or gardening. Or it might be hanging out with your favourite friends, going on a bike ride or getting out into nature.

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I personally love starting the day with by writing down three things I’m grateful for and easing into 15-30 minutes of yoga which makes me feel like a million dollars. Throughout the day I make sure to take lots of breaks – cuddling and playing with my puppy, going on a spontaneous walk in nature, doing a gym workout or relaxing with a book.

Whatever method you choose has to be one you enjoy. To help you out, here are three ways to ensure you reduce stress in your life on a daily basis.

1. Free Your Mind

There’s no better time than now to start meditating, if you’re not already. Even five minutes a day can make a world of difference. There are all sorts of meditation including walking, guided, visualization and chanting meditations to suit your needs.

I like the Insights Timer app for offering you up guided meditations from one minute to several hours, or the choice to just set a timer that plays a gong when you’re done with breathing and focusing on the present moment.

Or simply mind your mindfulness – practice the art of being aware of the present moment.[1] It sounds so simple yet is much harder (initially) do to than you may think. But it can melt away stress by getting you to focus on the present moment, and just soak in how lucky you are to be alive, and all the beauty that surrounds you that you may be oblivious to.

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Trust me it’s there. Put down your pen, switch off your mobile and look up from your computer screen and just observe. And breathe.

I personally love Dr Libby’s advice on doing 20 deep abdominal breaths each day for instant relaxation (around 3pm is a great time to re-energize through this insanely simple technique). Want to learn more? Read 8 Mindsets Which Prevent Success And Happiness

2. Move Your Body

Rather than getting all pent up and stressed out, release that toxic energy with exercise. Even a brisk walk can help, especially after a frustrating phone call or meeting. Walking not only deepens breathing but also helps relieve muscle tension.

It might be that techniques like yoga or tai chi help you more. These combine fluid movements with deep breathing and mental focus, all of which can induce calm.

Or you can head off to crossfit, jump on your bike, dance around your kitchen like crazy or run after your kids and play with them. All of this will pump oxygen through your veins, and produce oxytocin – commonly known as the love drug, whilst reducing your stress levels.

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3. Get Social

I am not talking about jumping on social media here. I mean calling or meeting up with your friends, family, spouses, co-workers and mentors.

Anyone who brings you joy, motivates you, nurtures and supports you is going to help increase your longevity. Close relationships with family and friends gives you the emotional support to sustain you, especially at times of chronic stress.

Take a Deep Breath

At the end of the day, when it all feels like too much, take a few DEEP breaths and no matter how hard it is, state one thing you’re grateful for right now.

You’ll be surprised how diverting attention away from the negative, to the positive can instantly shift your stress levels and put life in perspective.

Buy Natalie’s best-selling book The Suitcase Entrepreneur on Amazon

Reference

[1] Natalie Sisson: Mind Your Mindfulness

More by this author

Natalie Sisson

Best Selling Author of The Suitcase Entrepreneur, CEO, Speaker, Global Adventurer

How to Break Free From Your Own Constraints And Live the Life You Want How to Free Yourself from Unfinished Goals in 2018 When and How to Make Stress Good for Your Body and Mind

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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

Productivity Can Be Improved By These 10 Actionable Steps

Productivity Can Be Improved By These 10 Actionable Steps

If there is any challenge that is common to everyone apart from staying happy, it’s improving personal productivity.

Nothing stimulates joy like getting things done and doing the right things. You become happier when you are focused and productive.

So what is productivity and how do we improve it?

What is Personal Productivity?

Personal productivity means different things to different individuals. Some might define personal productivity as accomplishing your milestones without failing, or setting goals and completing them.

So what, then, is personal productivity?

Personal productivity can be thought of as completing a set of tasks that moves you forward in the direction of your life purpose without causing you to sacrifice other life aspects.

Personal productivity can be improved by identifying your key objectives and what actionable steps you need to take to fulfill them.

In all of this, it’s important to remember that personal productivity is different than workplace productivity. Here’s why.

Personal Productivity Vs. Workplace Productivity

Workplace productivity deals with your level of efficiency in accomplishing corporate goals and providing goods or top-notch solutions for customers. For instance, productivity in the workplace could incorporate the speed at which you respond to a query as a customer service assistant or design a website for a web development agency.

The 4 Components of Productivity

Penny Zenker, a notable Productivity Coach, propounded four essential components of productivity: purpose, language, focus, and physiology. Let’s break these down.

Purpose

According to Penny,

“When you are on a course or purpose that goes beyond what’s in it for you or what you need to do, you gain a higher sense of being more productive and a feeling that you are working on something significant.”[1]

One way to find your sense of purpose is by answering your “Whys.”

Language

Language is another crucial component. It’s how you express yourself in describing the world around you.

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Any time you utilize negative words during self-talk, you are conditioning yourself to produce negative situations.

Productivity can be improved by paying attention to the language you use. That way, you can change your words consciously and then talk yourself into becoming more productive.

Therefore, try to change your language to improve your output!

Focus

You only have 24 hours each day. How do you guide your energy within this limited time-frame? The answer lies in being focused.

Focus is the art of directing your energy towards your objectives. It is eliminating every form of distraction and achieving your set goals.

Physiology

You need a great body to be productive. That’s why your physiology influences your level of productivity.

For instance, what you eat affects what you can do. If you continuously neglect the habit of eating healthy, you will continually undermine your performance and efficiency.

So what’s the way forward?

Take good care of your body!

Productivity can be improved by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and spending time with nature.

How to Evaluate Productivity

Evaluating your productivity is an important step as it helps you keep track of what you’re doing right and wrong on your journey to completing your goals. Try these five proven steps to keep you on track.

1. Review Your Completed To-Do Lists

One of the strategic means of assessing your productivity is by examining your completed to-do lists. You can accurately look at your activities in the past two to three weeks. Find out what you have accomplished. Estimate how many tasks, how long each task took you, and find the ones you failed to complete.

Were you distracted? Busy? Or lacking sufficient time? The essence of this assessment is to enable you find a solution that can assist you in completing your objectives on time.

2. Track Your Time

Tracking your time is highly crucial to determining your productivity level. You only have 24 hours, just like any other person. How you spend each second is what differentiates you from the rest of the world.

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While some are experts at managing their time productively, others retire at night without any significant thing they have accomplished all day.

You just can’t live your life like that.

Track your time to derive an accurate evaluation of your accomplishments and performance in your workplace.

3. Practice Accountability

While you can collaborate with an accountability partner to monitor your progress, Jones Loflin, a keynote speaker and a prolific author, also recommends that you ask yourself some reflective questions daily[2]:

  • Was I productive today or reactive?
  • Have I accomplished any of my short-term goals?
  • What took my time today?
  • Who is excited that I was part of their day?
  • What did I accomplish today that will relieve me of stress tomorrow?
  • What did I fail to do that can make my tomorrow worse off?

While you don’t have to ask all these questions each day, you can ask them at intervals throughout the week.

You can also practice journaling or blog about your experience.

4. Allocate a Time-frame for Your Goals

Establishing a timeline is one of the requirements for creating SMART goals. You can determine if you have accomplished your objectives when you have a time period as a point of reference. You provide yourself a timeline to implement your tasks when you assign deadlines for all your milestones.

That way, you can detect when you are not meeting your deadlines and quickly get back on track.

5. Complete a Weekly Review

The best time to audit your accomplishment is the weekend and not the end of the year. Create time each week to evaluate your objectives and track your outcomes. Find out which stage you are in, and determine how you can tweak your schedules and routines to better achieve your aims.

How to Improve Productivity

Tracking productivity is important, but it’s all for naught if you’re unable to improve your productivity in the face of difficulties. Productivity can be improved by incorporating these simple things into your life.

1. Exercise

Do this first thing when you wake up. According to research, exercise, especially team exercise, can enhance your mood for up to 12 hours after a workout.[3]

Therefore, if you care to have a productive day, invest your first 20 minutes in physical exercises.

Nothing energizes you like physical exercises, and productivity can be improved by a boost in your energy level.

2. Prioritize the Most Critical Tasks

Everyone has specific activities that count the most. An important step is to identify three things that add value to your life’s purpose.

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What three things produce the most income?

What three things generate the highest impact?

Delete the “additional stuff” as much as you can. This action will enable you to enjoy the importance of focusing on your most important activities.

3. Allocate Less Time for Major Projects

Time is like a new mansion. You fill a new house with furniture and fittings, just as you load each block of your time with activities.

So here’s a practical approach you can apply.

Reduce the amount of time you assign for a critical task.

That will help you to focus and stay productive. It will also optimize your energy level and help you get things done faster.

4. Chunk Your House Chores

Now that you are working from home, housekeeping activities can become your greatest distractions.

You don’t have to worry about that.

Instead of performing those tasks at any time of the day, sort them out in an organized block. Then, schedule the blocks and take them out when you are tired or need a mental break.

5. Learn to Say No

That does not mean you are not polite. It’s important to protect your time by saying no as often as you say yes.

Time is a great asset; you cannot waste it trying to please everyone.

6. Schedule Free Time

Don’t let your free time just happen. It should not also be a product of “if you have a chance.”

Plan it!

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Set out fun things to do during those free periods. It could be watching a new movie or playing an exciting game. Let it be something that you love so you can anticipate it.

Productivity can be improved by an increased level of happiness, which we can improve during those crucial moments of free time.

7. Take a Productivity Nap

A quick nap has the ability to boost your creativity, retention, and focus.[4]

Midday siestas can supercharge your productivity, so don’t overwork yourself; take a nap!

8. Use Your Mind to Think, Not to Recollect

Never clutter your mind with mental lists of things you need to remember.

Instead, write those things down and focus your mind on how to do them better. Avoid wasting your mental energy on remembering important ideas, and let papers take care of that.

9. Turn off Notifications

Turn off email dings, phone buzzes, and pop-ups. Every notification distracts you from the most important task, so eliminating them is an important step if you want to focus your energy.

Go notification-free, and once or twice each out, check for a few minutes if you’ve missed an urgent call or a message.

Most of the time, you will discover you haven’t missed anything and that the time you gained was better spent being productive.

10. Create Room for Reflection

Block about 20 to 30 minutes of your working time for reflection.

Close the door and reflect. You can also take a walk during this period. Exercising this way can aid your thinking as it encourages focused energy and relaxation.[5]

Bonus Point: Use the 2-Minute Rule

In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen recommends:

“When an activity requires less than two minutes, do not schedule it, do not set it aside for a later time, do not set a reminder — just do them instantly.”

Bottom Line

Productivity can be improved by the ten actionable steps mentioned above. Don’t forget to do the most important things first, allocate limited time for them, and focus like a laser to achieve your milestones.

Don’t forget the two-minute rule! If you can get it done quickly, get it done now.

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Featured photo credit: Carl Heyerdahl via unsplash.com

Reference

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