At this time of the year, the various busy season deadlines, spring just around the corner and new activities thrown into our schedule require increased time and effort, driving our stress level up. Here are six ideas to help maintain positivity – and even reduce the feeling of stress – that you can practice during these peak periods:
Manage your interpretations – One of the biggest energy drainers and negativity generators is our internal dialogue or self-talk. Unfortunately, when we are under pressure, our internal dialogue is not the most hopeful or positive. Instead, we say disempowering things to ourselves about our situation, our own abilities, and the role others play. While we can’t turn our inner dialogue off, we can consciously shift the tone of what we’re saying to ourselves. Doing so takes a conscious effort– especially during stressful times. The first step is to notice our negative inner dialogue, then stop it and counter it by saying something positive or hopeful. For example, if a co-worker is late delivering something to you and then snippy when you ask about it, stop the “normal” internal dialogue of “She doesn’t care about my time. She needs to be better at time management. Etc. etc.” to “She is under pressure, too, and her lashing out is not personal to me. She may need some help in reprioritizing her work. Maybe I could assist her in doing that.” Play the interpretations game that I wrote about in Another Possible View so you can shift your frame of mind and not get stuck in the spiral of negativity that will drain your energy, reduce your effectiveness and productivity and potentially damage your relationships when you react based on your negative interpretations.
Say no (or no, not now) – We want to please others and often feel like our role or responsibilities require us to say yes or accept assignments. However, sometimes the better answer is saying no – or at least no, not now. It is our responsibility to manage our commitments and cautiously say yes so that we don’t over-commit and under-deliver. This is especially important during peak time periods or when there are other circumstances or events requiring more of our time and attention than normal. You can negotiate timing or alternatives to the request, explaining the impact of saying yes to that request by using some of the phrases I suggested in The Art of Saying No. The bottom line is to be careful not to give “false yeses” because you don’t want to disappoint someone, but then end up disappointing them (in an even bigger way!) by not being able to keep that commitment.
Communicate – When we are under pressure and putting in extra time, we often forget to communicate. The biggest reason is that we tell ourselves that we don’t have time to communicate. The problem this causes is that it leaves others wondering what the status of our projects is, how we’re doing, or how they can help. We may not be able to hold a long meeting, but we should not stop our regular communications, such as scheduling meetings, status updates, discussions to reprioritize or delegate tasks or even just a communication to call, “Uncle!” when we truly are overwhelmed. Sometimes, just getting straight about our feelings of overwhelm with a trusted sounding board about what has to get done today can help stop the worry and provide a boost of energy to tackle what’s on your plate, knowing that the rest will be there tomorrow to reprioritize. This requires being in communication and getting out from behind your desk or picking up the phone – and it will be one of the best 15 minute investments you spend that day!
Be healthy – This is another element that we ignore when we’re under time pressure. But practicing healthy activities is critical to keeping our energy up, maintaining a positive outlook and literally, staying healthy! Try to keep it simple and incorporate healthy activities into your day, such as packing a healthy lunch rather than grabbing something on the go (which is not usually a healthy option), have healthy snacks at your desk, drink lots of water, get up and go for a walk for 15 minutes (maybe with your trusted sounding board to discuss priorities) and keep your regular exercise routine. It could also include ensuring you play outside some time on the weekend, scheduling dinner with your family (which might be 3x a week vs. your regular 5 but don’t drop it out completely and communicate this with your family to help manage their expectations) and finding a few minutes to pray, meditate, practice yoga or go to church. Pick just a few healthy ideas that work for you and commit to them. You’ll find that you won’t want to drop them out of your routine because they increase your energy and outlook when needed the most!
Count your blessings – In the midst of all that is going on, especially during unusually demanding and stressful times, it’s important to remember all that is good in our life. One easy way to get centered and find some calmness and peace of mind is to take a moment and say thank you for everything we have to be grateful for. I know for me it’s my family, especially my husband and children, my health and their health, the difference-making work I am privileged to do, the wonderful team I get to work with and the clients I get to make a difference for, our country and all those who serve and protect it, and even simple things like the change of seasons and beautiful trees and flowers that start blooming and birds that return to Minnesota in the spring. And, take a moment to say thank you to others for a job well done, lending a helping hand, or just for being on the team or part of the family.
Let go and have faith – I learned the Serenity Prayer at a very young age from my mom who would walk through our kitchen saying, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” No matter what your faith orientation is, there is power in letting go of the things you cannot change or affect – including the outcome – after you’ve done and said everything you know to do and say. For me, it’s placing trust and faith in God that it will all work out, even if I don’t see clearly what the plan or path is in the moment. Use this prayer or another mantra, such as “It will all come together!” – another favorite – to let go of worry and concern so that you can direct your energy into the actions there are to take. And, keep in mind that one of the actions may be to do nothing but pray (and instead go exercise, or enjoy a quiet evening at the movies, or dinner with your family or a friend).
What do you do to stay positive? Which one of these ideas will you act on today to bring more positivity and joy into your work and your life? Please post a comment and share so we can learn, too!
This popular blog from September 2013 was updated and posted today because of its relevance to our many readers.
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