Sid Madge, author of ‘Meee in a Work Minute’ provides a suite of quick tips to reduce stress and tackle difficult problems
There is no doubting that 2020 is a year of change. However, before we all push to return to a more comfortable, pre-novel-coronavirus, normal maybe it’s time to design something better for ourselves, our companies and the planet.
We’ve already been adapting
The way businesses and individuals have embraced technology, home working and digital solutions has demonstrated that we can adapt quickly when necessary. Lockdown has opened our minds to alternative ways of working. This has the potential to provide greater freedom, flexibility and better work/life balance for company directors and their employees.
Forget ‘new normal’, we need ‘new balance’, a move away from the high stress, win/lose mentality that leaves everyone depleted. As Intel’s Andy Gove famously said, “bad companies are destroyed by crisis, good companies survive them, and great companies are improved”.
Very often improvements are made possible in just a moment.
Our biology can help us
We all have good days and bad days at work, but when we allow bad times to pollute our thinking, distort how we feel and gather momentum we can easily make things worse.
This is not self-help positive thinking – this is biology. Bad days lead to negative thought patterns, which increase the stress hormone cortisol in our system, which creates a negative feedback loop.
DHEA is the performance hormone and it does the opposite, in a positive feedback loop. If we feel good, our body creates more DHEA, which makes us feel better which creates even more and so on. Every moment is a fresh moment and we need to use these moments to deliberately interrupt the negative and re-set our system to minimise cortisol and maximise DHEA.
This is the reason I wrote the ‘Meee in a Minute’ book series. They offer minute sized interventions, life hacks, suggestions, insights, science, stories, short exercises or thought experiments and quotes that can help us to reboot after a tough day and improve our work life – in just a minute.
Let me share some ideas on improving your working-life that you can quickly put into practice.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy discovered something interesting about confidence. It can be manufactured when needed! By engaging in a ‘high-power’ pose for just two minutes we can increase our confidence hormone by 20 percent and reduce our stress hormone by 25 percent.
Next time you need a quick hit of confidence, maybe before an important meeting or negotiation, nip to the bathroom and do a ‘high-power’ pose for two minutes. For example, the superman/wonderwoman pose. Stand up straight, shoulders back with your legs hip distance apart, hands on your hips. Look forward with your chin tilted upward and breathe deeply as though you have just arrived to save the world. Also, at another time, Google what the low power poses look like so you can avoid them.
After the 2004 Madrid bombings psychologists found that many of those affected experienced positive psychological growth. Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. Covid will make us stronger.
The Holmes Rahe Stress Scale suggests that the more stressful life events we experience the more susceptible we are to physical illness, disease and depression. While logical, the theory doesn’t always hold true. A field of study, called post traumatic growth or adversarial growth, has shown that great suffering or trauma can lead to huge positive change. For example, after the 2004 Madrid bombings psychologists found that many of those affected experienced positive psychological growth. Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. Covid will make us stronger.
Take a minute to think of the positives that could come from 2020. It might not be fun in the moment, but when you can find the silver linings you can reset faster and move into growth and productivity.
If what you are doing now isn’t working – do the opposite and see if that works. Often, we just double-down on the same strategy and simply flog it harder. But if it’s not working, doing it harder just makes it more wrong. Take a minute to think about something in your life that is not working. What could you do instead? Think of the exact opposite? If you are struggling to get the best out of your team and you are not supporting them, try the opposite.
Just Be Nice (JBN)
This might sound really obvious but often, especially in business we are expected to be ‘efficient’ or ‘professional’ and yet that doesn’t always incorporate ‘nice’. Why not? We are all experiencing Covid fall-out and the worst is probably yet to come. We can help and support each other to get through.
Being likable is a verified influencer, especially for marketing. We will always do more and go out of our way to help someone we like or has been nice to us. It makes business sense and it’s also a more enjoyable way to go through life. Take a minute to think about your day – could you have been nicer to anyone? Tomorrow just be nice to everyone you come in contact with, even if you don’t feel they deserve it. Not only will it brighten their day, but it will make you feel better too.
Dial Down the Overwhelm
We can easily feel overloaded by too many decisions. But if we stop to consider those decisions and when they need to be made it may be possible to delay some without much impact. This will give you some thinking space.
Also, be honest with yourself about your work. Stress and overwhelm is rarely just about the amount of work we do. It’s usually exacerbated by the type of work and whether we enjoy it, are challenged by it or not.
Take a few minutes to really consider your current role. Does it inspire you or challenge you? Might you find it more enjoyable if you had more flexible working arrangements? If so, why not make the necessary changes?
Life is challenging at the moment, both at home and at work. Allow yourself a break. Learn some new strategies, recalibrate your thinking when you need it and together, we will come back better than before.