Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Making positive personal choices, part of Managing Stress.
So far, we've discussed how you manage stress by examining your accessibility at work, and your interactions at work. Now, for just a minute, we need to discuss the larger context a little bit more about life in general not just life a work. There are several practices that are well-know to help reduce stress in your life. Let's consider a few. The first is predictable and very important. That's diet and exercise. There's a lot of research here, and one of the most important take-aways I want to share with you is that long-term success at improving your diet and exercise isn't about becoming a dietitian and a marathoner tomorrow.
Taking on massive goals in this area, very quickly, is very often a prescription for quick relapse. The key is to start small. Choose one or two small diet and exercise goals for the year. They can be as simple as avoiding or reducing one type of food and choosing to take walks a few times each week. Your odds of success with these choices go up since their easier to stick with, which means your odds of improving upon them in the future also goes up.
The next idea is a very common daily behavior for successful goal-oriented people. I call it Outcome Visualization. This is a conscious decision you make everyday. Just spend a minute, maybe two alone, quietly visualizing yourself achieving a goal. Like a movie in your mind, see yourself doing the very thing you're trying to achieve. Watch that movie in detail regularly, and it becomes a useful filter through which you view your daily behaviors.
You begin to ask yourself, how what you're doing will or will not help you achieve that envisioned outcome. I want you to start with only one goal, but when you become comfortable doing this, very briefly, daily, then you should feel free to focus on multiple outcomes. Now, here's one of my favorites, it's amazing how often we forget these. Fun activities and socially stimulating activities. Everyone has a different personality, so the answer here is different for each of you. You can watch a movie, or read a book, pursue a hobby, go out with friends, or become a volunteer.
Choose things that you know or believe will make you feel happy, and maybe, a little more at peace. We often think we just don't have time, but don't forget the 90/10 rule really does apply to life as much as work. You see, when you take small bits of time to pursue fun and/or social activities, three great things happen. They produce positive emotions, they produce cognitive stimulation focused on non-work subjects, and they often create a personal affirmation and a positive sense of identity outside of your professional identity.
All of which are hedges against inflated stress, so make time for a little fun. Finally, here's one additional useful behavior. Remember to find time to be thankful. Stress often tricks us into focusing a huge part of our attention on negative things in our life, which makes us forget to focus on the things that are positive. Stopping once in a while to take an inventory of the things you should be grateful for is immensely important. Think about your family, your friends, an opportunity you're working on, or maybe a group you're a part of.
Name the things you're lucky to have. The things that add real value to your life. At least once each week, if you stop and honestly think about these items, it'll be much harder to forget them when stress levels rise.