18 Aug

Choices

There was once an alcoholic man who had two sons. When the sons grew up, one become an alcoholic just like his father and the other became a teetotaller. When the sons were asked why they had chosen those specific paths they both answered. “You know my father was an alcoholic, isn’t my life path choice obvious?” 

I love this story, as it shows how we all interpret life so differently.

These two sons show me that life can be one of two things to us:

Firstly, we can have the mindset that life has already been mapped out for us, and we have to graciously accept the lot we are given, like the alcoholic son. His father was an alcoholic, so it meant he would be one as well.

Or, secondly we can chose to see life as a blank canvas, and what we make of it will define our success and happiness, whatever that means to us.

In life we have choices. No-one controls you, no-one tells you how to live your life, run your business or raise your children. There are lots of experts out there with great advice, but when all is said and done and the experts have gotten back into their boxes to preach another day, you stand alone with a decision to make.

You choose what’s best for you. Just you and no one else. How do you choose?

11 Aug

Stress, a love-hate relationship

“I’m just stressed, I’ll be fine” is a comment I hear all too often. I’ll even admit saying it myself from time to time.
According to a recent survey completed by Business New Zealand and Southern Cross Health Society, stress levels within the New Zealand workplace have increased by 22.9%. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.
Stress is a funny concept. In many ways stress can be a good thing in our lives. Good stressors motivate us, get us moving and achieving. Our thoughts become clearer and we become more focused in our decision making. The difference however between a good stressor and a bad stressor is that the good stressor knows when to stop pushing our buttons. It knows when it has over-stayed it’s welcome and graciously leaves us in peace. Unfortunately a bad stressor is like an unwelcome house guest, it just won’t leave.
The dangerous thing about bad stress is that it eventually becomes our “norm” or even settles into the culture of the business. We start tolerating it, we make excuses for it, we even take the blame for it.  Bad stress causes us to develop negative behaviour patterns which are not just dangerous for us psychologically or physiological, but negatively affect the people around us.
The sad and frustrating thing that I have witnessed is that most people think that they can manage their stress, or that their stress levels are not high enough to be taken seriously. They believe that by ignoring the stressors all will be right with the world in the morning. Sadly, the reality of the situation is that by doing nothing, we let the stress take over. It takes control and in many cases to the detriment of our health, happiness and wellbeing.
Reality check, stress affects all of us and it will never go away, therefore the secret is what we do with it.  Actively finding ways to properly control or remove it from our lives. Here are a few suggestions to start you thinking about taking back the control.

Acknowledging that you are stressed and that it’s not okay

Fobbing off your stress and saying it’s okay is not okay. Realise that you are risking your health and wellbeing and if you don’t get on top of your negative stressors it will get on top of you. Holmes-Rahe developed a stress test in the 1960s and it is pretty remarkable that when you complete the test you start becoming aware of how much or little stress you actually have in your life. That living in a negative stress bubble is not normal and can cause you serious harm.

Ask for help

Firstly, asking for help should never be seen as a weakness. It is probably one of the bravest things you could ever do. Help will look different in most cases, it just depends on your situation. You may need to talk to a professional therapist or councellor, a friend, a coach, a boss whatever the situation, ask for help. It’s okay to say that you don’t know how to solve an issue on your own. It’s healthy to ask for help.

Priorities, be selfish and learn to say “no”

Think about the negative stressors in your life and that includes your workplace. How many of these stressors are other people’s “stuff”? Learning to prioritise yourself as more important than others is key to learning how to manage and control stress. You are the most important person in your life first, then comes everyone else.

Be kind to yourself and take time out

Some stressors are not always in our control. So instead of sweeping them under the carpet, take some time out to actually deal with them. Take the time to process, think, mourn, whatever you need to do to clear your head, accept and move on.

Stress will always be in our lives. How you choose to manage it will be the key to how you successfully or unsuccessfully operate in the world.