Time to smell the roses
Stress leading to burnout has become a major problem in our society, costing us millions of dollars a year and having a major impact on our health.
So how can we deal with stress more effectively to improve our health and avoid burnout?
Many of you, like myself, will be receiving more mail than you can reasonably deal with. So why should I add to your stress levels by inflicting another newsletter on you?
Here’s why. Instead of giving you more information to add to your already overloaded in-tray, this newsletter will help you digest, assimilate and integrate the information you already have.
A report published in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine on 23 April 2000, said, “evidence suggests that our inability to process the deluge of data is causing a litany of ills from memory loss to heart disease”.
There is a mistaken idea that information is power. Nothing can be further from the truth. To quote from a Motorola brochure, “All the technology in the world means nothing if you don’t know what to do with it”.
This hunger for more information is not dissimilar to an addiction to overeating.
Information, like food, needs to be digested and assimilated. Our nervous system, just like our digestive system, can only handle a certain amount of material at a time.
Overloading your brain with information has similar results to overloading your digestive system with food. In the short-term it decreases your effectiveness rather than increasing it, just as overeating clogs up your system and decreases your health and fitness. In the medium and longer term, it creates stress that can lead to serious long-term damage.
An article by Nick Tabakoff in BRW of 3 December 1999 says, “Information overload and unprecedented levels of corporate rationalisation have spawned a faceless but deadly career–killer burnout”.
“Extreme executive stress is rising rapidly…taking a rising emotional toll on individuals and an equally large financial toll on companies…Harris Smith and Associates estimate that the cost to business is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Despite all the evidence, many of us still find ourselves under pressure to work longer hours!
SO, what can you do about it?
1. STOP. Before reading any further, take time to review what you’ve just read and evaluate it. Decide whether to go on reading it or to throw it in the bin. Your time is too valuable to waste on unhelpful material.
2. This, of course, presupposes that you find this material valuable, otherwise you wouldn’t still be reading it!
Step 2 is to give yourself a balanced information diet. Just as a balanced food diet is essential to your physical health, a balanced information diet is vital for your effective performance and continuing good health.
If you are a candidate for burnout the information you are feeding yourself is very likely to be unbalanced.
Warren Bennis writes, “Technologically we are very advanced but psychologically we are babes in the wood. We do not know ourselves or anyone else very well”.
For a more balanced information diet, you need to get to know yourself better. How can you do this?
> Take TIME to think, reflect, and meditate. Take a walk in the park, by the sea – or even just around the block. Spend quiet time with yourself. Do this regularly.
> Get to know your body. Your body is constantly giving you the information you need to lead a healthy, balanced and productive life. Learn how to access that information.
> Enlist the help of a skilled guide. Why? Because it is very hard to get to know yourself better, and to create more balance in your life, without appropriate support.
> Aldous Huxley writes, “They intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are”.
Perform at your Best
It is only by taking more time to know yourself and lead a more balanced life, that you can perform at your best. It ought to be clear from all the available evidence that the pressure to do more is counter-productive to both individuals and companies, and that it is very costly to both.
The fact that so many people continue to find themselves under pressure to work longer hours despite all the evidence shows how hard it is to change deep-seated habits and beliefs.
Unfortunately, and very predictably, some coaches actually contribute to the problem by pushing their clients to achieve more. It takes courage and skill to understand that the way forward – and the way to promote optimal performance – is to reduce the pressure and not to increase it.
Enough food for thought.
Take a break now – do something you enjoy – take a walk, listen to music, spend quality time with your friends or loved ones.
I leave you with a quote from Dr Robert Schuller:
“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
My very best wishes to you,