Every day I find junk mail waiting for me, whether it is snail mail or email. Unless I deal with it immediately, I will be faced with piles of unwanted paper, or a full inbox, which just distracts me. It can be very frustrating trying to find something which is buried in a drawer or hidden under a pile of papers. Not only is this distracting but it also takes time and can lead to added stress. Every time you look at a pile of untidy papers you may just notice yourself sighing and notice, too, how your energy is diverted into feeling guilty about one more task not yet done.
Clear away the clutter - anything that will distract you, anything that takes up space, either physically or mentally. Examples include:
an untidy desk or car
a pile of unpaid bills
a disorganised wardrobe
What takes away your time and energy? Examples include: chatting on the phone or round the coffee machine friends dropping round unannounced on a regular basis relationships not working searching for things that you can't remember where you left
Just as we put sunscreen on us to protect against the harmful rays of the sun, we sometimes need to protect ourselves from people, places and things. Prevention is better than cure! You can't stop other people from being negative or living their lives from one drama to another, but you can stop yourself from being sucked in by them.
Dawn had reached the point when all she wanted to do was hand her notice in at work. As she was so behind with her work, she logged on to her computer at home, after she had put her children to bed. So much for trying to combine motherhood with work - it just didn't seem to be working. During the day, her team continually interrupted her when she was about to start on her work, with questions she felt that they really ought to know the answer to. "Why can't they work it out for themselves?" she said.
She realised that she had fallen into the trap, as so many managers do, of sorting out the problems for her team without encouraging them to come up with their own answers first. She would ask them to leave it with her. And of course, that was a monkey off their backs and one more on to hers. No wonder she felt stressed most of the time at work.
So she did two things to combat the problem. She increased the number of one-to-ones with her staff, and used the time to talk through her team's workload and some of the issues they were facing. For the first time in a long time her team took responsibility for their own work. Second, instead of inviting them to leave problems with her, she either asked them to come back with their own ideas, e.g. a draft of a letter, or suggested that she would meet with them later in the day, by which time they had normally sorted things out for themselves.
Dawn recognised that her role as a team manager had not always been as clear as it might have been. She thought she was supporting them by doing their work for them. "I thought I was in control but nothing was further from the truth. I hadn't realised how much the regular interruptions and my poor time management contributed to stress." Her team, although shocked at first, started to thrive. They started to feel more confident in their own abilities to solve problems, and Dawn was always there when they needed support. She also seemed to be a lot less short tempered with them, which they appreciated.
In reducing interruptions from her team, Dawn was setting stronger personal boundaries.
You can choose how you react or respond to others. You may find yourself reacting in the moment then spending the next two days feeling awful that you snapped at someone. All that time you are occupied with these thoughts and you could be doing something about reducing the stress in your life. Think before you act even if it just for 30 seconds.
Emotions may get the better of you on occasion, if they do you can stop things from escalating and causing more stress.
Most of us find it is hard enough to change ourselves. It is even more difficult to change others. So if you find yourself stressed by the actions of others, change how you react, rather than expecting others to change.
As you change, watch others change around you!
Carolyn Matheson is a nationally recognized Coach, Speaker and Author of "Yes to Less Stress."
Carolyn is a Master Certified Coach, and works with executives and their teams across the world. She has pioneered an innovative approach to coaching, combining many years of high performance coaching with a holistic approach to work/life balance and has coached hundreds of leaders and their teams. Her experience as a presenter, both nationally and internationally, spans 20 years, with clients currently in Europe, Australia, the Middle and Far East, and the USA.
Her new book, Yes to Less Stress is available online at her website, http://www.areustressed.com