17 May 2011

A Lesson In Stress Management From The Kids'

One day I took most of the day off – went beachcombing with four of my grandchildren, aged 3 – 8. Three things combined to create a weekday that felt like a delicious holiday, despite the pile of work waiting:

  1. It was school holidays in New Zealand
  2. It was wedding anniversary time-out for their hard-working parents
  3. I’d made a conscious decision to copy the kids – to just take the day as it came.

At the end of a perfect day four tired and happy babes were returned, somewhat grubby from happy mud-larks in the estuary (but that’s their mother’s problem!), and their totally relaxed and happy grandmother sat down, glass of red at finger-reach, to start this ezine to you.

Small evening sounds filled the quiet air. Seabirds chirped as they fluffed their feathers for the night; the last of a local flock of Mallard ducks waddled home to their nests; and a late fisherman zipped up the channel, heading home for dinner. It really was the perfect end to a perfect day, but suddenly I realised something. The wonderful feeling of peace and contentment I was feeling was at a much higher level than normal. I don’t know what you do, but whenever I notice something a little different I like to dig a bit deeper. Here’s what was reinforced for me as I reflected on the day:

1. Live in the moment 
How easy it is to be amazingly rested by the small pleasures of life when we can live in the moment, as children do. No matter where we work, but possibly even more when it’s from home, it’s incredibly easy to get sucked in to the pressure of work, forget to stop, forget to notice the little details, the serendipitous moments and events. I’d had to make a conscious decision that morning to just ‘be’ with the kids, and the rewards and relaxation factor were far beyond my expectations.

Have you ever noticed that if you try and combine ‘play’ and ‘work’ your mind is too cluttered and you miss too much?

2. It’s not about the money 
I don’t know about you, but in times past I’ve caught myself thinking I had to get away on expensive holidays in order to have a break. This beach day, on the other hand, cost nothing and we had as much fun as anything I’ve done in ages, even including a wonderful trip to Singapore two weeks earlier.

3. There was a very practical time management principle at work! 
Without being deliberate about it, I’d invoked a very useful principle – one that helps us in our work as well as our play – the power of ‘chunking’ or concentrated focus. You’ll find it discussed more fully in ‘About Time – 120 Tips for Those with No Time’. If we chunk our activities so that we’re fully present and engaged in one activity for a set period of time, we achieve far more than if we try to keep seven activity balls in the air at the same time.

On this particular day, it seemed that an inverse ratio kicked in – a greater than normal degree of focused concentration returned a far higher level than normal of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment for time well spent. (I must watch and see if that always applies. What do you think?)

So, I was pretty happy with those three applications, but then something else happened. As I’d nearly finished getting down these thoughts, an email about stress flicked across the screen. It was from Michael Licenblat, an Australian who calls himself a Resilience Expert (love the title, Michael!), promoting his free ebook called ‘Seven Ways To Prevent Yourself Becoming Over- Worked, Stressed-Out, and Run-Down’.

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I guess that’s a relevant extension to the topic. Let’s see what Michael’s got to say on the subject.’

Here’s a few eye-catching lines:

‘Most people unwittingly CREATE stress for themselves through their body use, attitudes, working habits and lifestyles.’

‘Since many people are just so busy just getting throughs the day, they don’t realize that some of their ‘coping strategies’, which they may not even be aware they’re using, are actually draining them of energy, health and happiness and creating an experience known as ‘stress’.’

Seven mistakes are then outlined. Mistake # 1 is ‘Working As If You Are Unbreakable’

‘Being motivated and passionate about achieving goals in your work and life is an important quality to help you get to where you want to go. When you can focus and push yourself past your comfort zone you will achieve targets that you may have otherwise not attempted.

‘The danger, however, lies in not knowing when to STOP pushing yourself and literally working yourself to death!’

Here’s to achieving your targets without working yourself to death – by using time like a little child.

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