Do you ever feel like your calendar is running you instead of the other way around? Ever get agitated due to too many competing priorities and super-tight deadlines but not enough time? Or have restless nights thinking about your version of the TPS report? (Gotta love “Office Space!”) If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you are living with stress.
According to the U.N., occupational stress is a global epidemic. Our response to the stressors around us has a lot to do with our happiness and productivity levels at work. We may get sick, depressed and burn out; and according to Gallup-Healthways research, companies miss out on $ 300 billion per year due to lost productivity among unhappy workers in America.
As marketers, we have an awesome framework we can use to better manage stress—the marketing plan. It has the right ingredients: setting objectives, listening, engaging and measuring. So why not apply this framework to our own lives? All we need to do is reframe the conversation and we can become our own marketing program.
Bust stress in five steps
I lead a double life as a senior director in the high-tech industry during the day and as a student in alternative medicine at night and on the weekends. So I know this: There are a lot of stressors around me. I don’t claim to be perfect but I have been experimenting with different ways to manage stress that seem to help me. Putting them together into a marketing plan-like framework, here are a few things I’ve found useful—and I hope you will, too.
1) Set a positive tone for your day. Upon awakening, keep your eyes closed. Pay attention to your breath for a few minutes and without changing it, recognize the depth, length and location of it. If your mind starts making lists and writing emails in your head, take a deep breath. Think of something positive, something that you desire or makes you happy, and visualize the effects of it coming true. If you have a meditation practice, slip into it. If not, just stick with your breath or visualization.
2) Listen to your body. Take a slow mental scan of your body. Watch what comes up. You might experience extreme joy or some cringing in your body or a sudden burst of anger toward a particular individual. If the latter happens, acknowledge it and focus your energy on what you can regulate: your own reaction. Give them the benefit of the doubt that, just like you, every day they try to make the best choices based on their own journey. It will help you see them differently. It will help you see them with compassion and through the lens of an independent observer. I saw a quote circling on social media a while ago with the #speaklife hash tag that said, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” So true.
3) Use tools. Engagement in marketing happens through people, tools and processes. It’s the same here. Let’s take a look at some tools.
The most fundamental tool at your disposal is your breath. You can learn to calm yourself down by taking deep and slow breaths into the belly. Place one hand on your belly. Inhale through your nose as you draw the air into your abdomen for a count of four, feeling your belly bulge. Consider pausing for one or two breaths at the top of your inhalation, and count again to four as you exhale through your nose, feeling your naval moving towards your spine. Do not constrict your throat. You can increase the count as you build comfort with this technique.
Other tools include exercise, yoga, meditation, prioritization and lifestyle management. Lifestyle should also include laughing (a lot), and having a “thing,” a hobby outside of work.
4) Pause and reset. Consider this your “measure and refine” phase. Here are four ways to quickly course correct and hit that reset button:
- Take bathroom breaks: Any time you feel stress, anger or anxiety coming on, take a few minutes of silence in the bathroom and breathe into your belly.
- Be alone for 15 minutes: Block your calendar during lunchtime. Enjoy 15 minutes in silence in a hidden corner of your building, in your car or walking. No emails, no texts, no calls.
- Create space between work and home: This could be a separate blog topic. Start with spending a few minutes in your car in silence before leaving work. Even if you need to (continue to) work when you are at home, bring your workday to a close. Do a few rounds of belly breaths, gaze at an object, take a warm bath or find something that makes you happy to let your day go.
- Give thanks: Acknowledge the people and things in your life you’re thankful for. Every day.
5) Pace Yourself. Every marketing plan has a key message. Mine is this: Start small. After all, there’s no point in stressing about stress. Try one or two things from the above list for six to eight weeks. Stick with the changes and when you’re ready, add in another one, and so on.
Slipping up is part of the process so don’t be hard on yourself. Acknowledge it without judgment and let it go. Then try again.
Image by dgisarad, freeimages.com