Get your diary back in the black this Friday

Get your diary back in the black this Friday

What better day to kick off my new theme in Stress Management than on the busiest shopping day of the year.  So let’s define stress in basic, scientific terms:

“Stress is a biological and psychological response experienced on encountering a threat that we feel we do not have the resources to deal with” Saul McLeod, Psychology lecturer at The University of Manchester, author of simplypsychology.org

McLeod goes on to say that when we experience long term stresses  spanning over several hours, days or weeks hormones are released to maintain a steady supply of blood sugar to keep us going. You could say that we are built to cope with stress and can even thrive under it. The body even suppresses our immune system in this mode; ever wondered why you always get sick on Christmas day? Stress had your immune system in overdrive, fighting off the flu, up until the point you relax.

So a few pointers for stress management in the silly season:

  1. The feeling of control slipping out of your fingers; the tipping point beyond which nothing makes sense is a horrid whirlwind of craziness that should be avoided at all costs, but come the moment when that starts to happen, spare a thought for your delightful adrenal gland keeping you going.
  2. Stress may be manageable in small doses but don’t let it go on for long (You want sherry not Lemsip on Boxing Day, right?). If you know you are stressed: STOP. Stop everything, just for 10 minutes. Walk away, take a pad of paper, sit in a room by yourself, leave your phone on your desk.
  3. Use the 10 minutes to write down what is really important about this day or week. Also write down the things that can be ignored, even if it’s just for a short while. If time is your most critical resource then your diary, especially your work diary, is like your bank account; go back to your desk and cancel non-critical meetings, block out time to work on critical things, and leave an hour for lunch (your body’s got to get blood sugar from somewhere).
  4. Don’t behave like this every day. Stress clouds our ability to make normal decisions so this is just a reaction to help keep those emotions under control. Once peace is restored you can start going to non-critical meetings and apologise to the people you’ve been ignoring!

I always feel slightly nervous about giving out time management advice on my blog posts because I can only write it from one perspective. I only offer one-to-one coaching sessions for this reason, all advice should be tailored to the individual and this post cannot be tailored. As a result, I’d love to hear your experiences of stress and any comments you have about this advice below.

Optimists are Failures

Optimists are Failures

To look at, Jonny Harris and Winston Churchill don’t have a lot in common*, but they do share this one belief; difficulties lead to opportunities.

As a designer, Jonny has managed to grasp one key life lesson: Failure leads you to great solutions. In his words: “I think if I was constantly concerned by not being able to make something look good instantly I would be a very anxious designer; the fear of failure is washed away when you realise that it is only by using a process of trial and error that you end up at a great answer”. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

It kind of seems counter intuitive to marry failure with optimism. I think we instinctively sense that optimism is only felt when we are not failing or trying very hard to ignore our failings or the failings of others. But as Jonny has discovered optimism is looking failure in the face and pressing on.

It is very easy to find examples of successful people who have failed and yet turned into big successes. Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney, the list goes on. But it’s not clear from these reports how many of them felt, at the time they were failing, that this was a good process that needed to happen in order to succeed? What Jonny is explaining here is not looking back at the setbacks in his design career and realising they turned out good in the end, he’s talking about daily, consistent perseverance of failing and failing until something good sticks: embracing failure.

Thanks for being this week’s case study Jonny! And if anyone has any comments about this concept of failure and optimism going hand-in-hand I’d love to hear your comments.

*I’m referring to Jonny Harris, the designer and personal acquaintance, not Jonny Harris the comedian. Although neither are as jowly as Churchill.