StressIsGood

When Stress Is Good For You

My work as an IT manager sometimes means stress; lots of stress… and that Thursday afternoon things were going so bad that I had to make a decision:

  1. Avoid stress — quit my job and go live in peace.
  2. Embrace stress — learn to live with stress and find out how how to take advantage of it.

Unfortunately my wife ruled out the first choice, so I had no alternative but taking the second one… so I called my good mentor Mike.

Mike showed me the Yerkes-Dodson curve:

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You see my friend, up to a point stress is good for you; it enhances your performance, alertness and creativity.

But when you are pushing yourself too much and you are entering the fatigue zone your performance is actually going down and you are getting exhausted.

– That’s my case Mike; I’m burned out! But what can I do? My job is demanding and I have no other choice but working under lots of stress!

The key is to shift your C’ zone to the right — that means you have to become more stress resilient.

That sounds great; but how I can do that?

It’s not just about how much stress you are putting yourself through; it’s about how you recover from stressful situations.

Stress resilience is similar to physical resilience

When you are training your body for strength, your aim is to fatigue and break the muscle, causing small micro tears in the fibre. After a day or two of rest your body repairs the tears and emerges stronger, having adapted to that increased workload.

The key to this process is that muscle adaptation, growth and repair takes place when you are recovering from exercise; not during it!

The key to stress resilience is allowing for recovery after exposed to excess stress!

But I do that on a daily basis; I rest and relax every day after work in front of TV.

Recovering from a hard day’s work by sitting in front of TV is like being an athlete who eats junk food after his hard work out – you’re shooting yourself in the foot!

In the case of physical stress (like running a marathon), is about resting, eating and maybe getting a nice massage.
For mental and emotional stress the top three methods to recover and become more resilient are:

Exercise — in almost any form it can act as a stress reliever. Being active is boosting your feel-good endorphins and distracts you from daily worries.

Meditation — wipes away the day’s stress, bringing you inner peace.
You can practice meditation wherever you are — whether you’re out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office or even in the middle of a difficult business meeting.

Social support — Surround yourself with at least a few good friends and confidants; when you choose to connect with others under stress, you are creating resilience.

I decided to go for all three of them… But you know something? The better part was that…

Choosing to view stress as something helpful and not as an enemy transformed my exhaustion into courage!

3 Effective Tips to Influence a Group

3 Effective Tips to Influence a Group!

We all influence other people in several ways.  There is no right way or only one way.  But how can we change what a group thinks?

We have all had days working with teams that we felt that we had done the “right things”, but the group although showed interest and understood the need of changing did not engage and eventually did not change…

A group, for example, your team, often acts like a herd.  Being part of a group is a social need that affects our decision making, our attitudes, and even our private tastes, as research by psychologists has shown.  This is because of social norms. Norms are a basic human social function, helping us distinguish who is in the group and who is an outsider.  So behaving like the group is an indication to others and to ourselves that we belong to the group. But being too much part of a group may decrease one’s ability to think in a different way, to develop a more critical approach and to introduce change. There is then the well-known quote:

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” Walter Lippmann, US author & journalist (1889 - 1974)

Actually, research has shown that new ideas and innovations are introduced to the group by individuals that are in a way isolated from the group.  But still the introduction of a new idea will not change the group thinking and acting.

But then how can we shift attitudes and change behaviors at less cost in effort and resources in this group?

In order a new idea to be adopted by the group three main conditions need to be met:

1. The new idea evokes emotion.

As an example of how important evoking emotion is, Jonah Berger, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, studied with his team 7,000 newspaper articles in the New York Times and found the articles considered most popular on the newspaper's website were those that aroused more emotions, particularly happy emotions but also anger or anxiety.

2. The new idea creates a bonding link among the group members.

This is even more important when working with teams towards a goal, as the goal itself is a bonding link. The bonding link reinforces the group identity and triggers a common attitude towards change. Bonding links can be also created when team-building activities are linked to the new idea.

3. The new idea is recognized by a key member of the group that has more connections than the outsider - introducer of the idea.

The introducer of the new idea could be us working as a coach, trainer or mentor with a group. However, this third condition could be quite challenging as research has shown that the group leader, unlike innovators tends to be a conformist representing the group's most typical characteristics.  At this point, we will need to use our individual influencing skills.  A good starting point is to follow some of Carnegie’s tips (from his “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, first published in 1936), which underline the importance of communication. Some of them can be easily adapted and you can start with showing genuine interest in someone else, listen carefully, make someone feel important and smile.

In order to influence a group we need to introduce an idea that evokes emotion, creates a bonding link and is recognized by a key member.

Overall group dynamics are complicated to be easily changed, but still we can establish these 3 conditions as a basis for group change, especially when working with teams for a significant period of time.  Finally, observation of group reactions over change and the importance of effective communication are useful for our next steps, two important issues that we will explore in our next group influence articles.

Influencing a group is challenging!

Do you manage, train or coach groups? As we all learn and develop from each other I would appreciate if you shared your views and experiences below.

About the author

Eva Stavrinaki is a Business Development Mentor and Teacher.  After more than 15 years of corporate experience, she explores the new paths of cross-professional development through mentoring, teaching and coaching.

Mindfulness@Work

Mindfulness@Work – How To Do More With Less

It was another crazy day at the office when at 7.15 pm my phone rang for the 37th time – but this one was for a good reason; it was my mentor inviting me for one cup of tea together.
I was so overwhelmed that I decided to close everything and go and meet him.

– Good to see you, but don’t you look a little upset? – he asked.

I’m pressured, overloaded and overwhelmed!

– And how do you manage in this chaos?

I respond as fast as I can; when things are coming up I try to take care of them as soon as possible.

– Is this working?

I’m afraid not; things are coming up faster than I can handle…

– Maybe it’s a bad week; maybe next week, or next month you are going to have less to get done.

Are you kidding me! Each and every month I have more things to do and each and every month I feel more and more overwhelmed; it’s exhausting!

– How do you plan to cope; you are more than 25 years away from retirement 😉

Frankly I have no idea…

– What’s your biggest problem?

I live in a world of continuous interruption; I cannot finish anything because something urgent arises all the time; everything is so tangled; there are loose ends everywhere that are keeping me entangled all the time!

How about focusing on the task at hand and get it done; maybe you should train your mind to focus at one thing at a time.
This endless multitasking deprives your ability to focus.

Your results are not proportional to the time you’re putting on, but to your focused time and energy!

Think about solar energy; it could hardly warm the palm of your hand on a winter day; but focus it by a magnifying glass and you can burn a nice hall through your business card…

…and the same amount of energy focused on a laser beam can cut through steel; can you understand now what the power of focus is?

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That’s amazing! Do you mean that by focusing my mind I can become more productive?

Not only more productive but less stressed and much happier too!

What do you mean by focusing my mind?

It’s about becoming aware where your mind and your attention are; it’s about becoming more mindful!

Mindfulness is like riding a bike. It may seem difficult at the beginning, but with practice it can become second nature to you.

You can call it meta-attention if you like; it’s paying attention where your attention is right now.

Research made by psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University found out that people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. As they put it:

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”

How often do you think about family matters when you are working and how often do you think about work when you are with your family?

Mindfulness is about getting out of that gray zone of mediocrity and becoming present.
Staying in the gray zone means mediocrity at work, mediocrity at relations and mediocrity with our family!

That sounds good; how can I train my mind so I can be more present?

It takes some practice but you can see results with 10’ a day; even with 3’ minutes a day.
Let’s do a small exercise right here right now.

Sit comfortable with you back straight, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Just observe your breath how it goes in and out through your nostrils, and count each out breath:

  • Inhale – exhale – 1
  • Inhale – exhale – 2
  • ……

Count up to 10 and then back from 10 to 1; it should take you less than 3’

Of course you will notice that your mind is wondering; that’s perfectly ok!
But every time you realize that your mind is wondering, guide your attention gently back to your breath. Each and every time that you realize that your attention has gone away from your breath and you are bringing it back you are exercising your focus muscle!

Think again about that bike; in the beginning you couldn’t go straight because you were almost always out of balance.
But the more you were practicing the subtler adjustments you had to make; you realized early that you were getting out of balance and you adjusted accordingly.

The same goes with your mindfulness practice; the more you practice the sooner you will notice that your mind has gone out of focus.
Remember:

 A focused mind is unstoppable; it cuts through like a laser.

When you take this skill and apply it at work you are going to have epic results

  •  When you are writing an email focus your mind on the email and block anything else out.
  • When you are talking on the phone be present for the person on the other site of the line.
  • When you are speaking to a colleague be present and give your full attention to your colleague – don’t waste each other’s time!

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Being more mindful @ work means being more productive and more happy

Our tea time is running out; you can use our conversation to gain informationor to create transformation. It’s like the choice in the movie “The Matrix” between taking the red pill or the blue pill.

I’m making exactly the same offer to you right know.

The blue pill seems comfortable; you may feel excited about what you’ve just learned but in a couple of days you’ll forget everything and you’ll return where you are right now – pressured, overwhelmed and unhappy.

The red pill on the other hand is creating the change in your life by giving mindfulness a chance.

Start by focusing on your breath for just 3’ each day

Become more mindful and focus at one thing at a time just for the first 30′ at the office and pay a little more attention… just pay a little more attention!

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I took the red pill… how about you; which one would you take?

Do You Want to be Inspired or Expired

Do You Want to be Inspired or…Expired?

Inspiration is a mental stimulation for creativity, motivation and excellence. It is this wonderful excitement of our mind and emotions that create this “Ahaaa” feeling, which we all have experienced in various moments.  But how can we challenge ourselves to be inspired in our everyday lives and in our working environment?

Discussing with my colleagues and clients, I discovered that most of them stated that “if it wasn’t that boring elements of my everyday routine, if it wasn’t my salary…if…if..if.. then I would be more inspired, I would be more creative, I would have more ideas….I would be more happy ”. All these endless ifs go on ending up feeling…expired even at the beginning of the day.  But who is responsible for these ifs?

Some years ago the feeling of being expired was my trigger to change.  And there was no revolution out of the box but rather an evolution within the box.  What is this “box”? During a collaborative workshop I run for inspiration I got one of the best short answers that “the box is our fears and boundaries”. Overcoming them is an inside-out process rather than the opposite.

Is it easy to be inspired? As Aristotle has wisely stated “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” and it seems that small things can change our mindset.

So what about challenge our fixed mindsets to grow and evolve, reconsider our attitude from “if” to resourcefulness and follow our desire to learn and create rather than do and repeat?

First steps?

We can all become G.R.E.A.T:  We can all Give, Relate, Exercise, Accept and…Try something new!

You can read more on an introduction to the inspiration cycle at:

http://www.slideshare.net/estavrinaki/are-you-inspired-53220152

(Photo by Pee Vee)