In the business world these days, performing under pressure and working under immense stress is par for the course. While so many of us keep a close eye on the health of our business, can we say the same about our own mental and physical health?
Warren Buffett once said, "You only get one mind and one body. And it's got to last a lifetime. But if you don't take care of that mind and that body, they'll be a wreck 40 years later."
To his point, it's what we do today that determines the path of how our mind and body will operate into the future. This is coming from the same billionaire who also said that you should invest in yourself as much as you can.
If stress, burnout, anxiety or overwork is beating up on you right now to the point where it's hard to focus or be productive at work, it's time to start investing in your self-care before it's too late.
Here are eight helpful ways to do it.
1. Practice deep breathing
The most commonly suggested way to manage anxiety is to calm the nervous system by using diaphragmatic breathing (deep breathing). Doing it for a few minutes sends the brain the message that you're not actually in any danger, and in return, it will kick your body into relaxation mode instead of fight-or-flight. If any part of your brain is sending signals that you're under threat (and in reality, you're not), kick the fear by gently talking yourself out of it. Convince that part of your brain sending you into fight-or-flight mode that you are just fine.
2. Sleep more
Arianna Huffington cites research showing that after 17-19 hours without sleep, "we begin to experience levels of cognitive impairment equivalent to a blood-alcohol level of .05 percent, just under the threshold for being legally drunk." She adds, "No business leader would hire people who came to work drunk, so don't model that behavior for your employees."
3. Get your body moving
Even if you hate going to the gym, a short burst of fun cardio activity in under 20 minutes (think brisk walking, dancing, jumping on a trampoline, or working in the garden) makes a huge difference both physically and mentally. According to Harvard Medical School, "exercise lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, helps blood sugar balance and reduces mental stress, all of which can help your brain as well as your heart."
4. Shift to the positive
If you're feeling worried or anxious, the first thing to do is to get up from your chair and go for a walk outside. Take your mind away from the source of your problem and focus as you walk on positive thoughts that will make you feel safe, accepted, loved, and honored. When you're at homeostasis, reflect on how fortunate and blessed you actually are for the good things that are happening. You'll soon realize that the good far outweighs the bad.
5. Embrace your uncertainty
Being a leader or business owner requires decisiveness and quick thinking. However, overthinking every decision will not serve you well. Overthinking causes us to get stuck in a cycle of inaction, which triggers analysis paralysis. Now you've entered the terrain of stress-induced anxiety, as worry becomes debilitating and causes you to move backward, not forward. Embrace uncertainty instead. Acknowledge its presence and accept the fleetingness and brevity of the situations you're facing. Be of the mindset that uncertainty will bring with it some benefits, like unleashing your creativity and helping you to be more resilient.
6. Exercise patience
In times of crisis, it can feel like every situation is an emergency, and the choice to speed things up can actually lead to more chaos and confusion. The solution is to slow things down, instead. Patience is a virtue I wish more business leaders practiced. It helps you to relax and rethink possibilities when things are snowballing out of control. In one 2012 study, researchers found that patient people made more progress toward their goals and were more satisfied when they achieved them (particularly if those goals were difficult) compared with less patient people.
7. Admit your mistakes to others
Honest people show their likable humanity when the chips are down, rather than letting hubris rear its ugly head. When they make mistakes, they will admit them. And when employees make mistakes in a psychologically safe work environment, it's also safe for them to risk being open enough to say, "Hey boss, I messed up." They can say this due to the high levels of trust built over time with their team and bosses.
8. Have a life outside of work
You know what will add even more stress to your already stressful work life? Not having an active life running on all cylinders outside of work. People who balance the emotional and physical pounding of 50 to 60 hours a week on the job with personal interests, hobbies, exercise, and self-care are typically more productive and emotionally engaged in their work. They also hardly ever burn out. Simply put: An active and successful personal life begets success in your work life.