Working on the front-line all day can be draining. Take the example of the customer service professional who doesn’t know what the next question might be, what mood the next customer might be in, or whether the organization will be able to satisfy the customer’s need. Answering telephones, responding to queries, finding solutions to problems, and keeping people satisfied can be rewarding but also quite challenging. When we are at it all day long, week in and week out we can become stressed out. Consider the following six energizing saving strategies as a way to meet this challenge. (Note this post is a further elaboration of the post dated 2.1.17)
Set achievable personal and work goals.
When people set goals, conventional research shows that they live longer. However, if those goals are to be meaningful we should write them out in a way that shows action and measurement. Action means we are going to do something to achieve something; and measurement allows us to track progress along the way. So, when we write goals they should be SMART, that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable. If goals are not SMART they usually fall into the category of a wish list.
Let's take a couple of examples. At work we can write something like "complete the policy on the wellness program." A laudable goal, but not fully measurable or trackable. There is no time line for completion, so I can say "I'll get to it when I can, and it will be completed sometime, maybe." A great incentive to procrastinate. The goal may be attainable, sometime, and may be relevant to our work. We need to ask, "How does it relate to our work?” And, “what is the level of priority?" If it is not relevant than why are we doing it; if it is, how important is it? Is it: necessary and urgent? urgent and necessary? necessary but not urgent? or urgent but not necessary?
Once these questions are answered we can write a SMART goal such as: "I will complete a draft policy statement on wellness and present it to management for approval by September 30, 2018." Once the goal is stated we can then break it down to achievable monthly tasks, such as: complete the research for the wellness policy by February 8; ask for input from colleagues and receive their comments by March 31; write the first draft of the of the wellness policy by May 31; circulate to colleagues for first review and receive their comments by June 31; make adjustments to the policy statement by July 31; circulate final draft to colleagues and receive their comments, by August 20; prepare a draft policy statement for approval by September 20,2018. Once we know where we are going, ambiguity is lessened, we can measure progress along the way, and we have a comfort level about its attainability. In the end our stress level is reduced.
We can use the same goal setting strategy for our personal life as well. Rather than saying "I'm going to lose weight this year," be more specific: "I'm going to lose 30 pounds/kilos by June 31, 2018." Then set out the tasks to achieve that goal.
Accept the givens.
Often, our anxiety level increases because we worry about things outside are control. Worry doesn't accomplish anything but personal grief, and sometimes grief for others. For instance, we can't control time, but we can control what we do within the time we have; we can't control the weather, but we can control how we plan for poor weather; we can't control how people will relate to us, but we can control how we relate to others. We will have less anxiety if we control those things that are in our control and accept those things that are outside our control.
Thinking positively means approaching our challenges with a positive outlook. It doesn't necessarily mean avoiding those things that make us uncomfortable or ignoring negative situations; instead it means approaching those situations in a positive light, or making the best of a bad situation.(a) We can improve our ability to think positively by affirming or actuating the positive for ourselves and others. Rather than thinking "I can't do this," affirm to yourself that "I can do this;" rather than thinking "I can't get along with this person," think about the positive aspects of the person and affirm those within your mind's eye; rather than thinking "this place is a lousy place to work," think about what I can do to make it a better place to work. Thinking positively is not Pollyanna, pie in the sky thinking. It is thinking that is realistic but tempered with a positive approach to life rather than a negative one.
Thinking positively works. According to the Mayo Clinic positive thinking can lead to a longer life span, less stress, lower rates of depression, increased resistance to the common cold, better coping skills, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, increased physical al well-being and overall better psychological health.
If your approach to life is more on the negative side, and you would like to change your approach take heart, because positive thinking can be learned. In essence you are learning a new habit and as is the case of any change in habit we need to develop habit changing strategies. In this case, identify what needs to change, name it and make a firm commitment to change; throughout the day take a time out and review how you are moving towards greater optimism; whenever you find yourself becoming negative, take pause, and rephrase your thinking or how you are verbalizing your thoughts; start the day with an affirmative or positive thought and reinforce it by verbalizing throughout the day; and, surround yourself with positive people.
Take energy breaks.
One of the hard lessons busy people learn is that their energy drains when they don't fuel up. They skip meals or skimp on meals, gobble down food while working the phone or their computer, and eat junk food rather than nutritious meals. They also learn that when they are at their computer long hours without ergonomic seating or the monitor is too close, they experience strain and pain from their eyes, backs, shoulders and wrists. When these things, happen their body is yelling out, "Take a break!" (For more information on the importance of an energy break for personal wellbeing and business read this Globe and Mail article)
Here are a few suggestions: Work in 90-minute sprints and take a five or ten minute break – in some instances work in fifteen and thirty-minute sprints and take a couple minutes out. Consider: standing up and stretching; taking a short walk down the hall; shifting your eyes from the computer to something else; moving away from your desk to eat properly; going for a walk over the noon hour; or taking five deep breaths, slowing down the mind, and after three minutes coming back to the work at hand. (Read more about 3 minute break}
Drink plenty of fluids.
Walk through any office or observe the reception area and you will find beverages in hand or on the desk – and not the right kind of beverage. We see soda beverages with high sugar content; lattes with high fat content, or coffees with high caffeine content. What's wrong with this picture? It's true our bodies need fluids, but they need the right kind of fluids. Too much of these types of fluids clog the arteries, add an inch or more to the waste and make us jittery. The health hazards are well known – well ok, maybe not so for coffee, but more than four cups of the stuff begin to take its toll. 1. 2.
Water should be at the top of the fluid list. An average adult body is 57%-60% water, lack of water drains our energy and leads to dehydration. Nearly all systems in our body depend on water. Water moistens tissues such as those in the eyes, mouth and nose; regulates body temperature; lubricates joints, helps prevent constipation, lessens the strain on the kidneys and liver and carries nutrients and oxygen to cells. Drinking water after waking helps activate internal organs, one glass before meals helps digestion, and one glass before bed time helps reduce strokes and heart attack. Make sure water is a major part of your fluid diet. 1
Our body is built to move, so move it regularly. We can be quite sedentary on the front line such as standing or sitting for long periods. Overtime this takes its toll on our bodies and we find fat rolls creeping around our stomach, back-end, and other places too numerous to mention. The antidote to this is exercise. Get up from the chair and walk around, take a walk over the noon hour, take ten-minute walks in the morning, afternoon and evening, take the stairs, if sitting, stand up and read or walk about while reading; join a gym; seek a life style coach or trainer. Do something, just don't sit and stand for hours on end. One more thing, reduce television time, get off the couch and do something in the yard, in the garage or in the park. Do one or two of these activities a day and you will find a change in your energy level.
These re-energizing strategies are not difficult, they just take a bit a self-discipline, and that just might be the hard part. Try one of the strategies each month and find out the difference in: your outlook on life, the strength of your body, the calmness of your mind, and the wholeness of your spirit.
Author Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC