Stop being so hard on yourself, that’s my message today. It just creates stress.
This week I’ve had an inordinate number of emails, last night in particular after my weekly ezine went out, from people responding to me writing about my holidays and how good it was for me. People telling me that they simply do not have the time for a holiday, or people that say they would be unable to enjoy a holiday because their mind would be on their work, and similar themes.
Although I got lots of mail this week, each and every week I get a lot of emails in response to my blog articles and regular broadcasts. One thing that staggers me is the numbers of people who are really hard on themselves; “I’m not working hard enough”, “I’m capable of so much more”, “I don’t have enough time to do all that I want” – these types of statements, not with these exact words.
Many of these people simply end up spending hours and hours working, creating more stress for themselves, and losing track of how to live their lives.
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” — Winston S. Churchill
That message from Winston Churchill is a key one and can unlock the way to stopping being so hard on yourself, stop creating so much stress and pressure for yourself.
Lots of people are hard on themselves. They often feel like they should be doing more and achieving more, and they worry that they are not good enough. The signs of stress and related symptoms are usually easy to spot. It’s the solutions and their application that can be hard to come by and actually integrate into life.
If as a result of being so hard on yourself and driving yourself into the ground with your work and professional goals you’ve stopped exercising, can’t sleep and are eating poorly (for example), you’re heading down a potentially problematic road. And if you’re far enough along such a destructive path, you may have abandoned your hobbies and interests, can’t find time for friends or family and are obsessed with work day and night, you may actually need to make some changes.
It’s best to recognise the early warning signs and address them before it starts to detrimentally effect your health and life in a variety of ways. Here are a number of common signs you’re under too much stress, are driving yourself into the ground – and some suggestions for what to do about it.
1) You’re chained to your desk.
Metaphorically speaking of course.
An editor at the Chicago Sun-Times once said that he couldn’t take time off. He was afraid the place would fall apart without him – and he was terrified it wouldn’t. If you think the universe depends on you, you’re headed for a high-stress breakdown. Hire people who will do a better job than you ever could, and then celebrate their successes, get out of their way and recharge your batteries regularly.
2) You can’t play nice.
A demanding attitude rarely reduces stress, so if you find yourself berating waiters, flight attendants or perfectly polite call centre staff, make a habit of taking an extra minute during every interaction to thank them – and be specific, if possible. In trying to cheer up those who are doing tough jobs, you might also boost your own spirits. Be classy, be generous of spirit.
3) Your mind races in circles.
You think the root of your stress is that you spend all of your time in a state of intense focus. But really, most people under stress are re-plowing the same field over and over. They confuse this obsessing with focus, but it’s really the opposite. Problems typically get simpler as you work your way through them, so make sure your solutions involve reducing complexity. Then work on execution in bite-sized pieces that are less demanding than the larger initial problem. When your stress is under control, focus will come more easily. Here are a couple of articles that will really help you with this:
a) How To Stop Rumination and Overthinking Being Your Downfall.
b) Learn To Enjoy Life’s Problems.
4) Your favorite phrase is “you’ve got mail.”
Email may have become a mindless stress reliever for you; but like most things, it’s a two-edged sword. If you’re disciplined, it’s a time-saver. But if your use of it goes unchecked, it morphs into a constant interrupter, a pestering reminder of all you’re having a hard time responding to. So turn off your email – for hours at a time –and work on developing the discipline to check in on a regular schedule and not more frequently. Here are some great articles to really help you with this:
a) How To Be Incredibly Productive: 10 Keys to Productivity.
b) 7 Ways To Be More Self-Disciplined.
c) 9 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Time.
5) You wallow in self-pity.
If you find yourself feeling under-appreciated, change your surroundings – or, at a minimum, change your attitude. Replace self-pity with gratitude, or better yet, find a way to serve those less fortunate than you. In the process, you’ll discover you have a lot to be grateful for, and you’ll be surprised at how transformative that realisation can be. Look at ways of building your self-belief, these articles will help you advance your self-belief and enhance your relationship with yourself:
a) Believe in Yourself!
b) How To Believe In You – 9 and a bit Ways To Advance Self-Belief.
6) You’re always running late.
Make a commitment that you’ll be five minutes early to every meeting and every event, and then tell others about it as a way forcing you to curtail the activities that are making you late. This will rarely reduce the quality of your thinking or your work, and it will usually help you re-frame your priorities and focus on your accountability and deliverables. You may even start trimming your diarised commitments and start doing less as a means of being effective with your time (refer back to the previously mentioned articles on productivity and being good with your time).
7) You never take a mental break.
Taking mental breaks every once in a while creates opportunities for learning and enjoying new things. To incorporate them into your daily life, set up rules for yourself. Take 10 minutes out of your day to tidy up your workspace, and breathe, or be mindful, or take a walk, or do some self-hypnosis. Creating organised mindspaces and workspaces gives you a sense of order and control that positively influences outlook and gives a sense of calm.
Learn self-hypnosis with me, go invest in my Science of Self-Hypnosis book, or come and attend my one day seminars on the subject: Science of Self-Hypnosis seminar.
8) Your phone has become an appendage.
Never turning off your phone, or even worse, being unable to even put it down, leaves you open to constant interruptions. The analog to the phone being on all the time is the office door that’s always open. Be sure to give yourself some quiet time to think, to plan, to reflect in a place where there’s no phone and no one walking through the door, even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day.
Even better though, have a digital detox: Why You Need A Digital Detox and How To Have One.
9) You’re impossible to please.
“There are no perfect people. Everyone has zits or cellulite or both.” – Eli Davidson
The food isn’t good enough, the hotel’s not convenient enough, and your income isn’t high enough. You don’t have enough resources, a strong-enough team, sufficient support from others. The solution to these seemingly external problems is to turn inward and change your mindset. Instead remind yourself positive mantras like, “I have all I need.” Learn to express gratitude about what you do have in your life, and start to appreciate who and how you are and you’ll grow mentally as a result.
10) You live in the past or the future.
You reminisce, telling stories of past glories. Or you await the future, unable to really start living until a certain goal is behind you. Both of these are signals that you’re living outside the present, a habit that on occasion only leads to more stress. Being present in the moment, enjoying the conversation, the meeting, the people and the challenges as they come up will reduce stress.
Having compassion for yourself really is as important as having compassion for others. Research by psychologists at Brandeis University shows that people who are more inclined to self-compassion show a smaller physiological stress. When we feel compassion for others, we feel kindness toward them, empathy, and a desire to help reduce their suffering. Be the same way with yourself. Read this: Why is self-compassion important? And how to advance it with self-hypnosis.
We can intentionally change our attitudes, habits and self-talk. It’s not a matter of avoiding stress altogether – in fact, some stress can help keep us on our toes. The trick is to monitor how we think, what our attitude is and how we allocate our time and attention.
Stop being so hard on yourself, enjoy life more and have an awesome weekend, I’ll be back next week.