Susanna rubbed her eyes, and glanced at the clock on her computer. It was 6.30pm. She’d been in meetings most of the day, and still had to finish off a presentation to update her team first thing tomorrow morning. ‘Why, oh why, do I always leave things to the last minute’ she thought to herself.
Before starting on the presentation, she glanced at the 30 unread emails in her inbox, looking for anything that looked urgent. There was one marked with a red exclamation mark, from Julie D. Her heart started to beat faster as she pressed ‘open’ and started to digest the contents.
Whilst this is a fictional situation, it’s a common occurrence in most corporate offices. Try as you may, you have too much on your plate, deadlines are looming, people are counting on you and there never feels like there’s enough resources to get the job done. There are always too many problems, too many decisions to make, politics right, left and centre, lots of potential conflict and a great deal of stress that can get the better of you if you’re not careful
We regularly hold the RBI Living Well Experience, a three-day event focused on helping RBI employees (like Susanna) manage their stress levels, build their resilience and support their wellbeing so that they look, feel and perform better. Increasing performance at work is a great place to start if you’re looking at healthier choices and reasons why you want to make them.
There was one segment focused on employee stories, providing specific strategies and tips that for different scenarios that fit into the RBI Living Well Framework.
I introduced the section and also gave an overview of my own stress resilience toolkit which I’ll take you through now.
Before I get into the techniques, let me take a moment to take you back to the beginning of my story.
20 years ago I was a very different person. At that time, I had picked up some really bad habits. I smoked heavily, drank a lot of alcohol and ate a lot of very palatable, but not very good quality food. To me, that was normal.
However, over time, these activities had a big negative impact on my body, my mind and my performance. I was 42lbs heavier than I am now. I also had terrible eczema and the most worrying thing was that I used to get sharp pains in my chest.
So that was my starting point.
Well one day, I was in Ireland, on a road trip of the West Coast. I was sitting on the sand and felt pains in my chest. I remember looking around at the scene in front of me- children were playing in the sand, swimming in the sea – it was a healthy scene, and yet I felt so unhealthy.
I really don’t know what happened, or what was different about that moment, but I suddenly woke-up to the reality of my situation. I saw quite clearly two paths in front of me:
One was the continuation of the path I was on, which didn’t look like it would lead to a bright future.
The other was an unknown path, but one I knew I had to go down it if I wanted to feel well and have a healthy future. I decided to change. I didn’t know where it would lead, but I knew I had to take action.
So, though I didn’t have all of the answers, I decided to stop smoking, stop drinking and focus on developing some healthier practices and habits which I have done through trial and error, that work for me. This is what I’ll share with you now.
My system fits quite neatly into the RBI Living Well Holistic Philosophy which I’ll use to bring this to life for you.
To be clear, my system doesn’t take away the stress. Nothing can, stress is part of life. However, what my system does is help me recover quickly which is key for performance, and has allowed me to cope with the lifestyle I have chosen.
So what do I do?
I have found that the simple habit of tracking different aspects of my lifestyle leads to insights which lead to decisions and improvements. So for example, just tracking my sleep – when I go to bed, when I wake up and the quality of that sleep has helped me realise that I need at least 7 hours good quality sleep to do my best work. I also track what I eat and that has led to insights and decisions which I’ll touch on below. If you’re interested in how I track, then I wrote a whole blog post about it which you can see here: getrawenergy.co/tracking-habits-a-full-system-to-optimise-your-life/
2. I have replaced my unhealthy practices with healthy activities which I do consistently so they have become habits that I no longer need to think about.
Movement – I need to move every day. My ‘thing’ is running. I gave up smoking, and replaced it with running. I started running for physical fitness 18 years ago, now running is my main stress releaser. I feel amazing after a run, and I often think that if pharmaceutical companies could bottle the ‘high’ that you get after a run, they would make a fortune! I do other stuff as well – but running is my key ‘movement tool’. You can read more about running as a stress releaser here: running-magazine-the-perfect-stress-manager
Eat good food – makes up our bodies, makes up our cells. For me this is the foundation as what you put into your body, becomes your body. Over the years, I have taken massive action to educate myself on what is the best diet for energy, resilience, performance and of course health, as there is so much conflicting advice. I have gone through various phases over the years, but now my diet is mainly plant-based, including a lot of raw foods. That doesn’t mean that I won’t eat cakes and crisps and stuff like that, which are very palatable, but I’ll keep these to a minimum as these foods contain chemicals and ingredients which will add stress to my body. Overall, I try to focus on putting the most nutritious foods into my body. getrawenergy.co/8-ways-boost-energy-food
Rest, recover and mental wellbeing. This is the one that I have struggled with the most as the job I do requires a lot of mental processing, decision-making, firefighting, doing new things – which I love, but could leave me mentally exhausted. Here are some tools have helped me significantly increase my performance at work:
The tool that I have developed over the last 12 months is a daily practice of meditation. I started by meditating every day for 10 minutes, but now it’s half an hour every morning, and this activity has really helped me feel calmer and more grounded throughout the day. I attended my first meditation weekend in 2016, and it was an amazing experience, especially the energy created from meditating in a group.
Another tool in my kit is journalling. I like to think on paper and I’ll write in my journal every evening, often pouring out thoughts to get clarity on the meaning of the day just gone and to get focused on the day ahead. I’ve also found that this helps me remember the details of the day which can be easily forgotten, and interestingly it helps to cut down on the sense of overwhelm.
I feed my mind with positive information, like listening to motivation speakers whilst commuting. To me, they feel like mentors and guides as their words often connect with me at a deep level. If ever I am stuck, it helps me move forward.
Giving back is important, and there’s plenty of evidence linking the art of giving to wellbeing, so it is very much a win/win activity. RBI has a strong social responsibility agenda, and all employees get two charity days to give back. On top of that, I regularly contribute to industry bodies, sharing my knowledge and experience to help the whole sector move forward.
Get Support to boost productivity. Ultimately I believe that we all need a personal system to help us perform well and do our best work. Eating well, moving, tracking, meditating, writing a journal – these are great habits, but the final piece speaks to the fact that for true wellbeing, we need to connect with other people. I actively seek out like-minded people and am part of a whole range of different networks both within RBI and outside. I work with a number of mentors, and mentor myself as I believe that sharing and discussing a problem brings in other perspectives which helps get clarity and enable problem-solving.
My whole philosophy is about starting where you are, making a decision to change, setting an achievable goal and then taking action to move towards that future state.
I believe strongly that it’s not what you do occasionally that makes the difference. It’s what you do consistently, every single day that will have the impact on the way you look, the way you feel and the way you perform.
So what can you do?
Take a look at your own life – what daily habits do you do every day? Do you feel at your best? How would you like to feel? If you’re honest, are there areas that are not serving you well?
Given the level of stress I need to manage in my life, I did a lot of research into this topic a few years ago. It was such great information that i felt that I needed to share this information in as easily digestable format for very time-poor people. The result is a short book, Success without Stress, and you can now get a complimentary copy by clicking on the image below.
Success without Stress is available free by clicking on the image below,