Over the past 7 weeks, we’ve spoken about the 6 Core Human Needs that govern our decisions and behaviour, and I’m currently in the middle of a week of workshops for various teams and groups on Stress Awareness & Management. What both of these intensely personal subjects have in common is balance, or the lack thereof.
We spend much of our lives searching for balance or being off balance without realising it because we haven’t assessed ourselves lately. We seek balance in every element of our lives from the way we spend our time, to the input that we seek, to the skill sets that make up our teams. It’s not rocket science to know that if you’re off balance, or focused in one particular area or skill for too long, that the other areas or skills will eventually take a knock.
When we’ve spoken about met or unmet needs over our past series on The 6 Core Needs, we’ve been speaking about balance. And this week when I speak about Stress Awareness & Stress Management in my workshops, the core message again, will be balance. When we’re under pressure and stressed beyond helpful and productive limits, we’re off balance.
As much as we can try and manage our stress levels, stress produces a physiological reaction in our bodies that we can’t control. The release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are initially for our good – they elevate our physical state to one that can fight or escape should the threat turn out to be real and immediate. Over time, however, our brains and bodies start to burn out a little, hijacked by the long term production of stress hormones, even if it’s a slow burn that we think we have under control.
Stress doesn’t change the rules. Life goes on regardless. Decisions must be made. Business plans and goals must be followed and achieved. Relationships must be maintained with customers, team mates and family. The “rules” don’t change. What stress does is it knocks us off balance. It hijacks our brains temporarily, and then slowly chews on them over an extended period of time. The physiological reactions to stress are connected to our Reptilian brain – the part of our brain responsible for the fight or flight reflex. The oldest and least sophisticated part of our brains – our “caveman” brains.
Do you want to stay there for long periods of time? Do you want to make decisions from that part of your brain? Thankfully, that’s not the part of the brain that’s responsible for making decisions, but figuratively speaking, it does hijack your thinking whilst you’re under prolonged stress.
The secret to being able to make steady decisions is to make sure we take the time and effort to constantly reassess our balance and our course and make sure we get back on both! Life tends to clog up our thinking with the myriad of things it throws at us, and unless we’re aware of that thinking and able to clean it up occasionally, we’re likely to stay and feel clogged! There can be nothing worse than coming back from a potential time of rebalancing still feeling off kilter!
In Zimbabwe, we’re coming to the end of a school term and we have a long weekend ahead. In South Africa, there’s a half term weekend coming up soon for some schools. These are some of the moments in life when enough things line up for us to “take time off” and go somewhere or do something different. Most of us get to go and do that with our families and friends – the people who tend to get side-lined and don’t get our best when we get stressed and busy in other areas of our lives. A change of pace and place with people we care about, taking ourselves off to somewhere new and taking advantage of a change of pace are ways to check ourselves and our balance.
Over the next opportunity you have to do so, check your balance. Check yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and ask yourself what you need more and less of. Reboot if necessary. Before you go, ask your teams to do the same for each of themselves. It’s possible for us to take these times and checks for granted and not measure ourselves consciously or thoroughly. Do what you need to do to rebalance – meet your needs, help others meet theirs too. Do a health check on your team and challenge them to find their own balance again. Don’t wait for your body to get sick before you realise you need to rebalance somewhere. The good news is that we don’t need a long weekend to rebalance ourselves – we can do it consciously in small ways every day. If you have the opportunity though, take it with both hands!
I myself will be taking that opportunity over the next two weeks to balance, and consequently won’t put out an article for the next two Mondays. One of those I will be traveling, and the other I’ll be spending with my son. I wish you and your teams well, both at home and at work, and I’ll be back in your inboxes on Monday 26th of August!
If you’d like some insight into building your awareness and managing your stress levels, this is your last chance to book and join us in our afternoon session of our How To Boil A Frog workshop this coming Thursday afternoon. See our Events Page for details.
by Christen Killick
August 5th, 2019