We need to learn to recognise when we are stressed and have a plan to deal with it. It is not okay to justify stress by thinking that it will just be until we get through this next project or until the kids are a bit older. We need to take steps to reduce the stress in each hour of each day. Think about your moods and the way in which you react to stress. It can help to keep a diary of how you are feeling at several points throughout your day, what you are doing at that point and any stress reactions you recognise such as use of comfort foods or other treats for yourself.
Be able to talk about stress
Recognise that stress is something everyone experiences. It is a common trait of high achievers to believe that they cannot disclose their experiences of stress. There is a desire to have others believe that everything comes easily and that we sail through life. It is important for yourself and for those around you to debunk the myth of the superwoman or man and express your feelings of pressure, anxiety, stress or inability to cope. This sharing of emotional burden allows greater acceptance of these feelings and increased ability to accept and deal with them positively.
Be more productive
Being more productive doesn’t have to mean achieving more. It can mean achieving what you already are but more efficiently, leaving more time to enjoy other things. Efficiency managers recommend dividing each hour of your day into six ten minute units and documenting what you are doing for each unit. You don’t need to achieve something in each unit, but think about why you are doing each task and whether there is a more efficient way of organising your time. Small changes to the way your workplace functions can make a major difference to productivity.
Make sure you exercise
Exercise is fundamental to health and emotional wellbeing. You may believe that you don’t have enough time to exercise. However, the natural endorphins stimulated by exercise will energise you and improve your mood, leaving you happier and more productive, less exhausted, requiring less down time and leaving you feeling refreshed with fewer hours of sleep.
A diet for success
A healthy diet is important for wellbeing and energy levels. Try to make your diet a priority, ensuring you are having regular nutritious meals rather than snacking or skipping meals and making do with what is available when you have time between commitments. Try keeping a food diary, recording what you ate at what time each day and how you were feeling before and after the food. Try to record one week of your normal eating patterns, so that you can have an accurate idea of what you are eating, when and why. Think about what you would like to change about your eating habits and set a plan to achieve your food goals for maximum nutritional value and increased feelings of wellbeing and energy will follow.
Plan to achieve your goals
Think about making some time to think about what your goals are for the next 30 years and the steps required to achieve them. Much of our self esteem and happiness comes from setting realistic goals and seeing ourselves achieve them. Make your goals direct reflections of your current desires and wishes for your life including social, sporting, family, self development and career goals. Break your goals down into what you want to see happen in the next 5 years and the pathways you need to take now will be more obvious. Make sure your goals are in small achievable milestones so that you can monitor your progress and be encouraged by your progression toward achievement of your goals. You will have greater satisfaction with yourself and your job if you are conscious of working towards an overall goal. It can be easy to lose sight of the end result, so re-evaluate your goals regularly to remind yourself of what you had set out to achieve.
It is possible to achieve many wonderful things in your life – just look at the medical women around you. But it is important not to sacrifice too much of your personal goals or sanity in reaching these achievements. Whilst it is most likely none of the above suggestions will be new to you, hopefully they have stimulated you to think about your own goals, where you are headed at the moment and how to reach your goals in a manner which is balanced, satisfying and achievable.
Work life balance, stress and time management was authored by a Victorian medical student in October 2008 as part of her AFMW Leadership Scholarship.