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Unregulated Stress

A Ticking Time Bomb ...

Stress to a certain extent is good for all of us however once it does cross the threshold, then it often begins to eat from the inside. The damage unregulated stress can cause both at the physical and Emotional level is something I have experienced myself and seen very closely over the years.

When you work in an organization or run a business of your own, there is bound to be stress with timelines, frenemies and personal challenges to cope with. However, to be successful in any area one needs to learn how to navigate through these challenges and not succumb to it.

Christopher and I were schoolmates and grew up together. Christopher was a brilliant student and was always on his toes during his school days also. He was exceptional in his studies and always the favorite of all our teachers.

As expected, Christopher did graduate from one of the top schools in India and eventually did his master’s from one of the best Ivy league schools in the USA. We used to be in touch constantly through our growing up years and he was already in the Top 100 leaders in his Organization. Infact the last time I did speak to him he did mention to me that he was one of the 3 selected to be Mentored to become the CEO in the next couple of years.

With all this exceptional growth professionally, Christopher began to compromise on his health and allowed Stress to get to him. Even though I did caution him not to push himself when we did meet couple of years back, unfortunately he did not follow up on the advice. Last year he succumbed to a massive heart attack which I deeply suspect was due to his lifestyle.

Christopher left behind a very young family and a shattered dream still unfulfilled. Even though when I look back now, I still feel guilty because I did not do enough then. However, we as professional Coaches can only do so much. Rest it is left to the individual to do for his/her own.

Stress is a silent killer and if one holds on to it without channelizing the energy in the right direction then sooner than later it is bound to derail one’s trajectory. Good thing about managing stress is that it is  not Rocket science and each one of us irrespective of our designation, occupation or environment can do couple of things to negate the effects of stress and still perform to one’s potential.

This is exactly what I did go through when I was in the corporate world and I did manage to walk away from the edge of a worm hole of no return. As I type these words, I cannot be happier for the decision I did take to walk away from the crippling stress I was going through in the corporate rat race, which I am sure most of you can relate to now.

Since I have walked this path, I do know exactly what one does go through. How stress can shut down the logical part of the brain and make us work like there is no tomorrow till the time we drop down dead or worse use chemicals such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol as crutches to keep up the pace. This is exactly the reason why me and Sushma who is the cofounder of our company High Performance Alchemy worked out our signature Leadership Program for Sr Executives.

One of the most effective ways to deal with crippling stress is the inside out approach and there are hundreds of published articles and research papers to prove that work stress is the number one productivity killer and employee productivity can be doubled only if the organization can invest in a long-term intervention for employees.

Moreover, with Indians being extremely low at the Emotional Quotient table across the world it is more important for each one of us to work that much harder to ensure office stress does not pull us down sooner than later.

There is no one glove fits all approach when it comes to negating office stress. However, with more than enough experience of working with hundreds of clients and clocking more than Ten thousand hours of active coaching I can confidently say that regular exercise can be the life line.

Regular exercise of 30-40 minutes a day can make a huge difference emotionally and in turn flush out the toxic stress hormones from the system. A good run, swim or work out in the gym can do wonders for anyone irrespective of his/her age and I will guarantee you that in less than 3 weeks you will notice drastic shifts in your thinking and energy quotient.

One of the best Stress relief advice I did pick on very early in my life was to not to short change on the sleep cycle and ensure 7-8 hrs. of restful sleep. The sleep cycle must be at the same time through the week including the weekend because our circadian rhythm plays a big role in our emotional wellbeing.

Even now if I do compromise in this area on one of the odd days, then I am less than 50 % productive the next day. I can feel sluggish and not be myself and especially with the kind of work I do I cannot afford to be like this even for couple of hours in a day because I deal with People and their lives.

Sticking to a regular sleep cycle needs commitment and discipline. It is never an impossible thing to do when you put yourself and your family ahead of work and other official commitments. Believe me I have done this and even now do not take opportunities which derails my sleep pattern. Yes, some might say I am not aspirational to make the best use of the opportunity. For all of them I just have a smile and walk away from a pointless conversation.

One of the best stress relief tools I would strongly advocate for each one of you is to have a pet and listen to music. Yes, both does work like a charm to me. Kaiser who was with me all the time when I was working used to be my sound board. It’s been 3 months since I lost him and now Kaiser has been replaced with a cat.

Music is another thing which is always playing on the background except when I am on coaching calls or recording an audio or video. There is more than enough research out there which does prove that listening to music and working, can and will improve your productivity and concentration. Yes, I did try listening to audio books and working however I gave up because I could not concentrate on either. So, my favorite radio is playing on my iTunes all the time and yes, it is very much as I do type these words for this article.

I am not a big fan of using Apps for being calm and work on the stress. I still belong to the old school and certain things I stick to doing things myself. So, if you are someone for whom App does work, then embrace them. Otherwise stick to the times tested deep breathing and meditation like me. I make it a point that at least couple of times in a day I do practice these two activities.

I am someone who hardly does look for shortcuts in life and advocate the same to all my clients. However, one thing I did try earlier in my life was to Multitask which I did realize was not taking me very far. I was at one point of time proud that I could do couple of things at the same time. However, I soon realized that I was running out of steam faster. Multitasking is always one of the top reasons why Executives and Business owners are stressed out. It does tend to short circuit the brain more often than you think. We humans are not wired to Multitask.

Now I do advocate strongly in my leadership Interventions and also personally follow not to Multitask but focus on one task at a time. This way it does give you a lot more focus on energy on what you are doing. Over the year I have worked with CEO’s of large companies who have more than 2-3 decades of work experience and made them to not Multitask and the results have been magical. Once they have unlearnt this crippling habit, they have become more productive and less stressful in their professional and personal life.

As I type these words, I do have todays paper across the table which does say that India is the fastest emerging economy of the world. Yes, no doubt about this summit which India as a country has reached in a short span of time. However, what is the cost for getting there?? A generation of people who are stressed out, anxious and unhealthy. It’s like getting to the top of the mountain without any energy or life left to cherish the altitude and enjoy the view of the world from there.

It is very much possible to continue to excel in your respective area along with not being stressful and compromising on your physical and emotional wellbeing. However, balancing this will take more than just an intent. It does require a commitment, mentoring and yes, a vision to do and live big. Once all of this is embedded in the vision, then it is that much easy for all of us to move towards our goals with blinders.

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