Addicted to Stress?

Anne Grady, Author, 52 Strategies for Life, Love and Work

Addicted to Stress?
3 Stress-Busting Strategies for Life and Work

Stress is such a big part of our daily lives; it’s sometimes hard to tell how much of it is due to our environment and how much is self-inflicted. One thing is for sure though: our hyper-connected lifestyles today have created a new normal when it comes to living with stress.

Each day, we are bombarded with thousands of images and hundreds of thousands of pieces of information. We hold all of this information in our subconscious. The problem is, our short-term memory can store only two to four items at a time. When we feel overwhelmed or stressed out, it’s not necessarily because we have too much to do. Instead, it is a result of trying to remember it all and keep it at the forefront of our minds.

It’s no wonder we often feel distracted and overwhelmed. And it turns out we are actually getting hooked on this lifestyle. Many of us are in a constant state of adrenaline overload. We get this intense adrenaline reaction with work, personal problems, emotional conflict, even traffic.

People who operate at high levels of intensity for long periods can actually get addicted to the “high” produced by brain chemicals adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz note in their book, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.

So we try to manage all the information that is coming at us from so many sources. Many of us try to do this by multi-tasking. The problem is, every time we split our focus, we become less efficient and less able to concentrate on each conversation or task. That just ends up making us feel more stressed out.

How can we regain the ability to focus in the midst of all the noise our lives? One exercise that I have found helpful is to draw a “balance wheel,” a chart to help me identify and focus on my priorities. Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify Your Priorities: Make a chart made up of important parts of your life, such as career, family, finance, health, relationships, personal growth, etc. Draw a circle and divide it into equal slices, like a pizza, with one “slice” for each category that is important to you. Then put numbers from 1 to 10 in each section from the inside to the outside.
  2. Rank Your Priorities: Once you’ve identified your priorities, assess where you stand on each one. Mark where you currently feel you are in each category, with 1 being poor and 10 being perfect. Then, set goals to make small improvements. The goal isn’t necessarily to go from a 2 to 10, but instead to make incremental changes, like going from a 2 to a 4.
  3. Focus on Your Priorities: Identify your top three to five priorities and spend 80 percent of your time on them without apologizing for it. Schedule time and if necessary, save money for your priorities. Make sure you have emotional and physical energy for them.

Creating your own balance wheel, and updating it from time to time, can help you focus on the areas of your life that matter most to you. As you do this, keep in mind that some areas should take priority over others.

Finally, the midst of all you do, make sure that the priorities in your life aren’t passing you by while you’re reacting in stress mode. Most of us have gotten pretty adept at prioritizing our schedule. Scheduling our priorities should be our real goal.

About the Author

Anne Grady is an author, corporate leadership consultant and expert in personal and organizational transformation. With humor, passion and straight talk, she grew her business as a nationally recognized speaker and consultant while raising her severely mentally ill son. Anne shares lessons she has learned in her new book, 52 Strategies for Life, Love and Work.