People don’t talk about it, but many executives and people working for your company may have worked themselves to the hospital.
I first became aware of this when a friend let me know that a famous executive had been in and out of the hospital due to stress—and they were only in their 40s. And just a few days later, I discovered that another person I knew had an autoimmune disease flare-up and had to go to the hospital as well. When I asked her what caused the flare-up, she said simply, “Too much stress.”
People keep these things on the down low because we’re expected to be superheroes and perform superhuman things at work. But do you really want to do that? Would you rather be killing yourself (literally) for fame and fortune or do you really want to live life on your own terms?
Ask yourself: If all your basic living needs were taken care of, how would you spend your days? This is your starting point, and the seven tips in this article will be the solid framework to get you there.
I spent most of my life in investment banking, trading, and/or in New York/Wall Street, arguably the most competitive and stressful workplaces in the world.
Here’s what I learned on how to obliterate stress from your work life and live the life you want:
1. Choose your mindset: Are you Living to Work? Or Working to Live?
These two mindsets have different energies to them. Imagine having the mindset every day of living to work. You wake up to go to your job, everything you do is for your job, you skip lunch, and you sacrifice for your work. You live to work. Now imagine another mindset: Working to live. Imagine you wake up and you love your life. You go to work and do good service so that you can feel good about enjoying your life. You create the life you love to live and use work as a means to get there. How do those two mindsets feel? How will your life change by adopting the one that’s right for you?
2. Always move at a calm, non-rushed pace.
Counterintuitively, this actually assures you get more done. When you are working at a frantic, rushed pace, not only is your blood pressure probably rising and your cortisol increasing, but you are probably making mistakes you have to correct later, you may miss the big picture, and your mind is exerting too much unfocused energy. This is the same principle as meditation—when you meditate, you create more space in your day. They say that those who think they have no time for meditation are the ones who need to meditate the most. Likewise, if you feel there is no time to go at a calm, unrushed pace, that’s when you most need to go unrushed. What gets results is the deliberate intention you put into your work, not the pace.
3. Look for patterns.
The whole world is made of patterns. Humans are constantly playing out their subconscious habits. Nature expresses itself in patterns—just look at a pinecone or a seashell. Every system you come across in the office is based on a pattern. Now that you can see the patterns, you can predict the patterns. And when you can see and predict them, you can use them to get your outcomes of less stress and more freedom by automating them, delegating where necessary, or eliminating them together.
4. Acknowledge the things you can’t change, and let them go.
As they say, “Players gonna play” or “Haters gonna hate.” Sometimes people and processes are who they are, and you can’t change them. People won’t change the company processes for whatever reason, and someone who is completely unresponsive won’t become responsive, even if it’s in their best interest to do so. Don’t make that your problem. Your mental and physical health is worth so much more than things you can’t change. So let it go, don’t worry about it, and know that some things will probably never change and there is nothing you can do about it; so you might as well wrap things up and go do something you love.
5. Learn to distinguish what is truly urgent and important and what is ego.
When you do your work for a while and you are completely present in what you do, not only will you start to see patterns but you’ll learn to distinguish what is truly urgent and important and what some people are pressuring you to do because they think it’s urgent. It’s always urgent to them because it’s personal, right? But if you’re keeping your eye on the main goal—which is a stress-free life for the most part—you have to be ruthless in distinguishing what is truly urgent and important and what is driven by someone’s ego. What’s truly urgent and important delivers to the bottom line; what is driven by ego delivers less at the expense of your health. So what’s more important, your health and longevity, or someone’s sense of importance or need for certainty?
6. Plan “Soul Days,” “Soul Hours,” or “Soul Breaks.”
This is like a mental health day, except that it’s time you set aside to ask your soul, “What do I long for?” and you do it. The more overworked or burned out you are, the more soul time you need.
7. Stop saying yes to everyone when it’s a no to yourself.
Sometimes you just have to have aggressive boundaries. So many people I meet and coach have a hard time saying no to things, even if it means working all night and sacrificing their health, or even if it’s not even their job to do so. How many hours, months, and years of your life have you wasted sacrificing your sleep, your passions, and the best time of your life instead of choosing yourself? How much more time are you willing to give up to be stressed, overworked, and burned out? Only you can say yes to yourself because no one else is going to do that for you.
How would your life change if you tried out at least one of these tips? I hope they are as transformative for you as they have been for me in freeing myself from sacrificing my health due to work.