The Tipping Point:
A trip this morning to a local Play Centre with my two young boys (on a rainy morning and in the school holidays) has just served as a useful reminder that you don’t have to be an executive to feel as if you’re teetering on the edge of meltdown at times. It’s something that affects us all. However contrary to what we’re often led to believe a bit of stress, or pressure, in our lives can be a good thing. It’s about recognising the early warning signs and using appropriate tactics to stop ourselves from going beyond our own tipping point.
Where is this stress coming from? Aside from financial, family or health issue that many of us face, a survey by Aviva found that workers put in an extra 26 million hours in the workplace each day. Six in ten employees regularly work beyond their contracted hours with nearly one in four reporting they work an extra 2-3 hours daily.
All this extra work can affect our health. Stress has forced one in five workers to call in sick, yet 93% say they have lied to their boss about the real reason for not turning up. The cost to UK business of all this stress is estimated at between £13-26 billion each year.
Now, the cost to the economy might not be something you’re unduly worried about – but what about the cost to how you feel and how you perform both at work and at home.
Debunking the myth that all stress is bad, research shows us that as the level of pressure we’re under increases so too does our performance. When we’re at work or trying to develop a new skill we often feel ‘stretched’. Stretch is good. This is where we’re performing to the best of our abilities. Where it starts to go wrong is when the level of pressure increases to a point where we just can’t take any more. When it all becomes a bit too much. Things begin to unravel and instead of excelling in whatever we’re doing we can end up feeling angry/frustrated/upset. I call this our ‘tipping point’.
There are warning signs that we’re approaching our tipping point. We may feel more irritable or emotional. Some people lose their appetite completely whereas others find themselves indulging in the comfort of food. What are your warning signs? Reflect on it now and make a mental note.
It’s worth bearing in mind that our tipping point isn’t a static thing. There are days when you feel you can take on the world and you thrive under pressure. There are other days it just takes an unkind comment or delayed train to tip you over the edge. Here are some coping strategies that I use:
- Be aware and recognise the signs that tell you you’re getting close to your tipping point.
- Stop. Take a deep breath and focus on something practical that you can do. Think short, medium and long term actions.
- Short term – take a few deep, controlled breaths to calm and re-centre yourself. Try 7-11 breathing. Breathe in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11. It’s an instant de-stresser.
- Medium term: change your environment (if you can). Or at least move to a different room as motion changes your emotion. Get outside; go for a walk; get something wholesome and healthy to eat; have a cuddle with a loved one or a pet.
- Long term: Firstly identify the recurrent triggers. If it’s a lack of sleep, change your routine so you get to bed earlier. If it’s an out of control to-do list tackle it with the 5-Ds (Do, Delegate, Defer, Diminish, and Delete). If it’s a particular person that regularly tips you over the edge you’re going to need to have a conversation with them. Prevention is better than cure.
In case the thought of doing all this is stressing you out even more – never fear, help is at hand. Get in touch with me if you’d like some more ideas on how you can incorporate these practical tips into your life firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact me via Twitter @beingatyourbest to share your own tips on what brings you back from the edge. Or you can follow me on Facebook BeingatyourBest for daily tips to help you be at your best.
Until the next time…