10 Less Stressful Ways To Be Productive

Why does work make us stressed? Think about it. Most of the work we need to do is well within our capabilities, we usually have enough time to do it (even if we do procrastinate until the last minute), doing the work will lead us to something we want.

Work stresses us out because we are overwhelmed, not by the work that’s in front of us, but by all the other things that are piling up around us. Stress is more often a problem of focus than a problem of ethnic work itself.

Henrik Edberg at Positivity Blog offers this list of simple tips for being more productive whilst also staying sane in the process, starting with this very Zen approach to focus:

1. Do just one thing at a time.

It will help you to get your task all the way to done, to feel less stressed and confused and you’ll do a better job compared to if you multi-task things.

And if you feel stressed and overwhelmed during your day then you can tell yourself this simple thing to regain focus and inner clarity again.

“Because” vs “And”

Sometimes you’re stressing out about something and you have sneaking suspicion that you’re being unreasonable. Or at least, you can see that your reaction might be disproportionate to the situation. But it still feels as if your behaviour is being caused by the situation. So how can you tell?

Seth Godin offers a simple answer

Has this situation ever happened without you (or anyone, for that matter) feeling the way you’re feeling?

Here, Seth highlights the distinction between having a feeling because of a situation and having a feeling at the same time as a particular situation.

The answer is option number 2 far more often than most of us would like to believe. People have endured all kinds of stress and hardships without giving in to stress or anger or defeatism.

To say that you have no choice but to succumb to these feelings it to say that you’re weaker than those who went before, and this is simply not true. We all have the ability to choose how we respond to life’s twists and turns, the trick is maintaining a wide enough perspective to do so.

"If we could see the whole truth of any situation, our only response would be one of compassion."
How Stress Affects Your Brain

We all know that stress is bad for us. It makes us feel terrible, it messes with our sleep, it affects our eating habits and digestion. In occasional bursts, stress isn’t harmful and can actually be useful, but it it becomes chronic it can alter our brains themselves.

When your brain detects a stressful situation, your HPA axis is instantly activated and releases a hormone called cortisol which primes your body for instant action.

But high levels of cortisol over long periods of time wreak on your brain. For example, chronic stress increases the activity level and number of neural connections in the amygdala, your brain’s fear centre. And as levels of cortisol rise, electric signals in your hippocampus–the part of your brain associated with learning, memories, and stress control–deteriorate.

Thankfully there are many ways to reverse the effects of cortisol the brain. As the video mentions, exercise and meditation are proven methods to restore a healthy balance within the brain. Just try not to become stressed out about your stress levels…

Mindfulness during a pandemic

For many of us, the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty hanging in the air. And while there’s not much any of us can do about the pandemic itself, there are things we can do to improve how we deal with the impact on our lives.

Aytekin Tank at Fast Company offers a few simple mindfulness techniques that can help us to stay calm, centred and sane during these uncertain times. It might not seem like much, but it’s these small, consistent steps that often make all the difference.

Keeping anxiety in perspective

Anxiety can be thought of as a misallocation of attention. Our brains have certain nine net of positive and negative thoughts bouncing around in them all the time, and anxiety ensures that our attention stays focused only on the most unpleasant and distressing ones.

It feels like your brain is still doing its job and representing reality to you accurately, but the machinery has actually gone seriously wrong.

So how do we get it back on track? Well, though our feelings might be telling us one thing, our rational minds are still working normally, and can still offer us a more balanced point of view if we can find a way to let them. That’s the topic of this piece by Sharon Salzburg about keeping anxiety in perspective:

The fact that anxiety grips the body in the same way as fear gives anxiety more credibility than it deserves. When your body reacts this way, it believes anxiety is alerting you to a genuine threat.

And when the brain is spinning out one horrifying outcome after another, it does not have enough space to clearly perceive the world around us as it is, and make careful, appropriate choices to protect ourselves and others.

So, first step: start by taking a breath or two to ground yourself so that you can determine if the threat you feel is real or a conjecture from circumstances. Is this a real threat? Or is my mind making it up, or perhaps exaggerating what’s actually there? Don’t try to forcefully calm yourself down — that’s too much. Just try to determine if this is a real fear, or an anxious conjecture.

How To Stay Calm Under Pressure

Pressure is an unavoidable fact of life, and we all know what it’s like to crumble under it. Whether we’re asking someone out on a date, applying for a job, or speaking in public, we’re all well aware of how it can make us freeze up.

What’s worse is that those high pressure moments are, by definition, the moments when we least want to feel tense and nervous and incapable of performing at our best. So why does this happen? It turns out there are two competing theories.

First, there’s the idea that the desire to perform well acts as a distraction, which takes valuable mental resources away from the task at hand.

The second is, in a way, the opposite. On this view, too much conscious attention is being paid to a task which we would normally perform instinctively. This extra attention actually makes us over-think what we’re doing. Essentially, we’re micro-managing ourselves.

Whatever the reason for pressure’s ability to derail is, there are ways we can get ourselves back on track. Firstly, we can practice under pressure. Unsurprisingly, research has found that those who train themselves to become accustomed to pressure perform better than those who don’t.

Secondly, we can develop a pre-game routine. A sequence of movements or mental cues that we associate with performing well (Think Sylvester Stallone turning his cap around in “Over The Top”).

And lastly, keeping your focus on your goal, rather than the intricacies of reaching it, can reap benefits during those high pressure moments. Getting the details right is why you practice. In the big moments it’s best to put your faith in the work you’ve done and go for it.

What To Do If You’re Struggling With Anxiety

It’s an unfortunate aspect of the human mind that there’s a voice in there, constantly running, which we have no control over. For the unfortunate among us, that voice is overwhelmingly negative, and we call the experience of listening to that voice anxiety.

One way to begin to overcome the power anxiety has over you is to recognise that this voice is just a voice. Like any voice, you can ignore it, you can choose to listen to a different one, an most importantly, no matter what it says, it can’t control your actions if you don’t let it.

Of course, in practice it’s easier to say this than to do it. But as Sam Harris discusses in the video above, there are a number of skilful ways we can reframe the experience which is making us anxious in a way that weakens its power over us.

How do you know the difference between being anxious about something that’s about to happen, and being excited? For the most part, it is the thoughts you’re thinking, when you’re feeling that arousal. There’s a cognitive, conceptual overlay, on top of this raw feeling. You can consciously reframe things, or you can step out of it altogether and just feel the raw energy of this experience.

In These Uncertain Times…

“In these uncertain times, it’s natural to feel a little anxious.” That’s what we’re supposed to say at the moment, right? We’re supposed to say the these are exceptional times, which they are. And that it’s normal to be worried, which it is, and that we should be kind to ourselves, which we should. We’re…continue reading on Medium…
10 Ways You’re Making Life Harder Than It Needs To Be.

The Buddha said that life is suffering. And though that may seem to overstate the problem a little, I think we can all agree that life can be hard.

But many of life’s problems are the result of the stories we tell ourselves. we believe that we deserve certain thing or a particular outcome. We convince ourselves that the person who cut us off in traffic is out to get us, or that the person who just bumped into us did so just to mess with us.

Not only are these beliefs rarely, if ever, true, they turn a situation which could have been minor into a very serious problem. Instead of forgetting about it and moving on, we feel as if we have to do something about it, or at the very least, to relive it over and over again in our heads when we could be doing something more valuable with our time.

Thought Catalog has detailed 10 such ways in which we make our lives more difficult than they need to be. It’s helpful to see them written down because it makes it clear what a waste of energy they are. All that’s left is to keep that in mind when I’m queuing up in a busy supermarket, or going through airport security, or trying to get an appointment with my doctor, or…