Work On Yourself As Much As You Work On Your Business

Take time for rec-reation before your body makes time for wreck-reation.

According to some studies, Americans take fewer vacation days and work more hours per year than workers in other countries. I’m not sure that’s something to be proud of.

This pedal-to-the-metal pace has led to a huge amount of job stress. In fact, some statistics say that one of every three people is stressed out, burned out, or has a life badly out of balance.

Check it out. Look at two other people at work, and if they look okay, you’re probably the one! Just teasing.

But it’s true. Stress is deeply and badly affecting lots and lots of people. The American Medical Association says that 85% of all health problems are connected to stress. And their doctors write millions of prescriptions each year trying to help people deal with that stress.

What about you? Are you feeling the pressure? A lot of my seminar attendees say they can feel the stress at home as well as on the job. It’s no wonder. The Family Research Council says parents spend 40% less time with their children than they did 25 years ago. Again, I’m not sure that’s something to be proud of.

There is some good news, however. We’ve learned so much about stress, burnout, and work-life balance the last few years that you no longer have to be a victim of it. You can learn and apply a variety of simple strategies that will energize you as well as eliminate the stress.

I suppose that’s why one of my most popular programs focuses on those strategies. It’s called, “Take This Job and Love It! A Program for Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life.” It’s simple stuff, but it works wonders.

Let me give you a few of the strategies to get you started. START BY BEING HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Take an inventory. Do you have any obvious signs of stress in your life?

Perhaps you catch way too many colds. Or you’re plagued with too many headaches, backaches, and a variety of other tensions. Maybe you worry too much, sleep too little, eat junk food, seldom exercise, and carry an extra ten or twenty pounds.

You might say, “Well, those things just come with age.” No they don’t. They come with stress, and the first step in licking that stress is being honest with yourself.

And it’s not that difficult to do. After all, your body is a marvelous communication system. It will tell you when you’ve got too much stress, or you’re burning out, or you’re out of balance. You’ll get some pain somewhere.

In fact, that’s the purpose of pain. Pain is there to get your attention. Pain is telling you it’s time to change your life or your lifestyle.

I learned that back in college. I was the epitome of the hard driving, fast running, out-of-balance workaholic. I felt driven to take more courses than normally allowed. I felt driven to get an “A” on every test and in every class. I felt driven to study 5 to 8 hours a day and then work another 25 to 40 hours a week at my sales job.

The results were interesting, to say the least. I achieved great academic success, and I made a lot of money. But I also received so much joint pain that I could hardly walk for months and months afterwards.

I learned that if I don’t take time for “recreation” the body will make time for “wreck-reation.” I had to be honest with myself. My body was communicating with me through all those driven years, but I wasn’t listening. I ignored all the painful signals until I couldn’t ignore them anymore.

What’s your body telling you? Is it saying, “I’m calm, cool and collected?” Or is it saying, “I’m overworked, and overwhelmed?” Be honest with yourself.

If you get anything less than a positive answer, then do something about it–because the next strategy says you need to TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY. It’s one of the quickest ways to nip stress in the bud.

One way to do that is to exercise regularly. When you exercise, you reduce or eliminate the stress inside of you.

Of course, people who don’t exercise hate to hear me speak about this. They’ll always find some exception to the rule. They’ll point out the example of the person who exercised every day and dropped dead of a heart attack.

Well, let’s get real. There are exceptions to every rule. But the research is so overwhelming that it is not even debatable anymore. Appropriate exercise cleans out emotional stress, or at the very least, it gives you the strength to deal with it.

Still, non-exercise people like to joke about their non-activity. I saw one lady on a late-night talk show who said her definition of exercise was sitting in the bath tub, pulling the plug, and fighting the current. Another man said he’d consider jogging–if he ever saw a jogger smile.

I assume, however, that you’re interested in a healthy, balanced life. I assume you want the best for yourself personally and professionally.

Unfortunately, a lot of people try exercise, but they don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to get the re-energizing, de-stressing effects of appropriate exercise.

There are four things that Dr. Sidney Simon, professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, recommends. First, select an exercise activity or program that makes you stop thinking about your problems. If you’re going to ride your bike to work and think about your unreasonable work load or your disrespectful boss the entire time you’re riding, your ride won’t do you any good.

You’ve got to stop thinking about your problems once in a while. You’ve got to disengage and give your mind a rest.

I used to think that throwing and catching a Frisbee was a rather useless activity. Then I realized how perfectly it fit my first criterion. When you’re jumping in the air catching the Frisbee, your whole body is engaged in the activity. There’s no way you can worry about your problems.

Second, select an exercise activity that turns you on rather than off. In other words, you’ve got to enjoy it.

When I was a professor, I used to swim laps in the pool during my noon hour. But I knew other professors who would have rather drowned than do laps in the pool. Then don’t do it.

I would also jog around the indoor rubberized jogging track. Again I knew other folks who were bored to tears running around the same circle. Then don’t do it.

There are thousands of good ways to exercise. Find one you enjoy.

Third, select an exercise activity that is fairly non-competitive. All day long you’re fighting battles with your competitor, with your suppliers and customers, with your coworkers and family members. You’re fighting deadlines and fires. So you don’t need an exercise program that is also a battle.

If, for example, you join the company softball team, and you get all upset about the score, be careful. If you’re complaining about a player’s bad catch or the umpire’s bad call, if you’re complaining three days after the game, your “exercise” program is not doing much to eliminate your stress.

Pick something non-competitive–unless you truly can let it go. In other words, when the game is over, it’s over.

Finally, do your exercises for at least 20 vigorous minutes 3 times a week. You have to push yourself to the point where you are literally pushing the stress out of your system. Some exercise experts call this the “trainer’s effect.”

So if you get up in the morning and do 2 sit-ups and 2 push-ups, if that’s the extent of your exercise program, save your breath. It won’t do you much good.

I know you want to be a Peak Performer. To achieve that, just remember you have to work on yourself as much as you work on your business. And one of those areas of self-management is in the area of physical care. Why not get started today?

Action:  Fresh, alert, creative minds are often housed in vibrant, healthy bodies. So take an inventory of your body this week. Be honest with yourself. What is your body telling you? Do you have any signs of stress? And are you listening?

Then decide to add one, new, good habit or eliminate one, old, bad habit in the physical dimension of your life. Start this week. Spend a few minutes a day on this new commitment of yours, and in 21 days you will have a lot less stress in your life.