26 Jul Well-being – how to stay at the top of your game every day of the week
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the impact social interaction has on our general well-being, and shone a light on the need for all of us to have a greater focus on our mental and physical health. So it has been more important to find effective ways to keep ourselves “above the line”…
EVERY ONE OF us will have experiences in life that will go on to shape our response and behaviour moving forward. COVID has made many of us stop and re-evaluate what is important, and many individuals have made changes – sometimes drastic – and formed new habits, good and bad, that now seem insurmountable to move away from.
Great if this was a conscious choice to improve yourself; not so great if it is a bad habit you have fallen into.
Being aware of how you present yourself and recognising that you can influence your behaviour can be an empowering experience, and is the first step in adjusting your mindset and being in control of creating more positive and productive outcomes.
Take a moment and think about where you are in the below graphic. How do you approach challenges and change? Are you above or
below the line most of the time?
We all like to think we are “above-the-line” people, but we need to scratch the surface and see how we respond to real-life situations to truly understand.
Let’s explore this a little. We have all seen the advice on establishing good habits, but how do you approach them? Does any of the
following sound familiar?
- Getting eight hours’ good sleep. While sleep has well-known benefits, it’s difficult when personal life demands your attention, there’s too much to do and work doesn’t have a cut-off time.
- Eating healthy. This is hard when you are exhausted and demotivated, as easy fast-food options seem far more appealing. Besides, when do you have time to cook?
- Drink enough water. Everyone knows water is good, but it’s hard to drink two litres a day when you are full-on at work and wearing PPE most of the time.
- Mindfulness and meditation. You have neither the time nor the inclination to consciously sit and do nothing – you’d rather use the time being productive and getting stuff done.
- Regular exercise. You have every good intention and know the benefits, but something else always demands your attention – or there just isn’t enough time in the day.
We frequently see below-the-line reactions to everyday situations, when we think we are above-the-line people. Why is this?
Mindset can block success before you’ve even started. If you start with a rationale why something may not be possible, more often than not it won’t happen.
But that’s not to say that by simply wanting to do well you will do well. The biggest mistake anyone can make is to assume success and positivity come naturally; that if you work hard enough and have an aspiration, success will follow. Rather unfairly, this is not the case.
This brings me nicely to potentially the single most important habit anyone can form.
Creating goals and making them happen
Without conscious management of your goals and aspirations, you are navigating in the dark, you can’t be sure where you are going and it’s difficult to see the best way to get there; you are setting yourself up to fail.
If you set yourself too many goals, or unrealistic ones, you will enter a cycle of failure and negativity. But when you set clear targets that are managed productively and positively, it can be a liberating and rewarding experience that can help deliver the best version of you.
What do I mean? Let’s take a look again at the various habits I outlined earlier, and how a tweak in mindset and a clearer plan in what you want to achieve can change the outcome.
- Getting eight hours’ good sleep. Sleep affects so many aspects of physical health. Even if you are not in control of the amount of time available for sleep, you can focus on small things that can help make a difference to the quality of the sleep you have. Finding 15 minutes of sun during the day, not eating meals late and reducing digital use before bed are all small steps in your control that can help you gain a better night’s sleep.
- Eating healthy. The benefits of healthy eating are clear – reducing the risk of developing certain cancers, weight loss, and maintaining focus are hard to argue with – but the topic of healthy eating can feel vast. Life can get in the way, but cooking some fresh meals, introducing more vegetables and avoiding empty calories are all practical, positive steps that are feasible to fit into everyday life.
- Drink enough water. We know the advantages of keeping hydrated: everything from better digestion and detoxing your body to energising your muscles and regulating body temperature. One extra glass of water a day is an improvement, so start there and build.
- Mindfulness and meditation. Research suggests this could lower stress levels and ease pain, so why not give it a go? Recognise that clearing your mind could help you drop negative thinking, rebalance and improve focus. If you find it isn’t for you, take other steps such as mindful breathing, yoga, journaling or just being still for a period of time. These activities could still help you achieve your goal via a different path.
- Regular exercise. Acknowledge the benefits of exercise and create a routine to factor it in. Some days you will enjoy it, some days you won’t, but commit to a minimum requirement and build from there.
By being more aware not of what you wish to do, but of what you want to actually achieve – and, crucially, planning tangible steps to get you there – you will realise the positive outcomes you desire and build a better, more consistent version of yourself, step by step.
Where to start
- Ask yourself what you need to stay on top of the game and what your work requires from you.
Firstly, how do you make stuff happen? Is it important to you to meet your internal expectations first or do you need external accountability to help you achieve your goals and create healthy habits? By recognising this very early on you will save a lot of time, money and frustrations in the long run.
If you need accountability from someone –be that friend, work, college, partner, app or an external party – make this your priority.
- Understand when you are at your best and most receptive, and make it work for you.
How do you wake up and prepare for the day? Are you a morning or an evening person?
If it is in the mornings, allocate 15 to 30 minutes for some “me time”. Allow yourself a quiet space to just be still, think and align your thoughts for the day. Write down the top three things you have to get done that day and highlight the most important task that will have the biggest impact on you, your family or your work.If evenings work better, allocate time before bed to do this activity. Get it out of your head…
At the end of each day give yourself five minutes to consider:
What went well today? What am I grateful for? Did I show appreciation to my family and colleagues?
Pay attention to words that come to mind: “I messed up, I am not good enough, it is my fault.” Challenge yourself to change negative words to more positive ones: “How could I have done this better, what can I learn from the scenario? I did my best under the circumstances. It is not the person, but the process not working; my colleagues are doing their best.”
- Connect with the right people.
Zoom fatigue and trying to interact with people through a mask is a challenge, and can be draining. Add to this saying yes to social invites can add rather than take away stress and lead to resentment if you don’t feel you are getting anything from the experience.
Recognise that your peers influence your behaviour and your attitude, surround yourself with people who add value to your life and give them your valuable time. Understand the challenges placed on you in everyday life and don’t overcommit. Instead, make a conscious decision to actively seek positivity and productivity, both in yourself and in those around you.
 Practice values and culture – what does this look like in everyday work with the rest of the team?
What is your promise to each other; your rules to live by? How do you treat each other? What is okay or what is not acceptable? If you do not know or feel that the current values are not aligned anymore, ask for a meeting to revisit or even create your vision and values as a team.
 How do you communicate as a team?
Do you have short, concise sessions regularly scheduled to check in operationally? Do you meet specifically to discuss systems and processes that are not working? When do you make time to set goals and forward think? If you don’t plan to have these conversations, don’t expect to move forward productively. Set regular time aside for concise meetings with fixed agendas to establish a culture of continuous improvement and achievement.
 Have breaks and lunch daily.
Regular time away from the job will make you more productive and open when you are present. Consider walking meetings instead of sitting in a room to get the brain flowing and fresh air.
 Are you happy to come to work, do you enjoy what you do, and are you productive and clear on what is expected of you?
If yes, that is great. Keep a note on how this makes you feel every month, so that you can identify early on if this changes for you and why. If you are not happy or don’t have clarity on your role, take action.
Ultimately, if you take positive steps to manage yourself and your well-being, you will see a difference in the success of your personal and professional life.
The biggest achievements in your life and performance will not be due to big decisions or drastic actions taken; it will be the many small steps that helped you get there that will have made the difference.
Grasp your future with both hands and start implementing small changes to enhance how you live and work today.
By Whilmari Swift
Special thanks to VBJ – pages 12-14 in their July 2021 edition.