I’ve been plagued with pockets of stress throughout much of my professional career – part is attributed to DNA, but the vast majority is self-induced, largely attributed to the career decisions that I’ve made. To be sure, it ebbs and flows based upon my ability to control my mind, relax and detach. Age also helps, especially from the perspective of being “tired about stress.” It’s possible that I’m growing out of it, but I’ve also been able to control much of it through a combination of Chinese herbs, regular acupuncture and a focus on active mindfulness.
As May is “Mental Health Awareness Month”, and with approximately 1 in 5 Americans experiencing some form of mental illness in given year, it’s fitting to talk about where stress creeps in most Mondays through Fridays– the workplace.
An Event in New York City – Stressed Sleepers
I spent several years working in the financial services industry in New York City. There was a fine line between disguising one’s stress and bravado, but as junior analyst, stress was a way of life. Last month, I returned to facilitate a lecture on how Chinese medicine can help you sleep better (which it can) at the corporate headquarters of A&E Networks. Along with New York-based acupuncturist Dr. Prisca Chen, L.Ac., we polled those in attendance as to why they were unable stay asleep throughout the night – not surprisingly, stress and anxiousness was a primary reason.
Prisca offered a few quick recommendations for helping one become mentally relaxed from the perspective of Chinese medicine, which included pressure points (hint: place three fingers on your opposite wrist and press down to help you find quick calm), along with closing one’s eyes periodically and having a personal moment of Zen. But what if you’re like me and quick band aids don’t always do the trick? What if you require not just simple quick antidotes but rather major shifts?
Long Form “Shifts” to Reduce Stress
I’ve had to work on stress management for a while, partly because despite not being on Wall Street, I’m a co-founder of a growing start-up that brings numerous challenges, so the stress has continued. I don’t have a lot of time during the day to devote to lifechanging stress-reducers, but need to calm the stress nonetheless. What to do?
Luckily for me, our company is all about balance, a key principle not just under the category of reducing work-related stress, but in all aspects of life. In working with acupuncturists and doctors of Chinese medicine, along with really gaining an understanding of my strengths and numerous weaknesses, I’ve been able to apply the best lessons of Chinese medicine against my personal/professional DNA for taking the stress level down. Here are a few of my recommendations:
Six Recommendations for Making a Professional “Stress Reducing Shift”
- Make sure you devote a portion of your day focusing on something that’s creative. For me, it’s writing (like this post) and working on strategy for growing, improving or solving. To be sure, creative can be defined a lot of different ways, but for me it requires mental dedication to creating something or solving problem solving (leaving the appropriate time for the other monotonous “must-do’s”).
- Schedule regular meetings with people who stimulate you (this helps support the point above regarding creative moments). I don’t do enough of this, but I try and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, supply chain partners, sales partners or numerous people in between to boost my energy, confidence and creative juices. Moreover, I’m involved with a charity organization and love getting together with the founder to chat about what’s going on with his organization, brainstorming ideas of ways to grow it all along.
- Take breaks and let the chit chat flow in the office. While I’m not looking to be my colleagues’ best friend (and I am confident they don’t want to be mine!), it’s helpful to take periodic breaks that don’t necessarily have anything to do with work. I didn’t get enough of that on Wall Street, and it helps break the tension/monotony of grinding out hard work.
- I’m a huge proponent of everybody meeting with acupuncturists regularly for a variety of health and wellness needs, but most certainly my acupuncturist has been helpful with keeping cool and calm mentally. I will typically schedule my appointment before work, and the benefits for several days thereafter, from focus to confidence, cannot be understated. I highly recommend working with an acupuncturist regularly.
- I likely overdose on Chinese herbal medicine, but we’ll consider that a hazard of the job. I regularly take three of our formulas: Emotional Balance (inspired by the Chinese herbal blend Xiao Yao San), Mental Tranquility (inspired by Gui Pi Tang) and, wait for it, our Women’s Formula (inspired by Si Wu Tang – yes, men can most certainly take it; according to Chinese medicine theory it helps move blood which for me increases energy). These formulas are great for keeping one’s stress at bay, helping with energy, and keeping balanced.
- Active, mindful workouts – I’m still speed walking, a lot (#walkingwithjohn), and I use the time to think, learn (avid podcast listener) and connect (for the early AM walks, I connect with my college buddy who is taking the same “2019 walking challenge” as me). To this point, it’s the days that I walk five miles before my kids get out of bed that I end-up having the most productive working sessions.
One final point: I have to make the above a priority, which is also to say that the tactics require active practice and commitment. When I’m mindfully practicing and prioritizing the above, the results are profound.
Do you have any “long form” stress reducing tactics that work for you? Share them in the below comments, and we’ll send you super big discount code for one of the above stress reducing formulas that I mentioned. I’d love to hear what works for you.