Feb 29, 2016 by Reen Rose
I agreed to take on a project that I thought would take 4 or 5 hours to complete, but after investing 11 hours I am still only half way to being finished. The project needs to be done as soon as possible - I thought I’d get it done on the weekend but that didn’t happen. I have a really busy week ahead in my work life, so finding time to complete this project is stressing me and we all know how stress can sweep happiness from our lives quicker than you can say “I’m stressed.” Just ask my husband what my mood was like last night.
So here I am, trying to get this project done, knowing that I have so many other things to do as well. I don’t want to be stressed, so the question is, in times of stress when you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and you are good mood challenged, can you fight back by boosting your happiness?
I believe that you can and have started my day with 7 strategies to help me do just that. Let me put my theories to the test.
1. Make a plan
There is nothing like creating a plan to help you know that YOU are rowing your boat, not the world around you. Humans love feeling that they have a certain level of autonomy, or ability to call the shots in their lives, so let’s make sure you are doing just that. For those of you who want to argue the philosophy of thinking you are in control when you might not be, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you perceive that you are.
2. Look at the bigger picture
Amy Wrzeniewski’s research into work orientations shows that the happiest workers are those who feel that they are doing something good for others or the world around them. You aren’t just making coffee at the local coffee shop; you are brightening the day of each person that you serve that coffee to.
3. Break your work into chunks and write them on a list
I am a list writer, so just writing what I need to get done on a piece of paper is likely to make me feel better, but there is also a scientific reason for doing this. No one wants to work on a project for an entire day and then at the end of 8 hours feel that they haven’t got anywhere. Notice that I’m using the word feel: it is all about perception. If you break your task into chunks that you can write on a list and then cross off as you get them done, you can actually see how much you have accomplished and know that although you have a long way to go, you are moving forward.
Just the act of genuinely smiling makes you feel better. Notice the word genuine in that sentence? A fake smile won’t cut it. If you need some help, think of a funny or endearing memory, go outside into the fresh air for 5 minutes, or look at a photo that makes you smile. I recommend having a photo or poster that lifts your spirit, close at hand.
5. Take a Breather
We have a natural rhythm of energy and approximately every 90 minutes it slumps. Trying to work through this dip doesn’t accomplish as much as taking a short break and re-energizing. Sometimes just changing tasks can do the trick and get you back on track.
6. Don’t Multitask
Whoever tried to make us think that multi-tasking is a good skill should have their head examined. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but if you really want to make progress with your work, block out time to work whole heartedly on one task. Turn off your phone and close your email program. Don’t let anything disturb your concentration.
7. Eat and Stay Hydrated
It is easy to forget to eat and grab water when you are focussed on a project, but it is important to keep your brain in tip top condition. Get in the habit of grabbing water and a healthy snack when you stop to take a breather.
I am now armed with a list of smaller chunks that make up my project and other tasks, a protein bar, some coffee and a glass of water. I have just had a little break to gather my provisions. I also went outside to see what new treasures are coming to life in my yard. Each new shoot makes me smile and see a beauty that is bigger than my stressed life. I am feeling more hopeful and light hearted already.
I expect that by the end of today, I will feel much more satisfied than I did at the end of yesterday. My goal is to say with total honesty, “It’s been a good day!”
Let me know if any of these strategies work for you, or of any other ways you like to stay happy while in the midst of stress.