When we are really stressed out, and when there’s too much pressure on us, it’s hard to be present with our loved ones, with our kids, our spouses and our friends. Why do we want to be present? Because when we’re present we’re happier, healthier, and better connected.
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So, how do we defend against stress?
I’ll use myself as an example. I am a divorce lawyer, and I’ve done a pretty good job over the years of making sure that I’m able to leave work at work when I go home to my family. I leave my files and my thoughts of my files at the office, because they’re going to be there for me on Monday. I don’t check my work email when I’m at home, and I make a rule to not give out my cell phone number to my clients. That’s not to say that I don’t care about my clients, but in order to be the best divorce lawyer I can be, I have to protect my down time.
This week I was reminded of how that can all go to hell in a hand-basket. This week I was pulled back into a file that my firm has been working on for years. This file seems to consume me and my whole office, and inevitably I ended up checking my work email in the evenings, and even received a phone call from this client at 8 0’clock at night! I brought work home with me, and the toxic energy affected my family.
So, how do we defend against stress?
In my previous podcast about how we should Embrace Relying Upon Others, I talked about Shawn Achor’s book called Big Potential – How Transforming The Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being. When Achor talks about Big Potential, he’s trying to move us away from our western culture of independence. He says that if we really want to tap into stratospheric potential, we need to work with others.
What he goes on to say, however, is that we also have to learn to protect ourselves against the “Dark Arts.” My Harry Potter fans will know what I’m talking about. Essentially, not only do we want to do positive things in our life, but we also want to defend against the negative.
Specifically, recommends we build a moat.
“We may not have the power to control our world, but we do have the power to defend the good within it.”
~ from Big Potential by Shawn Achor
Contrary to what a lot of people think, Achor tells us that anger, fear, and sadness are all a necessary part of life. The problems start to arise when our fear causes us to become paralyzed, our anger to rage, or our sadness tips us into despair. He goes on to explain that when someone in our field of vision becomes stressed, we pick up on the stress because we are social creatures. We can actually smell stress, fear, and anxiety.
Getting back to building that moat…
This past week, my moat fell apart. Checking my work email at home, and seeing that I had missed a client call at 8pm, yanked me out of my peaceful evening and dumped me right back into my stressful work environment. What building the moat is about is defending your home and your personal time.
So, what steps can you take? You can:
- leave work at work when you go home at the end of your day
- put your phone away
- turn off the news channel
- curate the social media that you consume
- ask yourself whether the books you read or the television / Netflix you watch leave you feeling positive
In essence, fill yourself up with positive thoughts so that you’re not carrying around stress hormones. This goes back to what I was referring to in a recent Your Family Village episode about Being A Cultural Ambassador, we can be a cultural ambassador for the dark, or for the good.
So, this week my challenge to you to is to build your moat! I’m going to start by getting back to not checking my work email when I’m not at work.
Until next week!