Last Thursday morning, I did something out of my comfort zone – I was mentally alert and focused early in the day during a virtual book discussion of the ONE THING. Early morning and me being mentally alert are usually a dichotomy!
The power of focus in whatever it is that I do. Multitasking, while thinking of my things on my to-do list, triggered my stress levels far beyond what is considered healthy.
Because of my burnout, I had already learned the lesson to manage my energy and leverage my self-awareness to tap into my productivity peaks. These peaks are different for everyone, and it requires experience and reflection to discover what yours are.
What I failed to realize is that my ONE THING was to learn how to become mindful. To entirely focus when I am engaged in any activity. Many of us, I am sure, are reaching out to their phones when having conversations, scrolling through social media checking whether someone liked our posts so we can feel good about ourselves.
Our brains are not wired for multitasking as it drains us from our mental energy, while increasing our cortisol level, the hormone responsible for stress. Now stress in itself is not a bad thing; it is all about perception. Stress can boost your performance, increase your adrenaline, and give you the push you need to deliver and achieve your goals.
Chronic stress, however, is the real culprit as it grows over unsustainable long periods of time. Imagine you are holding a bottle of water in one of your hands for five minutes. You’ll be fine. Now imagine if you keep it for an hour. For three hours. For a day. For weeks or months. Soon your arm will feel paralyzed, and you can’t take it anymore—the same thing is true for stress.
Many think about releasing stress through the psychical body, which is crucial and critical to release the cortisol and increase dopamine and oxytocin in your brains. The hormones responsible for making you feel good, and on top of the world.
What is also fundamental for stress relief is to focus our attention on ONE THING at a time.
Here is my take on how.
We all have 24/7 hours in a week, and focusing on how much time you allocate to your activities is perhaps not the most productive way.
Why? If you decide to spend three hours working on a project and four hours with family and friends, but your mind is drifting off to your project, your crush or your stomach – everyone can feel the impact. The energy exchange between you and the other is absent, and although you are spending TIME together, you are not PRESENT. When you are not present, the mental energy drain increases your stress hormones and triggers negative emotions. So you are perpetuating feeling tired, not well, and you send out bad vibes all around you.
Being present helps you connect with the other person or to be fully engaged and experience flow in whatever it is that you are doing!
Set your intention
Being present requires you to set your intention before any activity or event.
What is intention setting?
“Deciding to give your attention wholly to something or someone during the entire duration of the moment”.
When you know what you want out of a conversation, a meeting, a workshop, time with someone else – your focus will increase. Giving something or someone your undivided attention will be much easier.
For example, are you about to have a meaningful conversation or presentation at work? Set your intention to add value through your knowledge and desire to improve people’s experience by listening and interacting with you. When you place your intention on your audience and shift your focus from yourself to them, be fully present in your presentation or conversation.
Focus your attention on your intention and watch what happens.
A small disclaimer, please do prepare and put in the necessary work as an intention alone will not get you results. I am just saying!
Awareness, Acceptance & Action
Before change can happen, awareness needs to be activated. Let’s take me as an example. I failed to become aware of how much screen time I had on social media. I love being active through sharing and commenting, but like everything in life, balance is critical. Until I became aware of my slightly addictive social media behavior, I was draining my mental energy and lost my focus more often. Once I realized the negative impact it had on my work and my well-being, I accepted reality and took responsibility. I did not shame myself, nor did I “punish myself” through negative self-talk. I just accepted that it’s time for change because I want to regain my focus and feel better while still using social media for useful purposes. So the ACTION that I took is to turn off the notifications and delete the applications on my phone. The stress of checking my feeds and feeling the pressure to be active all the time has now subsided.
I know, sometimes drastic measures are needed when you are stubborn like me!
Reflect & Learn
Words don’t teach; experience does!
We go to school and learn about history, mathematical theories, and the importance of degrees. We never really learn how to live life for our well-being. We never learn how to unlearn what we learned as we continuously grow and evolve as human beings. We never learn how our emotions impact our behaviors, our perceptions, and our decision making. Often we blame ourselves when we make mistakes when we fail or when others judge us. We learn to attach more importance to the feedback and criticism from others than our own opinion and wisdom. Journaling or merely reflecting on situations that feel uncomfortable or amazing will help you learn new things about yourself: things you like and things you can do without.
To reflect and learn what lights you up, what makes you happy and what will propel you forward!
Feeling continuous negative emotions cause chronic stress. Sounds logical?!
Yet more than 256 million people across the world experienced depression and anxiety before the pandemic broke out. Now, these numbers are on a sharp rise. Learning to change your perception of fun and humor can significantly boost your quality of life. If you perceive your tasks, your work, your life as a continuous struggle, you will experience more negative stress. If you change your perception by focusing on being present in the moment and setting your intention to give your undivided attention, you will experience more positive emotions, guaranteed! And yes, it isn’t easy. It takes work and effort.
But is this not a price worth paying for experiencing more happiness and less harmful stress?
Life is meant to flow.
Life is meant to be enjoyed.
So enjoy. The choice is yours!
Every Sunday evening I share my latest EQ – Emotional Intelligence inspiration and productivity hack to help you live a life of empowerment. If you are interested in value over spam, sign up to Master your Emotions, Master your Mind!