No self-respecting blog is complete without a Ten Top Tips list – and this is ours. Ten Top Tips for managing workplace stress.
1. Focus on the things you can change or influence
The only thing in life that you can directly control is yourself and your decisions. Focus your valuable energy on the things you can change. You might not be able to change the situation you are in, but you can change the way that you respond to it.
2. Learn to let go
We all hold onto things, whether it is possessions, bad habits, relationships or past mistakes. We revisit these things in our head again and again; we don’t need to. We can let go, allowing our feelings of frustration and regret to float away and acceptance and peace to take their place.
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How many of us begin the New Year with a steely determination that this year we will achieve our New Year’s resolution – we will: give-up smoking/eat more healthily/spend more time with friends/try new things/exercise more etc. etc. Only for our resolve to fade away at about the same time as we finish eating the cold turkey. But not this year – this year will be different. This year you will be equipped with the additional information on the 3 key principles to building new habits.
Habits form through constant repetition – they are automatic behaviours. Researchers have identified 3 key principles that can help us to change habitual behaviour (see for example Neal et al 2011) these three top tips are:
- Derail existing habits
Big bold changes such as a change in job, a new home, or a move to a new city are perfect for disrupting your old habits and creating new ones. Of course we can’t all make these big changes just to help us achieve our New Year resolutions, but the principles are the same. If you want to create new habits we have to disrupt old cues. For example, if your goal is to eat more healthily, move the family supply of biscuits away from its usual location and put it somewhere else. That way you will have to actively think about getting a biscuit rather than reaching out in a more automatic, habitual way.
- Repetition is key
It takes on average about 66 days to create a new habit (1), for some people it is much longer and for other people it is shorter – but the only way that you can create a new habit is through repetition. Give yourself enough time to create your habit – don’t expect it to be easy, and don’t expect it to happen overnight.
- Create stable cues
Create a context in which your new habit is triggered. So for example, if your resolution is to exercise more, create a regular day during the week when this happens – ‘Tuesday night is exercise night’, if you want to start flossing your teeth, link it to brushing your teeth – the cue is brushing your teeth. If you want to eat more fruit link it to your lunch or to your dinner. By creating stable cues you create an environment for the new behaviours to form.
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and positive 2015
- Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W., Wardle, J., (2010) How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European School of Social Psychology 40:6 998-1009
- (1) Neal, D.T., Wood, W., Wu, M., Kurlander, D., (2011) The pull of the past: When do habits persist despite conflict with motives? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 37: 1428