Managing Your Stress Levels

Take control of your stress.

Modern life has many stress inducing factors from those which are work related to family responsibilities to simply commuting from A to B in a busy city. Some stress is inevitable and even helpful, such as the stress associated with preparing and delivering a talk in public – the stress or anxiety ensures we prepare properly. However, much of the stress in people’s lives can be harmful – too much stress can cause physical and mental health problems.

People deal with stress in different ways – some healthy and others unhealthy. Drinking alcohol to excess causes more problems than it solves, and the release is only temporary anyway. Smoking and taking non-prescribed drugs are obviously bad for health, and behaviors’ that become obsessive as a result of stress or a way of coping with it play havoc with social relationships and mental stability.

Healthy approaches to relieving stress and coping with it include practicing Tai Chi or yoga, or engaging in some form of physical exercise. What these healthy approaches have in common is their effect on breathing – they cause the person to breathe more deeply than usual and more methodically. But you can do a breathing exercise anywhere – it doesn’t have to be as part of a formal practice such as yoga or related to physical exercise – and it can be done while sitting at your desk in work or on your way to a meeting you feel anxious about. Here’s how to do it.

Sit comfortably if possible, but you can do this standing up as well. Breathe in through your nose, neither too fast nor too slow, bringing the breath all the way down to your abdomen – make sure the breath pushes out your belly. Make sure to breathe in through your nose as the nose is designed to catch impurities in the air. As you complete the in-breath, hold it for a few seconds – if new to deep breathing, start with holding the breath for just two seconds (to a count of one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, etc), and later build up to three, then four seconds. Then breathe out through your mouth more slowly than the in-breath – with practice, you should aim to breathe out twice as slowly as the in-breath.

Breathing like this for a few minutes will calm your body – it lowers cortisol levels which is the stress hormone – and importantly, calms the mind as well. If you have trouble sleeping, slow breathing like this before bedtime will help prepare your body and mind for sleep. Slow breathing is also how professional speakers prepare themselves before standing up to present. If you are at a stressful meeting, such as a job interview or a performance review, slow breathing will help improve your performance.

Regulating and deepening breathing is just one way that physical exercise helps reduce stress, but physical exercise also has an effect on our physiology. After a bad day in the office, if you go for a brisk walk or jog, within a few minutes your ‘bad day’ feeling is gone. This is because the physiology of exercise is different to the physiology of a bad day, and our physiology influences how we feel. So the next time you are stressed or having a bad day, notice your physiology and change it to a more useful one. For example, most ‘bad day’ and stress physiology is downcast – head bowed and body slouched. So change it to an opposite pose – sit upright, lift your head up, expand your body, and do slow breathing.

Now you don’t have any excuse for feeling stressed or down – you have a way of changing how your body is by breathing deeply and slowly, and by adopting a more upright physiology!

When your work lacks meaning and you feel there has to be something better than this

When work just doesn’t feel right

You wake up one morning and the thought of going to work fills you with dread! You ask yourself “why am I doing this?” “I don’t love my job – I don’t even like it!” You realise that you never had passion for your work. You do it to pay the bills – that flashy new car – “do I even need it?” And the mortgage – “do I really need to keep working at this meaningless job for another twenty-something years just to pay that?” “Maybe I better keep at it. No, wait! I don’t want to feel trapped either!” “Oh God – what am I going to do?

If you’ve ever had thoughts like these or the feeling that your work-life is empty, it is likely that you are in the wrong job. It happens to many people. They get a job after school or college, start enjoying the independence that comes with having a steady income, the holidays abroad, a car – then a new car, and eventually a home of their own – with a big mortgage of course. This is also the period that many people get married and start a family. Life has been busy – time flies! Without seemingly thinking about it, we work, get promoted, work more, accumulate more earnings and material things. And now it just doesn’t seem to matter – what was it all for? Your life lacks something – meaning, happiness, contentment, fulfillment?

Most people start their working lives to meet the expectations of their parents, their teachers, society in general. Because they were good at maths or science, they were steered into studying engineering. Because their parents wanted them to be a lawyer or a doctor or a dentist, they became one. Because everybody kept telling them that banking or financial services was the best place to work, they got a job there. They have met the expectations of others who at the time were important to them. They still are probably, but meeting their expectations is no longer that important. And now? That “great” job is boring, meaningless and devoid of happiness.

This is the moment that a person feels that they really need to do something about this. But what? Look for a new job? A new career? Start their own business? What?

This is the time to seek the services of a career coach – someone to help you make sense of what you are feeling – someone to help you find a new direction for your life – whether that new direction is a career change, or starting your own business, or doing that which you always knew inside that you should be doing.

I wrote previously about the process involved in finding career direction (you can read that article here), and such a holistic and multi-faceted approach will give you much to think about. The process will bring you to a new awareness of yourself, your personality, your interests, your strengths, and your values. From these insights, a growing consciousness of what direction your career and life should take dawns. You feel at last a sense of excitement about the future as a fuzzy pathway increasingly transforms into a clearer and richer picture of where you want to be. Once you find that, your present reality becomes unacceptable – you have found the way forward and know you must take it. Meaning, happiness, contentment and fulfillment awaits! Go get it!

11 Research-Backed Reasons To Work Less

You might find yourself thinking of the weekends as a time to get caught up on work, or to get ahead for the next work week. Or perhaps you’re in the habit of working long hours and plan to work even more this week.

If that’s the case, you may want to rethink your plans.

Research show that working too much and staying connected, with no breaks, can be just as damaging to your health as it is to your career.

Getting in the habit of closing your laptop, putting your phone on vibrate and shutting down social media could have long-lasting effects on your life. Here are 11 points to help convince you of the benefits.

  1. One study from The Business Roundtable found that employees who work 60-hour weeks over a two-month period tend to become less productive. The net result? The productivity equivalent over those two months is the same as if they had just worked 40-hour weeks.
  2. Working overtime, in addition to decreasing productivity, might also double the chances of an individual experiencing a major depressive episode, even without other risk factors.
  3. A study showed that 195 men between the ages of 30 and 60, who regularly worked more than 11 hours each day had more than twice the chance of having a heart attack than those working fewer hours.
  4. Different studies have shown that wakeful rest, or the period of being awake and not working, is when your brain processes vital components that can lead to better memory and greater problem-solving abilities.
  5. The stress hormone, cortisol, is much higher when waking up on work days than it is on rest days.
  6. Resting helps you to have a better work-life balance that can lead to greater job satisfaction.
  7. Ernst & Young found that employees’ year-end performance ratings increase by 8 percent for each additional 10 hours of vacation.
  8. The Women’s Health Initiative found that women who sit for longer periods have a reduced lifespan.
  9. Vacations aren’t a long-term rest solution, since studies have shown that vacation benefits tend to last only two to four weeks; mini-vacations from work on the weekends, though, can help more.
  10. Temporary eye strain, which can be caused by working at computers, can lead to glaucoma, which is one cause of blindness.
  11. In one study, couples where both spouses felt work stress were also more distant, independent and anxious.

Work Life Balance: A Scientific Tip To Make Things Easier

For most of us, mental separation between our home and work lives, is something that we think we need.

Having definitive, boundaries between your workplace and work mind, versus your home life and family-centered mind, seems like the best way to keep those worlds from colliding.

We try various things to leave work in the office and home at the door. For example, you might set guidelines for when you will stop handling work emails and phone calls. Or you might not do personal chores at the office.

However, recent research suggests that keeping such clear distinctions and barriers between work/home might not be the best option. Merging the two a bit more could work better.

When we set up strict barriers in our mind between family responsibilities, relaxation, time with friends, and obligations of the work place, it actually takes more effort and stress to transition between those different roles and mindsets.

Let’s say you are sitting at your desk at work and you get a call from your wife or husband saying that one of the kids is sick and had to be pulled out of school today. When such home related thoughts occupy your mind in the workplace, your mind needs to transition from work mode to home mode. This drains your energy and makes you less focused on task at work, which leads to lower performance levels. Similarly, if you’re spending time with your kids and remember something about the workplace, you need to make an effort to block those thoughts out.

Research done by Ball State University and St. Louis University suggests that keeping your roles more fluid and being able to break some of those boundaries is actually better for keeping your stress/effort levels lower. This flexibility allows you to limit depletion of your cognitive resources.

Their study analyzed more than 600 employees, to understand what happens when they are at home or work, and think about things related to their ‘other life’. What they found is that people who had blurred the boundaries between work and home experience more transitions daily between those roles, but those people also experience significantly less stress and effort during the transitions.

They were able to develop tactics and strategies that would help them easily transition between their roles. So they either deal with the thought/matter effectively or put it on the back-burner, without letting it cause stress, use up their resources, or impact the quality of what they are doing at work or home. They don’t look at the matter as conflicting, or as an intrusion, or something that shouldn’t be happening.

People who maintained higher boundaries between home and work life, experienced less frequent transitions but with higher stress and effort levels. This had a greater impact on their performance at work as well as their responsibilities at home.

“It could be that, because work and life are more closely integrated and less separate, it’s just easier for those individuals to push a home-related thought out of their mind, knowing they’ll be back in the home role sooner. This may be why those employees in the study who had more blurred lines between work and life were the ones who experienced less disruption of job performance when home situations interrupted work time. However, it could also be that the more frequent role transitions makes it easier for those individuals to push the thought out of their mind with less willpower (almost like exercising a muscle).

“Overall, our findings suggest that integration, rather than segmentation, may be a better long-term boundary management strategy for minimizing resource depletion and maintaining higher levels of job performance during inevitable work-family role transitions,” researchers stated.

What do you think? Is this something that is worth trying, or do you think it won’t work for you in practice?

Should something be done about the ‘always on’ workplace?

In today’s business world the working hours are longer and demands are greater than ever before.

There is a culture of “busyness” and the expectation of availability outside of normal work hours.

This expectation to always prioritize work and to always be “on” is a daunting prospect and can erode your passion for your work, as well as impact everything from self esteem to family time.

Erin Reid, a professor at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University, and Lakshmi Ramarajan, a Harvard Business School assistant professor, have done some interesting research on today’s high-intensity workplace.

Reid refers to the phenomenon as “Cult of Busy,” and says – “Our research shows that being always available is actually dysfunctional for everyone at some level. Yet, many workplaces encourage workers to always have their electronic devices to hand, even on weekends, to address work-related calls and emails in real-time. Those who are unable or unwilling are often subtly penalized. This setting of boundaries is often seen as a sign of unsuitability for the job.”

Such a work culture is damaging not only to workers, but also to companies. These companies often see higher turnover rates as employees burn out and move on.

This obsession, willing or not, is unhealthy, and people have developed a few different ways of adapting to the 24/7 expectation. Here are the most common ways, along with their consequences.


Accepting

Many simply give in and accept that they must be available to work 24/7 as part of their job.

However, conforming to the “always on” mentality is detrimental to our sense of self.

When you prioritize your work to the exclusion of nearly everything else (family, friends, leisure pursuits), as companies want the ideal worker to do, you are shutting out many of the aspects that make you a fulfilled/balanced individual.

It also increases the rate of burnout, while decreasing your ability to handle setbacks like job loss, illness, etc. because you have psychologically put all your eggs into one basket.


Passing

This term was originally coined by sociologist Erving Goffman, who used it to describe how people hide personal characteristics which would otherwise subject them to stigmatization or discrimination, such as disability or race.

In this case, it is used for workers who pretend to be “always on,” but pursue outside interests under the radar of colleagues. Basically, workers “fake it” so they can “make it.”

This isn’t ideal either.

Hiding oneself in this manner takes a psychological toll. Having to lie to colleagues, management, etc. to conceal outside activities and portray oneself as working more than one actually does, lends itself to feelings of in-authenticity and disengagement from colleagues and the organization.

It can also mean high turnover for companies. Passers do not actively challenge the concept of the ideal worker who gives their all to the company, and so they perpetuate the culture in the workplace – causing others to be judged on an ideal to which they do not themselves conform.


Revealing

These are people who do not conform.

They do not hide their lives outside of work, nor allow work to dominate their identities. They set limits and ask for concessions such as reduced schedules, time off, or flexible working conditions.

In today’s high-intensity workplaces, workers who ask for concessions are often seen as being less worthy of advancement. They are penalized, their careers stall, they are sanctioned for not conforming.

Revealers in management positions often do not encourage subordinates to challenge the culture because they know the consequences, having felt it themselves.


What can you do?

Reid and Ramarajan offer advice to managers to help break the cycle, such as developing their own identities, moving away from time-based rewards, and helping employees protect their personal lives.

An extra effort needs to be made to not shun reasonable work hours, vacations, and regular leave time. By easing the pressure to constantly be the ‘ideal’ worker, companies/managers will see an increase in employee creativity, resilience, and job satisfaction.

Employees themselves can work to change the culture within their companies by speaking up when colleagues judge each other on the expectation of being “always on.” However, don’t try and fight it alone. Make it a collective effort. Find allies within the company, such as bosses who don’t work weekends themselves and encourage realistic timelines and workloads.

Are you smart enough to be happy?

Most think that professional success is equivalent to happiness and contentment. However, they often find that even with a fat wallet and platinum credit card, happiness can be elusive. History has repeatedly shown us that just because you are rich and famous doesn’t mean you are also happy. Robin Williams is a tragic example.

Why is that? Raj Raghunathan has written a book titled “If You’re so Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?” Here is what he learned:

Measuring Mastery

One section of Raghunathan’s work talks about ambition. We all strive to find something we’re good at, something we can master. High achievers often have a plethora of skills and accomplishments, but they usually don’t feel the “high” that success should give you. According to Raj, those people are not happy because they measure mastery incorrectly.

They use social comparisons to define their level of success. Of course, this approach helps no one. So, instead of focusing on one’s own achievements, he or she will concentrate more on earning that cash and getting recognized for his or her work (extrinsic factors) instead of just reaping satisfaction from doing a good job (intrinsic factors).

These types of people (like many of us) define their success and worth by comparing themselves to others and using others’ judgments of themselves. Furthermore, the never-ending thirst for bigger and better is another reason why such folks never truly achieve happiness.

Forgo Success for Mastery 

As materialistic as we are, if we keep chasing external signs of success (i.e. a luxury car, a big house, or expensive gadgets), we will keep on chasing them without ever achieving a state of bliss. Buddha’s teachings show us that wanting is the root of suffering. Instead, opt to pursue mastery. Raghunathan says that when you don’t have a need to compare yourself to others, you find yourself instinctively leaning towards things you like to do and that you are good at, which translates to you reaching mastery anyway – along with the power, the fame, and the money as a bonus. You should aim to find something you like regardless of how others see you or what others do, master it, and reap the rewards rather than just relying on the rewards to make you happy.

You can have your cake and eat it too, but bake it because you like the process of baking — making something with your own two hands.

And to Elevate your Mood Right Away:

Work life balance: How to find out if an employer values it as much as you?

It’s finally time.

You are ready to begin your search for a new job.

And hopefully you’ll have some interviews and job offers soon.

During previous interviews, you might have felt as if it were a mistake to mention the possibility of occasionally missing work to tend to family matters. The mere mention of work life balance or time off, seemed to turn the interview in a bad direction.

Even though you weren’t hired for those jobs, you felt lucky.

How comfortable would you have been working there? How could it have affected your family?

Consequently, your question becomes: How can I find an employer who understands the importance of life outside of work and the obligations of my home life? An employer who’s on the same page as me, on these matters.

Here are a few ways to help you research a company and find answers to those questions.


Word of Mouth

Perhaps the easiest method for obtaining employer information is to ask your friends, family, or current associates.

Often times they, or someone they know, will have a story, positive or negative, regarding a current or past employer.

Understand that such stories must be taken as anecdotal, but the information may lead you to investigate further before you commit to an employer.


Job Sites

Until recently, there weren’t many tools available to help a prospective employee find the right employer.

As more information becomes available on the internet, finding information about the working atmosphere of a company is readily available.

When using job sites/boards (such as Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder), you will often find links to employer ratings and comments.

Indeed.com, for example, has links for reviews and learning what it’s like to work for a company, shown next to many job advertisements.

reviews of working at singtel singapore

company reviews asia


Employer Satisfaction Information

In addition to job sites, databases regarding workplace atmosphere are now available.

For instance, Glassdoor.com has extensive employee reviews detailing workplace atmosphere, job position satisfaction, and potential salaries.

There are also sites available that detail workplace conditions for women (Maybrooks, Fairygodboss), using the perspective of females in a particular position or experience.


What Do You See and Feel?

You can also put your detective hat on and observe what’s happening at the company.

If you see a mostly empty office when you arrive for your 6pm interview, it can be a sign that late work hours aren’t always required.

Do you see family photos on the desks? That may be a sign that the atmosphere is a comfortable, relaxed place to work, and that the company is at least somewhat committed to their employees and their families.

Many modern businesses take pride in their family-friendliness. If the interview process does not include information about a company’s policies regarding family leave, or days off built into the system, that’s probably something to take note of. Lack of a focus on such policies may be a sign of other issues that might arise in their employ. Keep looking.


We all want to find the perfect job. So many facets of your life can be affected by the way you feel about your work, good or bad.

With a little diligence it is possible to find the employer that will see you as more than just an employee, but as a member of a family, yours and theirs.

How to switch-off your brain after work

For those with discipline, disconnecting from your phone, laptop and other devices once the workday is complete can be easy.

However, your brain is not so easily turned off from the stresses of the day. Turning thoughts off is not as easily done as disconnecting yourself from the work “grid.”

So the question remains: is there a way to get your brain to let go of work issues and switch off after work? Thankfully, science says there just might be.

In a recent study, which was published in the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, participants were asked to record the complete and incomplete goals they left at the workplace on a particular day, and how many times the thought of those goals entered their mind during their time off.

As expected, the incomplete goals were the most frequent “fun-killers.” They are what makes it hard to switch off after work.

The research helps to confirm an existing psychological principle known as the “Zeigarnik Effect,” which simply states that incomplete tasks are much more likely to be remembered than completed ones. It is named after a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, who observed that waiters in a restaurant only remembered orders which were in the process of being served. However, once the orders were finished, they vaporized from their memory.

What makes the current study interesting is the simple (but effective) techniques put forth to help keep work-related thoughts from entering your mind at unwanted times.

They asked a subset of participants, once they’d described their incomplete goals, to clearly plan and write down where, when and how they would tackle/finish each one.

For example: ‘I will get to work at 9:00 AM, make a list of documents I need to arrange and people I need to call, in order to execute the transaction. I will do this by 2:00PM…..’

Specifying the context for action, helped participants put the incomplete goals out of their mind when they were not at work, and as a result these goals produced fewer intrusions, almost as if they had the same status as completed goals.

Data from a measure of work detachment also suggested that using this strategy made it easier for participants to switch off and let go of work in general.

8 Amazing Resources to Boost Your Career & Make You Think

As you know, if you want to expand your horizons and enhance your career, you need to learn and grow. These 8 posts are all amazing resources that we wanted to share with you to inspire, inform, and transform the way you work. Please read the summaries below and follow the links to read the entire post.


Do you know what you want out of life? In this post which you can read in 7 minutes, Mark Manson flips this common question on its head and digs into a point of view that can actually help you change your life for the better. He asks us to consider what pain we want in our life? What do we want to struggle for? Happiness requires struggle. Read the whole post The Most Important Question of Your Life today!


Imagine a workplace where the salaries are high, the work is fun, and all the coworkers get along swimmingly. Unfortunately, the reality is that no matter how well a company does their hiring process, workers sometimes butt heads. And if you’re experiencing a clash at work, there is some hope. In this post by Money Talking, you will learn 3 tips to help you deal with difficult coworkers. Read What to Do About Your Worst Work Enemy today!


If you’re part of an international company, you have to manage relationships with people from different countries. Sometimes the cultural differences can cause a clash or communication challenge. Every country has a unique management strategy that can easily get lost in translation. And if you’re working with people from different countries, this post will improve your communication. See the fascinating diagrams that reveal how to manage people in different countries.


Do you feel ready to progress to the next level at work? Whether you’re ready to take on more responsibility or get a promotion, you’re eventually going to have to have a talk with your boss. Since you’re not likely to be handed an opportunity without asking for it, knowing how to approach this situation is crucial to your success. Learn how to have the “What’s Next?” talk with your boss and get the results you want.


Have you ever been supervised by someone who micromanaged everything you did? Or are you dealing with this horrible situation now? One of the main reasons people leave their jobs is because they are having trouble with their direct supervisor. And when an experienced person is being micromanaged, it can’t get more annoying. Learn How to Deal with a Micromanager without Killing Yourself First today!


A micromanager is a control freak who can really make you hate your job. And if you’re dealing with one on a daily basis, you’ve probably thought about quitting and you wouldn’t be alone. But be careful what you wish for. Just the opposite can be terrible too. A macromanager’s hands-off policy can be equally infuriating. They’re never there when you need them and offer no feedback or coaching. So if you find yourself dealing with a macromanager, these 7 tips will help you work for a macromanager.


When this female company president became a mother, she wanted to say “sorry to all the mothers I’ve worked with.” As an ambitious career climber, she secretly dismissed mothers at the workplace. She saw them as not being fully committed to their careers and unambitious because they didn’t work as “late” as she did. But when she gave birth to a daughter of her own, she realized how terrible she had been to all the mothers she had worked with. She was a crossroads. Should she pull back from the career she built or spend more time with her baby? The decision gnawed at her. Read the Fortune.com article where she tells you her story.


When Susan Cain shared her poems with her husband, he told her to “drop everything” and dedicate her life to the craft. As a successful author and world-renown writer who had an extensive career in the U.N., her husband’s words were not taken lightly. He knew what he was talking about and he saw the potential in her writing. He kept nudging her forward with an undying support. She create a book proposal and he helped her make it better. He encouraged her to apply to TED as a speaker and she was accepted. Then her book hit the New York Times Bestsellers list. Read the entire story about the globe-trotting career of Susan Cain and why she couldn’t have done it without her husband.

How Your Spouse Could Boost Your Career or Sink It

As you know, your relationship with your spouse or significant other is vital to your overall enjoyment of life. You probably know from experience that when your relationship is going well, your personal life and happiness levels also seem to peak.

But now researchers are showing that your relationship with your significant other can influence your life beyond the household. And it may even be a significant factor in your success and getting you promoted at work.

Researchers from St. Louis’s Washington University collected data from 4,544 participants and their spouses and examined that data over a 5-year period. Assistant Professor Joshua Jackson and graduate student Brittany Solomon collected information about work success every year and also instructed all participants to answer a questionnaire about their spouse’s personality.

The personality traits that the researchers were most interested in were extraversion, openness, neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. It’s often been indicated that these traits are frequent indicators of important things like life satisfaction and personal success.

In particular, the researchers hypothesized that Conscientiousness (being driven, disciplined and dependable) would be an ideal trait in a partner because they will be likely to support the significant other in their work. While never forgetting to buy a birthday present or pick up the eggs may be useful, when applied to the spouse’s career, a conscientious partner may help spur on accelerated success.

The results of the study indicated that the personality traits of your life partner can enhance the career success you experience in life. The researchers saw that those with more conscientious partners were more likely to be promoted and even earned more money annually.

work job career success

They also identified that having a more conscientious partner will increase job satisfaction, likely as a result of enjoying more relationship satisfaction. A more conscientious partner has a positive impact at home and that results in better performance on the job for a lifetime.

The study confirms that a strong social connection with your spouse as well as having a partner with a positive outlook can really improve the quality of your life, not just at home, but at work too. If you have been having a lot of success at work recently, perhaps you have a conscientious partner at home that deserves your thanks. So, be conscientious and express your gratitude.