A world we cannot shut off
Living as adults in the 21st century comes with a lot of blessings but somehow, we feel so overwhelmed. A middle class European lives better today than the kings and queens of a few centuries ago. But despite this, modern life seems to be a struggle, including how our world cannot shut off. As The Guardian summarises, “Our human limitations – our finite energy and need for sleep, the number of hours in a day – remain the same as ever. Yet for reasons both technological and economic, the pressure to do more keeps ratcheting up”. We have 24/7 access to internet and with it all that is connected to it, including for many, their work. This means that as you lie in your bed, ready to fall asleep, you may get an email from your boss asking you about an urgent matter for the following day’s presentation. It’s true that we have the option to shut our phone off. But despite this, we all know that we must maintain a level of responsiveness to meet society’s expectations and yet keep a life and work balance.
Balancing life and work?
Work/life balance has become the centre of attention in the news. The quick rise of technology has meant that we didn’t have time to integrate it into our lives in a healthy manner. Instead, it has been forced upon us, and we’re meant to keep up. Sink or swim. We’re only just beginning to see the dire consequences. From depression, to burn out or suicide, we are not lacking in struggles to overcome. That is why, before we reach our breaking point, it’s vital for us to take measures to keep our sanity in check. We must prioritise our well-being, now more than ever. That’s why we’ve decided to write out our tops tips on how to decrease your stress levels, whether you are a student or parent.
Chaos repellent, calm inducing tips
Remember you are only human: Know how much sleep you need exactly to be at your optimal life performance, know which foods are good for your energy levels, respect your personal rhythms and know what time of day best suits you for your more challenging tasks. Know them, but more importantly act on them. Be responsible for your well-being.
– It will take longer than expected: The cognitive scientist, Douglas Hofstadter, states that tasks always take longer than you think. So, remember that “you just will underestimate how much time a task requires, even when you know that’s what you always do and try to plan accordingly”. Allowing yourself to incorporate your “buffer zone” time will greatly help to avoid feeling overloaded, and therefore allow you to stay realistically on top of your work. Don’t believe that time is flexible, or else your sleep and anxiety levels will suffer the consequences. Create an action plan of small and bigger tasks, number them if you must in priority and tick through a step at a time.
– Prioritise so as not to waste time on trivialities: Keep your to-do list to 5 essentials and then other details. Just like remembering to have a buffer zone, knowing what tasks should be taken care of first will help you keep your stress levels to a minimum.
– Trim the fat: Try to stay aware of unnecessary time consumers, especially when there’s no value in dragging it out. End things, like email conversations, feedback, and other interactions that won’t gain much value by being reiterated or followed up on. Make it clear to the person you’re communicating with that all the essential information has been said. And to have a nice day! Perhaps a smiley face too.
– Take the time to slow down: Even if it seems counter intuitive. It will in the end help increase productivity.
– Take a few moments at the end of each day to reflect: This will help you to remember the important parts of your day, as well as allow you to come up with solutions that may help you increase your efficiency and insights into your work and life.
– Positive affirmations: Positive affirmations may seem a bit strange, but they actually work. Starting your day out by taking a look in the mirror and reminding yourself of all the achievements you’ve accomplished, all of the times you’ve stood back up after falling, and all of the wonderful things you have to be grateful for can really re-programme your brain to see the world with a fresh and bright perspective.
A Psychology Today article highlights how thinking positively can really improve your life on many levels, such as by helping your brain to strengthen your memory for positive information, improving its ability to work with and pay attention to positive information, and many more. It also stresses the importance of practicing gratitude, as this is helps your brain to focus on the positive. “Gratitude is when we feel or express thankfulness for the people, things, and experiences we have. When we express gratitude at work, we can more easily gain the respect and camaraderie of those we work with. When we are grateful for our partners or friends, they are more generous and kind to us. When we are grateful for the little things in our day-to-day lives, we find more meaning and satisfaction in our lives”.
So why not give this a go? Every morning, for the next two weeks, look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself of all the things you’re thankful for in your life. For more information on how to make positive affirmations work for you check out this Huffington Post article.
– Visualisation and your self-image: A follow-up to positive affirmations would be to look into Psycho-Cybernetics. The acclaimed book Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, lays out the incredible impact your mind can have on your life when you steer it to a productive, useful goal so you can reach peace of mind and meaning. This book has influenced 30 million readers, countless motivational gurus, sports psychologists and self-help practitioners for almost 60 years. Maltz was the first researcher and author to explain how the self-image (a term he popularized) has complete control over an individual’s ability to achieve (or fail to achieve) any goal. This book will help you learn techniques for improving and managing self-image visualisation, mental rehearsal and relaxation, all of which will contribute to achieving your goals, and enhancing your outlook on life.
– Remember “live and learn”: Last, but certainly not least, whenever possible, turn failures into lessons. This is a crucial part of building resilience, and a key skill to develop. By learning from your mistakes, you will not only forgive yourself for failing, but also realise that this experience has taught you something. Not only will you not have to experience this again, but it will also allow you to reframe your perspective on your past, and therefore remember it from a softer, kinder perspective. As the fourth point in 7 Practical Tips to Achieve a Positive Mindset sums it up “You aren’t perfect. You’re going to make mistakes and experience failure in multiple contexts, at multiple jobs and with multiple people. Instead of focusing on how you failed, think about what you’re going to do next time—turn your failure into a lesson”.
If you use these tips, you will have more control in stressful situations when you’re feeling overwhelmed. That doesn’t mean that the stressful situations will go away completely and you might still occasionally feel like you’re failing. That can be a devastating emotion but it’s important to keep a positive long term outlook as things often aren’t as bad as they first seem. Even if you fail at something today, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it and turn it into a huge success in a long run.
Learning from Failure
It’s important to remember that failure is never final. No one is exempt from failure. No one can escape it. It can happen in everything. But that doesn’t matter. That’s not important. The important part is not to be afraid of it. It’s an inescapable part of life. And the sooner you learn how to handle it, the better. A worthwhile motto to keep in mind is: “it doesn’t matter how many times you fall. What matters is how many times you stand back up”. So how can you learn this crucial outlook? Let us take a deeper look.
Insight One: Stand Back Up. If failure happens to everyone, then it doesn’t matter if you failed but how you dealt with it. The more you get used to standing back up after you fall, the stronger you will be and the more resilience you will have. You may not always deal with it well, and setbacks sometimes do take a while to recover from. But once you get over the disappointment, you can begin to build yourself back up, stronger and wiser.
Insight Two: Learn from Mistake. As the Harvard article Strategies for Learning from Failure starts off “the wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible”. Most of us will learn to associate failure with blame and guilt. As the article continues: “failure and fault are virtually inseparable in most households, organizations, and cultures. Every child learns at some point that admitting failure means taking the blame”. So, a key lesson to remember is not to let failure get in the way of learning from the experience. The focus shouldn’t be about the pain of failing, but about trying not to repeat the same mistakes.
Insight Three: Reflect. Taking time to reflect on what happened and why things didn’t go according to plan is important. But then taking the time to figure out how you can move forward from here is equally is important. Failure will certainly mean something didn’t go according to plan. Therefore, your next step may no longer be clear. However, the road doesn’t stop. It simply changes directions, maybe only slightly and maybe for the best. As the Inner Drive blog The Best Way to Fail puts it “So if failure is inevitable at some stage, then those who can learn to fail better have a significant competitive advantage. This can be done by having a calm and consistent debrief after the event”. So why not give it a go next time something doesn’t go according to plan?
Insight Four: Create Space to Explore. Exploring and taking risks sound good in theory, but often mean that there is a great deal of uncertainty involved. This means that whatever task or challenge we are about to attempt may indeed fail. Because it’s something new, there will be a great deal of learning involved. And therefore, the risk of not getting it right immediately is high. But your life will certainly be enriched when you allow yourself to take risks and try new things. Sometimes, the important lesson of a failure will be to keep trying until you succeed, like getting your dream job or a top exam result. But sometimes a failure will be an indication that you aren’t on the best path, and that challenge may put you in an even better direction. Which brings us to our final point.
Insight Five: New Path May Be Better. You may have failed at something. But there may be a reason you did and your final outcome may be even better. For example, if you were planning on going into medicine but aren’t getting the grades you need, you may shift your focus to something else that comes to you more naturally. For example, you may spend more time writing and reading, and realise that you are particularly skilled at English. Your life trajectory may then drastically change, but for the better, as you will now be working toward an education and career that suits you and highlights your incredible skills.
The point of this blog is to help you realise that no matter what happens, there’s always a plan B. Even if it doesn’t seem great or you don’t even know what plan B is right away. The important thing to remember is to take some time to reflect on what happened, and then gradually start to redirect your energy in a better direction. If you can learn from your fall, then you will come back stronger, ready to take on new challenges.
As we grow up we often forget what it’s like to be a child. We get so caught up trying to get everything right, that we forget how many times we’ve fallen and stood back up when we were learning how to walk. A child never gives up until it knows how to walk. This determination is hardwired into us when it comes to leaning how to walk. So why not try it with all aspects of our lives?
A life with no regrets? Start now.
The older we get, the more we reflect on the opportunities we have missed. It’s important to not wallow in what we were unable to achieve, but try our best from here on out to collect as little regret as possible. Now, as students, is the best time to pause and think about what we really want out of life. Remembering that, in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take reminds us how important it is to seize the moment. And how important it is to try our best to lead a life with no regret. Taking risks, inherently mean there is a chance of failing. But that doesn’t matter. Not losing your determination is what counts. Failures can always be seen as lessons learned. That’s it. Read on for insights on how to figure out what you want out of your life.
Take your time to explore who you are and what you want.
It’s never too late to discover, or rediscover, yourself. Of course, staying aware of this at a younger age is easier. But that doesn’t mean that doors are closed after a certain point. It’s only too late once we are 6 feet under. But the sooner you start the better. It’s important for students, and their parents, to explore what motivates them to get up in the morning. Finding ways to expose yourself, or your children, to new ideas, will help you see the world in different ways, and give you the tools to understand yourself, and others, better.
Know your priorities.
Knowing what your priorities are may not be clear immediately. But the more experiences you have and the more time you take to reflect about what energised you and what drained you, the easier it will be to understand what motivates you and what you should prioritise to pursue a fulfilling life.
Try new things, and if they didn’t work out see them as lessons not as failures.
The more often you try new things, the more you will learn about yourself and the world. But as you try new things, you will find out that some don’t excite you or will make you feel uncomfortable. Just because you started something, and did not fully succeed, doesn’t mean your life is a failure. It just means you learned one more thing about yourself, and are therefore one step closer to finding what truly motivates you.
Have a goal in mind, but stay flexible when your path isn’t as straight as expected.
Sometimes you need to tough out the rough patches, and sometimes you need to think of a plan B. Having a clear idea of what you want is crucial, because it will give you direction. But having a direction doesn’t mean that the path to getting there is straight and easy. It means you have an idea of what you are going towards, but are open and willing to readjust your path as different obstacles occur. Always moving forward, but not always following a straight path. As Joseph Campbell, the famous mythologist, once said: “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s”.
Forgive others, as well as yourself.
Acknowledging the mistakes you make, and learning from them, is what will allow you to be kinder towards yourself. It is difficult to know how to forgive others, if you cannot forgive yourself first, because the way you interact with the world is a reflection of how you interact with yourself.
Know that failure is inherent in life. The number of times you fail is not important. What’s important is standing back up, every, single, time you fall. It may sound cliché, but that is what differentiates those who succeed and those who don’t. If you have courage and resilience to stand back up, there is nothing you cannot achieve.
It’s a year-round challenge.
Remember that these tips will help you year-round. There will always be periods of greater or lesser stress. The aim is to stay mindful of your health and stress level at all times. No matter what time of year, there are many things that can lead us to feeling overwhelmed. From Christmas and holiday periods with their festive dinners and gift buying to the spring seasons’ final exams, deadlines and summers with never-ending weddings, we can be left totally overwhelmed. The goal isn’t to dread it, nor to endure it, but to find ways, gradually, to relieve your body and soul.
If you have any questions or concerns about your (or your child’s) education path and would like to speak to one of our education consultants, don’t hesitate to contact us at 02030867311 or at email@example.com.