Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.
Henri J.M. Nouwen

Recent research compiled by Capita Employee Benefits revealed that 44 percent of workers in the UK know someone who has been forced to give up work due to stress. According to a poll run by Cosmopolitan, 71 percent of the women who participated said that they had experienced an anxiety or panic attack. 40 percent stated that they had sought medical help because of anxiety caused by stress related issues. The symptoms appeared to be connected to their working patterns.

We live in times where stress and being overwhelmed by situations has reached epidemic proportions. We work long hours, taking few breaks and our rest times are inadequate. We live our lives constantly connected to technology forgetting for much of the time what it is like to be human. We crave real connections. It’s no wonder that we end up sick and tired accompanied by a deep feeling of isolation, asking ourselves: “Is this all there is?”

For more than five years of my corporate career, I suffered from chronic stress. I reached a point where I was doing things on autopilot and I was unaware that I was walking the fast road to burnout. After days, months and years of non-stop struggles, I eventually did burnout and I can assure you that the symptoms are far from pleasant to experience.

Once I realised that I was experiencing something that was killing me from the inside, I decided to take a different direction and do something about it. I took ownership of it, as if my life depended on it, because it did! Today I see my burnout and the stress and anxiety that came along with it as a real blessing. Thanks to burning out, I was able to slow down and reflect.

I was able to go back home (inside my heart) and connect with my true desires, and with the lifestyle I wanted for myself. But it shouldn’t be this way! We shouldn’t reach the point where we burnout. We can stop the madness before we get burned. Sadly, many people suffer in silence, like I was doing. Working in a corporate environment comes hand in hand in many cases with the understanding that we should be working very hard to be successful.

In these corporate cultures, acknowledgement is given to the ones who push hard, the people that seem not to be affected by pressure and are producing the most. Taking breaks looks bad; working overtime looks good. And my question is: “Is this the only way?” I don’t think so!

I believe that the only way to change corporate culture is by first changing ourselves. We should set clear boundaries; we should inspire a culture of self-care and appreciation for diversity.

So where should you start? Here are some suggestions that worked for me.

1. Have lunch away from your desk

I noticed that most of my office colleagues in the UK would not take a lunch break. I come from Spain where taking one hour for lunch, away from your desk is part of the culture. It helps to create a connection with your co-workers, disconnect from the stresses of work and allows you to take the time to chew your food properly. Once I started working from home, I was faced with a bit of a challenge.

Setting the alarm or blocking the time for lunch on the calendar is vital.

You can also do something different and leave all your technology at your desk. No checking of emails while eating. After eating, take some time to have a short walk if you can. While walking, take some deep breaths. It will help you to feel refreshed.

2. Play to your unique strengths

Knowing your strengths helps you to connect with your genius zone. We all have it! In the past, I was not aware why I was struggling to perform certain tasks that required so much of my energy, tasks that I didn’t enjoy and that were making me feel miserable. Once I discovered my unique abilities, (you can find yours by taking a test such as Gallup’s StrengthsFinder) everything changed. When you tap into your strengths and skills, it helps you understand yourself better.

We are all naturally better at some things than others and when you perform work that encourages and utilises your strengths, things come much more easily. The struggle becomes less because you are doing something that comes naturally to you.

Sometimes we even know what these things are because it’s often things we loved doing when we were young. By taking the time to connect with your talents helps you to see things from a different angle, and you gain clarity, peace of mind and focus.

3. Take regular breaks

Taking a 5-minute break every 25 minutes during work is way more productive than not moving from your desk for hours. Setting a timer at regular intervals during work for rest, works wonders. Since I discovered the Pomodoro Technique, for instance, I have become more focused. I would like to encourage you to try it and see what works best for you.

Change happens one person at a time. We, as individuals can drive the change that we want to see in our workplace, in our homes, communities and throughout the world. I believe that once we reclaim our power and we take the time to think about the life we want to live, we can implement the changes we want in our lives. It is our responsibility as individuals to look after our health and lifestyle. It is now time to take back that power and instigate the change we want to see. It all starts with implementing small daily steps at work and in life.

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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