Updated: May 31
Listen to the voices in your head
As a voice over narrator, I know a thing or two about dealing with the voices in your head.
On a given day, they can seem overpowering - often making you doubt your abilities, question your productivity, hinder your swift decision making and mess with your overall balance and happiness. And that effect is being felt even harder during our current, trying times.
As we enter our second month of the national lockdown amidst the coronavirus pandemic, we accept that this isn’t going away any time soon, and so we all have to deal with the stress one way or another. Even at day 60, it hasn’t been easy making the time to properly process it all, as we often feel the need to keep things moving forward. Do these voices in your head sound familiar? “I’ll sleep when I hit my deadline”? “I’ll slow down after I meet my sales targets or after I’ve launched this new product”? I have to work all day, all week to get through this”?
As someone who’s been a victim of this mindset a few times even before the pandemic (when I’d had slumps in my varsity studies, or had slow months in my voice over business), I guarantee you that there is only so much you can take before burning out and realising it truly isn’t worth it. How can you expect to perform at your best and attain those goals or offer the best to your people, if you yourself haven’t made your OWN mental health a priority? With many of us returning to work soon amidst the upcoming level downgrade, I think it’s important that we as leaders of our teams and businesses, use this time to manage our own stress in the most proactive way so that we are able to better shoulder the burden of others who depend on us. That also applies to all us solopreneurs, who rely on ourselves for that strength.
They say you cannot feed from an empty bowl, which is why we need to start rectifying our own mental voices and the daily narrative we recite to ourselves if we are to not just restart our lives as we knew it, but to grow from this experience and thrive more than before. So here are my tips to executives and entrepreneurs for rewiring the voices in your head by forming healthy habits while you work from home, so that you carry through a healthier mindset when you return to work, and and can create a more supportive environment for your team.
1. Practice gratitude
Start to realise just how joyous working from home really is and recognise what you have that so many others don’t - an active job to work at remotely that keeps you fulfilled and earning a living. During my Business Strategy course in my Honours year at varsity, we learnt to develop a habit that many industry leaders attributed to their critical thinking skills and overall success. That habit, was keeping a journal.
Part of the exercise of journaling involves penning a daily gratitude list to train the subconscious mind into recognising all the positive forces in your daily life, which ultimately helps you find more opportunities for success. Especially during this pandemic, we need such a daily exercise of the mind and soul to help us remember that all is not lost and our success is not cast in stone unless we will it so. The mind attracts what it ponders, so why not ponder the positive through gratitude?
Famed motivational speaker Jim Rohn said it best when describing those who blame their country’s current state for their shortcomings. “You say the country’s messed up? Well you don’t have to change countries to change your fortunes. That’s like the farmer cursing the sun, the soil, the seed and the rain in a bad harvest. Don’t curse all you’ve got. It’s all you’ve got!”
2. Improvise on social contact
Sure we’re all keeping our distance these days, but technology is able to help us bridge that gap so there’s no reason to succumb to loneliness and depression. Hold regular Skype sessions or phone calls with close friends or family to openly process your feelings, and thoughts. As humans, we are social creatures, hard wired through years of evolution to depend on the presence of others for our survival. Reach out to those you trust the most so that you don’t find yourself venting to your employees or coworkers when you return to work. Doing so will only stress them out even more and lower the already battered morale of many people right now. As a leader, you need to be strong for your people, and that starts with you working through things to find your own inner strength. There’s nothing weak about asking for support, least of all when it comes to your emotional well-being.
3. Prioritising break time, is NOT being unproductive
Chores can be therapy (don’t tell my mum I said that!). Washing dishes, ironing the laundry, sweeping the house, is all a great way to give your eyes a screen-break and do something where you aren’t tempted to check your phone every few seconds. Maybe like me, time seemed to blur together when the remote working first started, and you seemed to struggle with knowing when the workday was over and it was time to shutdown. Plan out your days for not just your work, but also your breaks. It’s okay to step back at times. Allow your brain to rest as you focus on other aspects of your life like chores, a new hobby or just to get some fresh air outside. Scheduling and sticking to these break times, means you’ll be more productive and engaged when you’re actually working.
4. Routine breeds sanity
When you have a purpose, you’re unstoppable. But that’s not just a spiritual lesson. Committing to a routine even when working at home, conditions your mind to maintain your daily work ethic (assuming you were a diligent worker to begin with). When you’re that busy, there’s no time to be worried and stressed about our current predicament! Find a morning routine that works for you.
I wake up at 5am (study Robin Sharma’s 5am Club for more on this philosophy), wash my face and brush my teeth so I feel less like The Walking Dead, and then I meditate for 20 minutes. I then hit the gym for a light 20 minute workout, followed by showering and getting dressed for work - even if you’re at home, this simple act will have a profound shift on your psyche for the day. I then organise myself a healthy breakfast which I enjoy while watching a lined up Ted Talk. I then wash up and spend 20 minutes reviewing my goals and planning my day’s schedule with time frames per task. Only then, do I get stuck into the day’s emails. Following this routine daily allows me to align myself physically, spiritually and mentally for the day ahead.
So by 7am, I’ve done so much already, that I gain this psychological edge to tackle anything that day. Don’t let your mind and performance stagnate. Plan a balanced routine centred on more than just your work, and stick to it!
5. Sharpen your skills
Schedule yourself some online courses. What areas of your career do you hope to develop to earn a promotion and level up your lifestyle? Is there a new business idea you want to start but feel you lack certain skills to get it going? This time is invaluable for your self-development. Ensure you’re working on yourself from a skills perspective so that you have actionable insights and solutions ready to suggest when you return to the office or when you decide to start that new venture. Learn how you can pivot your line of work post-COVID so you’re well positioned to capitalise on new opportunities and gain that coveted competitive advantage. Work to make yourself more invaluable at your craft.
My hope is that this article has given you some food for thought on how to better manage your stress levels as a leader during these challenging times, so that you can come out more balanced and ready to tackle the challenges of the working world. I believe that this pandemic has been a great reminder for all of us in business to make our mental health a priority, because no business strategy is going to safeguard you from anxiety, stress, depression or burnout. And THAT’s the bottom line.
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