Connect with people and places that matter to you

I have been involved in studying (and tackling) stress for decades. A number of things have stood out for me from my activity in this area. One important one is that there is a danger that, when pressures start to mount, people have a tendency to stop doing things that normally help them cope and keep pressures within manageable limits (and thereby avoid stress). Ironically, this then has the effect of making stress more likely: just as pressures are mounting, ...

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Get perspective – Look up at the stars

These days so many people seem to lead very busy, pressurised lives. One of the results of that can be a narrow focus on the last mistake, the next deadline and so on. It can so easily become the case that all we see is the pressure and the potential problems. This can especially be the case when work pressures combine with pressures at home (and, indeed, they can reinforce each other).

One of the dangers in situations like this is ...

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Be clear about your goals

When I undertook my management training many years ago we were taught the importance of a ‘strategic’ approach, which meant at all times being clear about what we were trying to achieve – that is, what our strategic goals are. Our strategy, then, is the plan for achieving these goals, hence the term ‘strategic’. At that point I had been a practising social worker for a number of years and, to me, having clarity about what we were trying to ...

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Pick yourself up!

The idea that you should get straight back on the bike as soon as you have fallen off is not a new one and is not without its usefulness. Things that we associate with pain and fear have a nasty habit of weighing heavily on our minds and thereby stopping us from getting on with our lives. The longer we leave it before getting back on that bike, literally or metaphorically, the harder it becomes to do so. This is ...

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There’s no such thing as willpower

To hear people talk about willpower you would think it was some mystical power that we all have to varying degrees. Those with a lot of will power are able to do difficult things like give up smoking or lose weight, while – or so it would seem – those with a low level of willpower are doomed to continue smoking or continue to be overweight. The reality is not so simple.

As human beings we are complex creatures, and part ...

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Take control

Having little or no sense of control is a key factor in stress. People who are under immense pressure will often not get stressed while they have some degree of control over those pressures. At the same time, some people can face fairly modest levels of pressure, but be highly stressed because they have little sense of control over the circumstances they are in. Control, or our sense of control, will often be the difference between being stressed and not. ...

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Think laterally

It is Edward de Bono’s name that is most closely associated with the notion of lateral thinking, although the basic idea behind it (the importance of thinking creatively and not getting stuck in tramlines) long predates his work. What de Bono did was to put the ideas across clearly and effectively.

In our day-to-day lives we generally rely on established ways of thinking and behaving. Life would be intolerable if, at every step of the way, we had to think consciously ...

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Turn weaknesses into strengths

Many years ago, a trusted mentor said to me: ‘Neil, you have a lot of strengths, and you keep playing to them. How will you develop new strengths if you are constantly focusing on what you are already good at?’.  He went on to explain that what I was doing was very common, but it was also a very common way of standing in the way of my own development. What he encouraged me to do was to be clear ...

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Magical thinking

The term, ‘magical thinking’ is one generally used to refer to an aspect of child development. It describes a form of wishful thinking that is characteristic of young children. In principle, we grow out of it as we develop through adolescence into adulthood. It relates to situation where results are expected to arise without our making them happen. For example, a young child may believe that if they want a bike for their birthday and really do want it enough, ...

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Look after yourself

Some people cause problems for themselves and for others by simply ‘looking out for number one’ – that is, putting themselves, first, second and last. One of the problems with this approach to life is that it contributes to a vicious circle. The more self-centred people are, the more they contribute to other people feeling shunned, disregarded and even disrespected. While being treated like that may spur some people to be even more considerate to, and supportive of, others to ...

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