We all want our lives to be productive, rewarding, and balanced, yet few people today enjoy a lifestyle that gives them a sense of wholeness, let alone any sense of balance or control. Having spent most of my business career in the fast lane, I know that I am as susceptible as anyone to loss of perspective and the stress that follows. I’ve also come to know that I have the capacity to balance myself and to make wise choices, to create a state of being where I’m acting more than reacting, in control more than out of control.

We live in complex times. Every day presents innumerable opportunities to lose our balance and sense of control. Our busy lives leave little time for solitude or reflection, and whatever time we do have is usually spent seeking some kind of relief.It’s far too easy to become addicted to speed and the adrenaline high that comes with stress. Life in the fast lane compromises our health and financial resources, as well as our ability to make good decisions. Stress ages our bodies and compromises our immune system by generating chronic inflammation in our bodies.

Because chaotic times cause us to question our priorities and modes of thinking, they represent an opportunity to assess what’s really important to us—what we most value in life. When life is out of balance and we feel disconnected, we’re often not even aware that we keep making poor decisions. The more off-track and out-of-balance we become, the farther away we move from leading rewarding and meaningful lives.

Because chaotic times cause us to question our priorities and modes of thinking, they represent an opportunity to assess what’s really important to us—what we most value in life. When life is out of balance and we feel disconnected, we’re often not even aware that we keep making poor decisions. The more off-track and out-of-balance we become, the farther away we move from leading rewarding and meaningful lives.

Are You Feeling Overloaded and Overwhelmed?

Our information- and Internet-based economy and culture are overloading us with stimuli. The pressures to absorb, decide, respond, carry on, and keep up have created unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress. And yet, old methods of coping—drugs, vacations or a session with the shrink—are no longer working. If they were, then evidence of social, cultural, economic, and personal crisis would not be so prevalent. We wouldn’t be seeing such an increase in apathy or cynicism or feel the need to numb ourselves from reality.

Dealing with Uncertainty

In the current climate of uncertainty, we have diminished confidence when it comes time to make career changes, health decisions, financial investments, or relationship commitments. When we experience the present as chaotic and the future as unpredictable, it’s easy to become confused and therefore tentative in moving forward. No wonder we may sometimes feel crazed or that we want to hide under the covers.

When we’re overloaded and faced with too many choices, the easiest way to deal with our complex world is to find someone to make our choices for us. Major retail companies understand this trend and are currently capitalizing on it. Our feelings of being overwhelmed has resulted in:

  • Wanting to turn over key decisions, such as those related to our finances and physical health, to someone else
  • Making business investments in enterprises that are not sound or with no understanding of the ramifications
  • Giving too much power to too few individuals

When our lives are out of balance, we are given valuable messages toalert us that our stress levels are too high:

  • Colds and flus plague us more than usual.
  • We experience a rash of minor accidents.
  • We have more disagreements or frustrations with coworkers, family or friends.
  • We feel constantly overwhelmed or under attack.
  • We have difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

Today, the number of ways to escape our high levels of stress is truly mind-boggling. Some of the more common methods are alcohol, mind-altering drugs, overeating, tranquilizers, smoking, and dependence on coffee or caffeine drinks.

When you are constantly busy—frantic, always rushing, multi-tasking—it’s easy to believe that the next task on your to do list is more important than taking a break. But it’s more difficult to take responsibility for your work and family unless you take care of yourself first. People sometimes feel guilty for taking time out for themselves. Self-care is not a selfish act. It’s important to schedule time in your calendar for exercise as well as time out for yourself.

What’s the cause of too much stress?

Stress can be caused by any number of personal, social, organizational or environmental factors:

  • Personal: Relationship issues; poor health; financial worries; fears; judgments and expectations
  • Social: Communication problems with family, clients, and coworkers; dealing with angry or aggressive people; negative criticism
  • Organizational: Unsatisfying job; dull or routine work; conflicts between superiors and subordinates; deadlines and time pressures
  • Environmental: traffic; noise; economic, political and social conditions; our over-reliance on using computers more than 50 percent of the workday

According to a report, Stress in America: The State of Our Nation released November 1, 2017 by the American Psychological Association: “For nearly half of Americans (45 percent), lying awake at night in the past month was one stress outcome, as opposed to four in 10 (40 percent) who had reported sleeplessness in 2016.”

American Institute of Stress reported in 2017 the most common sources of stress:

Future of our nation63%
Political climate57%

Is Stress Good for You?

It’s important to understand that stress itself can be healthy. Stress is a useful stimulus—until it turns into distress—the leading cause of anxiety disorders, depression, immune deficiencies, and life-threatening illnesses. Research shows that a less stressful life doesn’t necessarily make people happier. While many believe they would be happier if they were less stressed, the opposite is true. People tend to be happier when they are busier. There is a connection between retirement and the risk of developing depression, indicating a lack of stress may be damaging to your health.

Manage Your Stress

There are numerous techniques to reduce stress, but as everyone reacts differently to stress, the most effective strategy is unique to you. Exercise is one of the simplest means of stress management, as it counteracts your response to stress and can relieve chronic muscle tension and rid your body of toxins.

For more than 50,000 years, ancient cultures have been cultivating body and mind disciplines as keys to healing and spiritual power. These disciplines are especially valuable for people who are highly driven but are also susceptible to the resultant tension and stress. Mainstream Americans in record numbers are applying ancient disciplines to produce practical, personal, and immediate results in their lives. Some of the most popular and effective are:

Deep Breathing – Deep, controlled breathing is a natural tranquilizer and rejuvenator. When you breathe deeply, you raise your level of energy, which slows down the aging process and helps you to look and feel younger.

Meditation – The numerous forms of meditation include a focus on breathing, silent words and phrases or particular energy centers of the body. The practice of meditation fosters a relaxed state of awareness, insight into problems, lessening of stress, improved health maintenance, and increased productivity.

Yoga – Yoga is an Indian science of physical and mental health that is more than five thousand years old. The word “yoga” means “union” and is the practice of postures, breath work, and meditation.

Chi Gung – Chi Gung means to work with the energy of life. The Chinese have long believed in its effectiveness in healing and preventing disease. The practice of Chi Gung can increase stamina, balance, and coordination, and build strength.

Toning and Sound – The use of sound to affect health and alter awareness has been practiced for thousands of years in many religious traditions. Singing, toning, and chanting have been proven to affect the emotional circuitry of the brain, inducing profound states of relaxation and even improving learning abilities.

Energy practices have been proven to not only improve health and well-being but to assist in reversing the many chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It has been scientifically proven that slow, deep breathing will reduce the heart rate and brain activity, and that sounding a single note or mantra like “Om” will create a deeper state of relaxation. Using sound in conjunction with breath and visualization can be an extremely powerful and transformative experience.

Returning to Balance

By learning how to manage your stress and learning stress-reduction techniques, you increase your energy and become more focused to handle all your responsibilities. Here are seven tips that will support you to shift from burnout to balance:

  1. Create more balance, meaning, and purpose in your life.
  2. Practice stress reducing techniques.
  3. Exercise, laughter, and dance are huge de-stressors.
  4. Learn how to say no, and don’t over commit yourself.
  5. Reduce your exposure to people who cause you stress.
  6. Stop trying to be perfect and set reasonable standards for yourself.
  7. Look at the benefits of challenges as an opportunity for growth.

Finding balance amid the chaos is an art, not a science, and there are no singular solutions. Yet when you learn how to become more focused and balanced, you can make wise decisions and the right choices.

We will always have personal challenges to deal with, but each problem presents an opportunity to learn and grow. We are the only limitations to living a fulfilling and rewarding life. Having worked with thousands of professionals, I’ve observed that those with a clear life purpose are not as vulnerable to workplace stress and the pressures of day-to-day living. This purpose enables them to see the big picture, to step back and observe how their work environment is contributing—or not—to their personal growth.

Now is the time to identify what areas of your life are draining you of energy, producing the greatest amount of stress or compromising your personal health. When we deplete our inner resources, we compromise our ability to live optimally. Our lives don’t need to be filled with continual challenges, obstacles, and crises. We have the choice to live full, rewarding, and productive lives and not be emotionally affected by the turmoil around us.