From the organisational coach
Writing a column on stress management feels slightly hypocritical. I’ll be the first to admit it – I thrive on stress. I’m one of those people who’s on my best game when I’m juggling multiple tasks; I get my best ideas in the middle of doing something else and I feel happy living in high gear.
Of course, this kind of living isn’t healthy in the long run. I’ve had my share of migraines and sleepless nights. I’ve clenched my jaw out of whack while typing. Then, as I became aware of how badly I was treating myself all in the name of work, I decided it was time to take a dose of my own medicine and incorporate mindfulness into my everyday work life. This is the best thing I’ve ever done – and instead of slowing me down, it sharpened me. It also helped me deal with one of the areas in which I’ve always struggled – the transition from work to home mode. Or holiday mode!
30%-How many Aussies say work is a source of stress. The Australian Psychological Society’s latest survey of stress and wellbeing in Australia also found that workers reported lower overall wellbeing scores than the previous year.
I didn’t know how to put this into words until I picked up what is now one of my favourite books, The Third Space by Dr Adam Fraser. What I’ve been calling “my rewind/unwind time”, he calls “the third space”. Think about it: between every task, requirement or event in our life, there is a tiny little space of seconds, hours or days. We can choose to ignore it and hurry through without mentally preparing – like when you rush home from a bad meeting and dish up a big serve of chicken à la angry with a side of frustration-glazed peas. Or you can take advantage of the physical and mental space between work and home and actively choose what mindset you bring home; what emotions, thoughts and behaviours you bring with you. Similarly, you can choose what mindset you bring into a new meeting at work – and the better the mindset is suited for the context, the more successful it will be.
But it’s not only about performance – it’s about how you and others feel. What I truly find useful is how you can use all those mini-transitions to reset and relax your mind. Once you’re aware of this third space, you can quickly
dive into it no matter how brief it is. When you’re in it, you simply pause and reflect quickly on what
has happened, what is happening right in the moment, and how you want to show up next.
It’s a “reflect, rest and reset” space that allows you to take control of your mind – and in the process feel happier and more balanced.
23%-How much more likely you are to have a heart attack if you have a highly demanding job with little freedom to make decisions, compared to those without such stress, a European meta-study found.
I like to think about the third space as the invisible transitions between life’s small episodes, but this space can also be physical! For example, at work my favourite physical third space is a beautiful big tree around the corner from the office. Most people don’t notice it as it stretches itself up against the sky, nestled by skyscrapers. But standing under it looking up, the skyscrapers are just out of sight. All you see is the leaves and the sky. For a few seconds every day, I block out the cars, taxis, buses flying by and the people rushing past. As I look up, I take a deep breath and focus my attention on the beauty of this tree. It never ceases to calm me down, to put things in perspective and give me a creative boost unlike any coffee could ever do. What is your third space?