New year continues to be synonymous with new resolutions despite the fact that past two years have blocked most of the usual paths to keep up with our plans and dreams. New normal has changed many of our lives in many ways as our usual go-to places to find comfort were taken away. Uncertainty curbs our freedom to make many things as part of of our happiness or productivity to-do lists. Some days you are swamped with work, fear and stress and other days you have to look for productive ways to complete your tasks. Prolonged periods of pandemic burnout and anxiety often obstruct us from living our life with more congruence.
Overall, more of us experience mental fatigue and have hard time maintaining work-life balance. Since mental effort and mental fatigue are closely related, with the additional stressors of the work and external stressors in general, would lead to lot of voids. This results in decreased personal efficiency. Any task that triggers cognitive load, including information processing, working, sustained attention and emotional regulation can result in incongruences in our thoughts, emotions and actions.
Balance is a feeling desired from being whole and complete; it’s a sense of harmony. It is essential to maintaining quality in life and work. — Joshua OsengeTweet
The importance of achieving congruence
One of the most challenging parts of managing stress during these times is that the usual self-care techniques many of us used to help soothe those overwhelming feelings were no longer an option. For many of us, our emotional states continue to fray and make us more unstable and inconsistent in our behaviours. We can always distract ourselves from uncertainties around by immersing ourselves into hobbies or zooming happy hours with friends. But invariably our emotional states affect our work efficiency negatively. They not only harm the confidence we have in ourselves, but they also impact the level of trust and confidence others place in us.
Incongruences in physical, emotional and cognitive function are the signs of overwhelm and stress. Since we can’t go back to the way things were pre pandemic, the reviewing of these areas helps us create an atmosphere that allows us to use our time to do more and achieve more. We can’t always control externals. But we can always make an effort in establishing life balance in most important areas of our life. Achieving a state of inner harmony in how we live and manage the priority areas of our life leads to freedom from emotional disturbances and frequent burnouts.
How to live life with more congruence
At the start of a new year it’s good to assess how to achieve more congruence in those things that are more important to us. Instead of falling back to the way things were, we are always free to choose our actions and what we devote our time to. You can always choose to spend time and make necessary changes to achieve balance in life, work, career and relationships.
Happiness is not a positively defined state as much it is seeking work-life balance. And laying out your goals to better manage these different areas helps you mend any gaps in your emotional state which in turn serves as a motivation to improve your work efficiency.
The biggest reason why so many spend their time stressed out is because all their efforts are focused on how they can use their time in doing more and achieving more. Be it for your professional commitments or personal relationships, it is important to pay attention to the kind of energy you invest. A desirable balance and harmonious state of mind lets you make the most of each day which is crucial especially in times of uncertainty.
Trying to focus when you are mental state is unravelling can be more stressful. To be able to be congruent, you must understand and address what is causing the imbalance. Spend some time everyday to figure out where your mental exhaustion stems from and address the triggers.
Thoughts are powerful things. They can influence our words and actions, and ultimately how others view us and our capabilities. Be mindful of your thoughts. Being intentional in how you go about your day’s activities results in being congruent with your goals. Check if your thought is helpful or whether that it no longer serves your mission.
When thoughts are conflicting with your work, dig deeper to understand what’s at the root of the thought. Ask yourself, Is it based on an unhelpful emotion like fear, resentment, uncertainty or lack of confidence ? What if thought isn’t true? What else can I choose instead? Make a conscious effort to replace distressing thought with positive one that aligns with your goals.
Manage your emotions
Periods of uncertainty often bring conflicts, obstacles and challenges your way. The key is not to get bogged down, but to accept and overcome. While feeling positive can help you stay calm during crisis, but holding onto negative emotions makes you positivity toxic. To avoid this, stay aware and express those negative emotions. Use RULE method to better manage them. Recognise what you are experiencing, understand why, label it accurately and express it appropriately. Instead of agonising about your-day and being anxious about what the future holds, switch your focus to learning from past and to being excited about future opportunities.
One way to better manage your emotions is to change your perspective about your current situations. Ask yourself, What am I grateful for? What is my potential and how can I unleash it? This helps you avoid, amplify or change the possible triggers. Simple breathing exercises can recharge you while grounding you in the present. Staying connected to your long-term vision and higher purpose can further up your emotional state. Be patient with yourself. Like any new way of doing things, regulating emotions is all part of learning and growth. If you find yourself backsliding, pick yourself up and correct your course.
Manage your relationships
To improve efficiency is to ensure work-life balance. And the success to this lies in managing your relationships whether personal or professional. It is only when you are responsible for taking care of your own needs that you can be sensitive to those of others around you. Communication is key to understand and to be heard and understood, even with your friends, family or coworkers.
Learn to be precise, economic and constructive in your communication with your business or work relationships. Learn to say ’no’, be open and clear about what you like and don’t, while also being firm about things that are non negotiable. Understand that you don’t have to do everything that someone else wants you to, for the sake of maintaining harmony.
The best way to strike balance in all your relationships is to be your honest self and respectful to yourself as much as to the other person. When confronted with conflict, taking the time to put yourself in others’ shoes so as to understand why the other is reacting in a certain way helps to manage difficult work or personal relationships.
Express how others’ words or actions made you feel rather than blaming or accusing. Just being able to see the world through the eyes of an other can lend some much needed perspective to improve your congruence in all your relationships. Know that you cannot control anyone other than yourself. When it comes to others, you can only influence, lead and inspire.
Nothing will guide you through the year better than purpose and direction. Everyone’s priority list has changed past two years, but that doesn’t mean your work ambitions change. Setting goals when your priorities conflict can be a challenge. Concrete goals will lead to plan to lay out the steps that motivate you through the most unpredictable times.
According to famous motivational and self-development author Brian Tracy, one way to achieve congruence is to manage goals that cover important areas of your life. Goals must be in harmony with each other’s and not conflicting. The first type of goals can be about ‘what’ you really want, like career, work, or business goals.
The second set of goals are important for well-being and happiness. These can be your ‘why’ goals like personal, family or health related goals. When you lose track of the reasons why you wanted to achieve your business, career or work goals in the first place is when your life goes out of balance. So, it is important to remember that your ’why’ goals are the primary reason as to why you choose to have first type of goals.
Then comes your ‘how’ goals of personal growth and professional development like learning, building on your skills, helpful habits and behaviours. These goals help you achieve your ’what’ goals in order to meet your ‘why’. Managing these goals helps you achieve balance in work, health and happiness.
Time is your valuable assets and it’s non-renewable. And not able to manage your time in remote working conditions and uncertainty leads to constant feelings of overwhelm, stress and anxiety. Also, not having enough time to do what you want to at the level of quality to which you desire, affects your productive efficiency, especially when you are focusing on the present challenges, work and personal goals.
Making sure of having some time-management tools and techniques in place helps you better manage your time and make the most of the opportunities that the year presents. You can use techniques like time boxing calendar to block off section of time to focus on specific tasks. Work on nothing but the task at hand.
You can also use Pomodoro when tackling a difficult set of tasks. Work on a task for 25 minutes, then take a break for 5minutes. After two to three cycles, take a longer break. This increases your focus and prevents burnout. You can also separate your tasks into Eisenhower quadrants, based on their urgency and importance to determine in which order to do it.
You can even try batching your tasks based on similarity. But the most important thing when it comes to your time management is to reduce your distractions, especially the digital ones. By scheduling your work with clearly defined stretches of time to vital tasks, and setting deadlines to your priority tasks, you can manage them constructively.
Manage your stress
Whether it is meeting set goals, delivering results in a timely manner, wanting to manage your physical health goals, maintain and improve your personal or professional relationships, all of these lead to stress. Even though stress is an evolutionary mechanism that is activated when we perceive danger, this particular survival instinct inhibits us from making correct decisions. For this reason, it is essential to know how to better manage stress to achieve work-life congruence.
Learn to respond rather than react to challenging situations. To do this it is important to identify what triggers your stress. For instance, is it from the tasks where you are solely responsible, or is it coming from things outside of your influence? Or Is it the result of activities in which you share responsibility, like because of your team, partner, colleagues etc. Once you identify, you can better manage. For instance, for the triggers that are within your control, you have to be proactive. If you are responsible, you can control so you can work towards removing that particular stressor.
For the triggers that are outside of your influence, you must stop worrying as you cannot modify anything so it makes no sense in stressing over something that we cannot change. One thing you can do in such situations is to regulate your emotions. And for the triggers coming from shared responsibilities, you need a combination of being proactive and try to work towards the result to the best of your ability. For instance, if you are part of a team, you have to do everything you can, but if the result is still not as expected, you must stop worrying and control your emotions. Managing your stress can help you achieve congruence in other areas of life.
Manage getting things done
We often procrastinate, because at the root of it, it is about our emotional states and not productivity. When much of the world continues to advocate safe living, we seek comfort in staying safe. But living a ‘safe’ life is rarely a choice that can relieve us of stress. Most of us know that it might be sensible to ‘stay safe’ with regards to some aspects of life, but without taking any form of risk, one cannot be congruent in other areas of life. Allowing yourself a sense of flexibility can help you not to fret about being imperfect. Shift your mindset to challenge yourselves to try new things.
Prep yourself and progress incrementally to reduce friction in getting things done. Strengthen your will of doing things by asking yourself, why a task is important to you. Approaching your to-do list in new ways can help managing your work without getting too overwhelmed. The past two years were also an opportunity for everyone to see what really matters and what doesn’t. Some of the things we were doing before may not fit who we are now. So pushing yourself to the brink at work may not help. Adjust your expectations of what risks you can take and what you can’t. You can still get things done to the best of your ability by being authentic and by tapping into what you need.
What are your strategies to achieve more congruence in your life this year?
Are your thoughts, emotions and actions in congruent with your goals?
Which alternative perspectives can help you better manage stress and anxiety this year?
Are you being supportive of other people when they go through challenges and hardships?
What is your ’why’ of your ’what’ goals and how are you striving to achieve them?
What new level of risk have you committed to embracing this year?
What goals are you setting this year to improve on personal front?
Achieving more congruence in your actions, thoughts and emotions directly relates to your mental health and happiness. A well-balanced approach allows you to improve your personal effectiveness in all areas of life irrespective of external stressors. With incongruences in your work and personal lives, you risk losing sight of what truly matters to you. Remember that learning to manage essential areas of your life is one of the most important skill you can learn. Some of the above mentioned managing techniques are simply tools to help you achieve that balance. The key to balance is to have strategies in place for managing ups and downs through stress and overwhelm.
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