10 ways to reduce anxiety and stress levels

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Below you will find 10 ways to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your personal and professional life. Anxiety and stress are loyal companions of anyone who works in the business world. Today you have to make a special effort to reduce anxiety and stress levels to protect your health and to enhance your performance.

We have tried all these techniques and know they work. So this is based on research as well as our own experiences.

The 10 techniques presented below can significantly help to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life:

1 – Solution-focused attitude


One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to have a solution-focused attitude. In other words, it is essential to be focused on the solution rather than the problem. For example, let’s use my own real-life example when our luggage was lost by the airline and delivered only 1 month later. Moreover, when the luggage finally arrived, it was visible that all the bags were damaged beyond repair.

Getting really angry at this point is pointless since it already happened. Moreover, I could not learn anything from this situation since I had done everything right and it was completely out of my control. I did not panic or complain. Such negative emotions spill over and could increase my anxiety and stress levels. I needed to find ways to reduce anxiety and stress levels, not increase them.

I immediately adopted a solution-focused attitude, to reduce anxiety levels. The problem was clear – it is unfair that my luggage was damaged and I had to bear the cost. What could I do to correct it? A solution that I accepted was to send a formal letter of complaint to the airline and try to have them compensate me for the loss incurred.

Using this example, the steps to follow in adopting a solution-focused attitude to reduce anxiety levels can be summarized as follows:

1) Try to learn from the situation (if possible) to ensure that it does not happen again in the future.

2) Accept that it is a sunk cost (you cannot change it, it is in the past).

3) Focus on solving the problem. What can you do right now to improve this situation? Come up with a number of actions, don’t just stop at one (This is only appropriate for important problems. Insignificant problems do not deserve a large time investment and any good-enough-solution will be acceptable). Sometimes, as you continue brainstorming, you may come up with even better ideas than your original ideas.

4) If you struggle to find an appropriate solution, consider asking others for advice on what could be done to solve this problem (if relevant). You can ask your family, relatives, colleagues or post your question on Internet forums. Other people are likely have experienced the same problem and can share their lessons with you.

2 – Always forgive everybody and for anything


You need to do it for yourself. You need to do it to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life. It does not mean that you will trust this person again, especially if this individual have not changed and does not deserve to be given another chance. You need to forgive so you do not carry a huge load with you and do not continue damaging your health.

If you will not make an effort to forgive everybody for everything than it will negatively affect your life by creating anger and unhappiness due to past events. To live up to your real potential and be truly effective as well as successful in your career, you need to ensure that you do not carry around this baggage.

Make this effort and it will greatly help you to reduce anxiety in your life.

3 – Responsibly live in the “now”


Eliminate worries about past events and things in the future that you cannot control. Yesterday ended last night. Tomorrow may never come. It most likely will come but there are no guarantees. Today is all you have for certain.

4 – Anticipate and prepare


Think of ways to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life prior to unpleasant events occurring. Some stressful situations can be easily anticipated based on experience and general knowledge.

For example, the end of a work project is usually the most stressful time because the team often has to work late nights and weekends to deliver the document before the deadline. As a project manager or, even as a team member, you may prepare for such a situation by working harder at the beginning and setting internal deadlines (which occur before the external deadline) to ensure the deliverable is ready without any significant stress placed on the team or yourself.

You can talk to your co-workers about how to structure the project and plan better to reduce anxiety and stress levels by reducing the “crunch period”, and hence, reducing anxiety and stress levels on the team.

Another example is preparation for university examinations. Students know that examination preparation periods are highly stressful. Therefore, one can start working a little bit harder and much earlier to reduce anxiety and stress levels during the examination period.

5 – Delegate


Certain tasks can be delegated. Delegation makes your “to do list” shorter and helps to reduce anxiety and stress levels in one’s work and personal life. Delegation also allows lower level employees an opportunity to grow. Therefore, if done correctly, it is mutually beneficial.

If you do not have yet anyone reporting to you then delegation is still possible. In such a case, the task can be delegated to someone at the same level, usually with approval of your superior.

However, it is important to remember that delegation must be mutually beneficial. When delegating, it is important to delegate some authority together with responsibility. What this means is that you need to delegate the task together with the authority to make decisions to achieve the task. Only such delegation brings real value to both parties. If responsibility is delegated, but every minor decision about the task must still be made by you, than your time will not be freed and the other party will also not benefit from the exercise.

You may actually create more work by having to double-check everything. Your stress level is also likely to go up. And the lower level employee will not gain the true developmental benefits that delegation can offer. Moreover, his/her stress level is also likely to go up.

So, to reduce anxiety and the stress levels of all parties concerned, the next time you try to delegate – remember to delegate the appropriate amount of authority together with responsibility.

6 – Eliminate tasks


To reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life, some tasks can be completely eliminated. In other words, some tasks can be left undone. It is very important to eliminate unnecessary tasks, which do not bring any value or which bring value that is not worth the investment of your time and effort.

Eliminating such tasks generally does not have any tangible disadvantages but saves time for more important tasks. An example of such tasks could be reading junk email, carefully reading and replying to every email you are cc’d on, attending every “let’s go out for drinks” event with friends and handling tasks which are not your responsibility (such tasks should be redirected).

7- Learn to see the good in things


Learn to see the good side of any situation. In other words, try to see the glass half full rather than half empty. For example, if you were asked to present to an important client with only 24 hours notice, you can try to remind yourself that you were asked because you are a valuable part of the team and seen as a capable individual who is able to deliver at such short notice.

Moreover, after a successful presentation, you will further strengthen your reputation with your superiors because everyone will know the short deadline that you were presented with and how you still managed to prepare well and impress the client. Remembering that this is an opportunity to enhance your career growth will help to reduce anxiety and will allow you to focus 100% on the task to make sure you can take advantage of this opportunity.

8 – Use support you may have


Learn to use your support group to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life. If you are in the middle of a very stressful situation at work, it may be very helpful to speak about it with somebody who cares about you and will have your best interests at heart. Just sharing your experience may help you to reduce anxiety and stress levels.

9 – Breathing correctly is important


Learn to breathe deeply and slowly in stressful situations. This will help you to reduce anxiety and stress levels and will facilitate more clear thinking and better decision-making. When breathing deeply, mental clarity improves due to increased oxygen intake. One breathing exercise that you can use follows:

Breath in – count slowly 1,2,3,4 (mentally)

Hold – count slowly 1,2,3,4 (mentally)

Breath out- count slowly 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 (mentally)

Repeat 5 times. Try it now – you will see the difference.

10 – Establish a stress-management routine


It is also helpful to establish a routine that you could follow to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life. For most people, the daily activities are often similar. We follow certain more or less similar patterns during the workdays and undertake similar activities during the weekends.

You can think about the most efficient and pleasant way to do activities that you repeatedly do and try to use the new routine to reduce anxiety and stress levels in your life.

For example, if it feels that you never have enough time in the day to complete all your work and you know that your most productive time is in the morning (which is common), than try to block out your time in the mornings from all distractions and focus uninterruptedly on the most difficult work at that time. Make it a routine and try to ensure that others work around it (as long as it is professional and feasible to make such a request). This way you can complete your work on time, which will help you reduce anxiety and stress levels.

If you want to be truly successful then you have to accept that you will be in stressful situations. You cannot avoid it. Business is tough.

Therefore, to reduce anxiety and stress levels, you need to develop or adapt techniques to effectively manage anxiety and stress. The points above are techniques that are a good start in selecting your own arsenal of tricks that you can use to strengthen yourself.

Healthy Food and Superior Performance

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Healthy food choices essential to achieve your study and career goals. To perform at your best, you need to make healthy food choices.

A healthy diet allows your body to feel at its best and to perform at its full potential.

The following healthy food choices and diet preferences will help you achieve better performance:

FRUITS and Vegetables


Fruits and Vegetables significantly contribute to healthy diet. Eat at least 4-5 fresh fruits and vegetables a day (some sources advise 70% of your daily diet should be fruits and vegetables). Someone even said, “If you want to stay alive – eat food that is alive”.

Moreover, you need to have a variety of vegetables and fruits. Some experts suggest eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables each week. This refers to the fact that your diet, over the week, needs to incorporate fruits and vegetables of all colors of the rainbow.

Organic food


Try to eat organic food when possible. This will allow you to stay away from hormones, antibiotics or sprays added to traditional food, as well as from genetically modified food.

Clean Water


Drink a sufficient amount of clean water (at least 3-5 glasses a day). The rest of the water you need will come from fruits and vegetables.

Supplements


Take in supplements, but in limited doses. Ginkgo biloba and omega 3 are popular supplements for improving brain functionality. Multivitamin and mineral supplements are also important. Supplements fill in the gaps in your nutrition and contribute to good diet.

No heavy food after 6pm


Try not to eat heavy food after 6pm. It is more appropriate to have light snacks such as a yogurt or a fruit. Heavy food can disrupt your sleep patterns and significantly contribute to an extra weight problem. Therefore, it pays off to have it as a rule to not have heavy food after 6pm and especially not after 8pm.

Green tea, red wine and dark chocolate


According to research conducted by Harvard professors, green tea is very healthy and considered to be one of the 3 healthiest foods when it comes to longevity. The other two are red wine and dark chocolate.

Red wine has well known benefits but the alcohol in it is harmful for one’s health. Dark chocolate, according to the same research, apparently can decrease the possibility of a heart attack.

Avoid processed food


It is important to avoid processed food as much as possible. As one food expert recommended, – “if it is made from the plant – eat it, if it is made in the plant – don’t eat it”. Processed food should be avoided when possible.

Nuts


Raw nuts are very healthy and nutritious. Raw almonds and walnuts are especially highly recommended. Make sure to avoid roasted, honey coated or heavily salted nuts. These are all bad for you and the oil in nuts converts to a heavy saturated fat when nuts are roasted.

Semi-healthy treats


One needs to select a diet that is manageable and sustainable. This refers to a diet that still allows one to feel happy and satisfied with one’s food choices.

Therefore, some creativity may be required in building a healthy diet. Granola bars can be used as a substitute for sugary sweets. Organic popcorn with olive oil is another good light snack that provides fiber.

Probiotic yogurt is yet another option. By using your preferences and by being creative, you can find a healthy or semi-healthy treats for yourself that will allow you to overall healthy diet.

What you really do not want is to occasionally eat healthy but unsatisfactory food and at other times eat really unhealthy food to compensate for it. It is best to find a diet which consists of healthy food and semi-healthy food, and which is sustainable.

You can feel how differently your body reacts to healthy food choices. You can also feel the negative reaction of your body to poor food choices. One indication that you can use as to whether or not you are following a healthy diet is to see how energetic you feel. Above all, use your judgment and listen to your body.

Making healthy food choices is not as hard as it seems. Once you make an effort for 21 days or so to make healthy food choices, you will start forming a new habit and it will become increasingly easier to maintain healthy diet to fuel your success.

Great free online resources

In our day and age it is so easy and inexpensive to access free online learning materials. One can learn and grow much faster if one absorbs the knowledge that other people spent years or decades to accumulate. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to access such knowledge is through free online learning materials.

Technology allows us to be mentored by the brightest and most influential people of our time, without them even knowing the impact they have on our lives. If at this point in your life your funds are very limited, this still cannot be used as an excuse to limit your development. You have access to the Internet where, with the right guidance and commitment, you can find specific and quality material.

Below is a list with some resources I found useful. In addition, the list below points out some of the influential people of our time that one can benefit from knowing a little bit about. All of them were or are successful in one way or another and each of them can be a source for one’s professional and personal development to a smaller or larger extent.

We will constantly increase the information on this page as we find more useful information and free online learning material.

http://www.fora.tv


This is an excellent free online learning resource. It includes lectures, live events and debates with some of the top minds of our time. The purpose of the project is as follows, – “helps intelligent, engaged audiences get smart. Our users find, enjoy, and share videos about the people, issues, and ideas changing the world.” Here are examples of some interesting videos:
Video on Paul Krugman and the Global Economy

Video on Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP-Compaq

EconTalk


This is a weekly podcast, which is provided by the Library of Economics and Liberty and hosted by Russ Roberts. The main subject of the talk show is economics and the format is one-on-one discussions between the host and the guest. Russ Roberts’ guests include Nobel Laureates, business leaders and well-known authors. All past podcasts are available on the website. This is an incredibly popular free online learning site and is of exceptionally high quality. Go to:
Econ Talk

The Harvard Business Review


HBR is probably the most prestigious source for business analyses. Although the site has a paid portion, there is a lot of free online material available. Blogs, some past articles and author contributions are all free. The style of writing is very easy to understand and the research is of the highest quality. Go to:
Harvard Business Review

Knowledge@Wharton


K@W is an online business publication of the Wharton School of Business. It is another excellent free online learning resource and open to all readers after registration. The articles cover a wide range of topics and also contain podcasts for downloading. Go to:
Knowledge@Wharton

Tony Schwartz


He is the founder, CEO and President of The Energy Project: Go to the project here. He is a professional speaker and bestselling author (see his presentation at Google).

Tony Schwartz is working with many Fortune 500 organizations. See an article regarding Tony Schwartz’ work, which was published in the Harvard Business Review.

John Maxwell


He is an internationally respected and best-selling leadership author and speaker. He works with many Fortune 500 companies and foreign governments. I have listed some of his free online learning material here.
Additional Material
Free Chapters
Behind the Scenes
Maxwell’s Blog

Marshall Goldsmith


Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority on leadership and works with some of the top leaders in business. He wrote a New York Times best seller “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. The link to his presentation at Youtube is available here. Marshall Goldsmith’s website also provides a lot of useful and free online learning materials.

Randy Pausch


Randy Pausch was an amazing individual and professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. His last lecture and time management lecture are inspirational and very useful free online learning materials.

Aswath Damodaran


Professor Damodaran’s free online learning guide is the definitive source on corporate finance definitions, course notes and sample excel models. If you need a simple excel model, you are likely to find them here.

This list is by no means exhaustive or complete. Over time, we will add to this list and provide more material. Your contributions will be highly appreciated.

Focus! Read 11 tips to help you concentrate

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All students, even straight- A students, sometimes experience difficulties with their ability to focus. These challenges are exacerbated when the workload is too high, you do not have enough time in the day or you just cannot understand the material as well as you need to.

A strong ability to focus on study material, which is also commonly called the ability to concentrate, is one of the most important characteristics you need. As a skill, it can be acquired.

Below are 11 straightforward and helpful techniques on how to improve your ability to focus (concentration levels) during study times:

1 – Write down key points


Try to write down key points as you read or revise your work. This not only helps you to improve your ability to focus on the material but makes you an active learner and enhances retention of information.

2 – Work with a timer


Set a timer for 30 minutes or 45 minutes at a time. While you are working on a timer, do not allow yourself to get up or do anything other than study. Imagine that there is a connection between you and a task and do not break this connection.

Try to give 100% of your effort during the “timer period”. Then take a break, exercise or have some water. Thereafter, do another study session. Studies have shown that shorter periods of high concentration study advance comprehension and retention of the material.

3 – Summarize information


Make a deal with yourself that you will summarize in your own words every paragraph that you read as you read it. This makes you a more active learner and enhances your ability to focus on your reading. This also improves retention of new information. Students think this takes too long. In reality it takes less total time. Material you summarize usually requires less revision. While you may take longer to summarize the material you will take far less time overall.

4 – Test yourself


Create tests of the main concepts and formulas as you go through the study material and promise yourself to test yourself at the end of the day or week to check how well you are doing.

One helpful technique is to divide a page vertically into 3 columns:

1 – The first column should be small, enough for one number (from 1 to 5), leave it blank. This column is designed for rating your answers.

2 – The second column will contain the concept you are testing. For example, you can write down “Net Present Value” or “Internal Rate of Return”.

3 – The third column will have a brief answer for each concept from column 2.

While testing yourself using this technique, close the 3rd column and test each concept and formula in the second column. Compare each answer with the correct answer in the third column and rate your answer from 1 to 5. Rate an answer 5 if you answered it very well, 3 if your answer needs more work and had gaps and 0 if you could not answer at all. Be tough on yourself when rating your answers.

This technique allows you to identify gaps in your knowledge and allows you to specifically attend to questions which need the most work. For example, assume at the end of the week you have only 15 minutes available to test yourself on one subject, such as Finance.

This may not be enough time to test every question in your list, but you could go through all questions for which answers were rated between 0-2. This will allow you to attend to the biggest gaps in your knowledge.

Test yourself regularly. For example, you can briefly test yourself at the end of each week. Yes, it is difficult but you are making an investment over time so that before exams you can feel calm and prepared.

Moreover, it will improve the depth of your knowledge, retention of information and will positively contribute to your examination results.

5 – Water, sleep and exercise


Drinking clean water, getting good sleep and ensuring regular exercise will improve your ability to focus. Drink a lot of clean water. You need at least 5 to 8 glasses.

You also need to sleep at least 6-7 hours. Ideally you need 8 hours of sleep. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time. Try not to work after 12pm. This is when your body is designed to rest. Keep in mind that sleep that you may try to obtain during the day to make up for the lost sleep at night is not of the same quality as sleep that you obtain during the night.

You also need to exercise as much as you can afford. You don’t have to go to a gym. You can even run from one room to another and back for 5 minutes to get a good workout between your study sessions. Another good workout is dancing. Put on your favorite music during your study break and dance. Find an exercise which is not too time consuming, which you enjoy and which works best for you.

6 – Deep breathing


Learn to breathe deeply while you study. This will help in reducing anxiety and stress levels. This will also help you to increase mental clarity due to increased oxygen and, therefore, will improve your ability to focus.

7 – Dealing with anxiety


Anxiety can be a very bad distracter. If it is something significant, such as an unanticipated family problem (eg your husband losing his job and he is the sole bread-winner), try to find some kind of solution or find a way to make a peace about the situation.

If uncertainty is involved and there is nothing you can do to improve situation, tell yourself “I don’t know how it will work out, but I know that it all will work out great”.

Every time you worry about this major problem – repeat this phrase to yourself.

If you have many little worries that keep on surfacing, put them in a worry list. List them as they come to you and set some time for yourself to think about all of those little problems and find a solution for each. You can use “dead” time for this activity, such as when you are taking a shower or as you are walking to classes or to the store.

8 – Find a trigger word


Every time you feel your mind starts wandering, tell yourself “be in the now” or “stop”. Find a word that works for you and use it to bring your attention back to the task at hand.

9 – Switch subjects


Switch from one subject to another as soon as you feel that your ability to focus is deteriorating. This will help keep your mind alert. This is especially useful when you start studying a lot for a prolonged period of time. Effective concentration becomes more and more difficult.

10 – Take breaks


Take breaks away from your study. Do something that will involve laughing and joy. Watch a comedy, laugh with your friends and loved ones or read a funny book. Although, you may be doing enough reading at the moment, so it is better to do something other than reading.

This will give you energy and will make you feel more rested. Stay away from sad or scary movies. This is not what you need right now. You need something where you can get emotionally rested. Once you take your mind of your studies for a few minutes, it increases your ability to focus on the material.

11 – Find a study buddy


You may be able to improve your ability to focus by finding a study friend. You need someone with motivation, expectations and ambitions similar to or higher than yours. You need a positive influence. If you are a straight-A student, a student who only cares about passing will drag you down. You need someone of your own caliber or higher, if you are inspired to do even better. Than together you can discuss points, search for information to fill the gaps in your understanding and test each other.

As with any relationship in your life, try to make sure that this relationship is mutually beneficial. It is the only kind of relationship that is productive and sustainable. Keep in mind that this strategy will work well if you are an extrovert. If you are an introvert than studying alone may be a better option for you. Introverts may find it difficult to work with someone and this will negatively impact their ability to focus.

***

A strong ability to focus on the study material, along with mastering reading and other necessary skills for smart learning, is absolutely crucial for achieving academic success in business studies and for ensuring a superb business career . These 11 simple techniques are very effective in improving your ability to focus. Try them and choose what works best for you. Ultimately, you need to develop a bag of your own tricks that will help you succeed.

Exam preparation done the right way

Below are some very useful techniques to help you during your exam preparation:

From the core to filling in the gaps


It is always easier to continue with the study module if you already know some of the information. So you have to start from something. It’s okay not to know everything, just build a starting point and work your way out from that point.

Start from learning the most important parts of the study material first. As your body of knowledge grows, continue filling in the gaps. In other words, continue to cover material which is still not clear to you.

One great method to use is possible if you have access to past exam papers. In such cases, start by studying each part that was tested in prior years. As you do that, you will cover most of the critical aspects. Than, cover the gaps in your knowledge.

For too many students exam preparation is an unstructured process. Start by focusing on the main idea first and build your knowledge from there.

Channel your mind chatter


We all have a mind chatter. We are constantly thinking about various things. The majority of such thoughts are useless. During exam preparation it is important to control your mind chatter and to channel it into thinking about your subjects and linking the dots in your study material. Every time your mind chatter resumes, it is taking precious time away from your exam preparation.

Find the ways to channel your mind chatter in a way that is beneficial to your exam preparation. For example, when you doing something that keeps your mind unoccupied and useless mind chatter resumes, start thinking about your material.

Ask yourself which parts of the material are the most important and why. Than ask yourself questions about how different parts of material are connected. Ask yourself what do you understand clearly and what are the biggest gaps in your knowledge. You need to make subjects that you are working on the focus of your mind chatter. This way you take a lemon and make a lemonade out of it.

Give 100% of your effort


When you study, give it 100% of your effort. Read attentively, be focused and use every second you have to do something to improve your knowledge about the subject.

When you study, focus 100% on the task at hand. Be an active learner and not a passive learner. Do something with the material. Be creative. For example, write information down or explain it to yourself in your own words.

Do not allow yourself to become lazy and simply read the material without paying much attention to what you are reading. In this way you are just cheating yourself, no one else. It is your time, your life. As Steve Jobs once said, “you could be doing anything else with your life right now but you have chosen to do this, so give it 100% of your effort… Life is brief and then you die, so you have to be damn good.”

Be self-disciplined


At all times, and especially during exam preparation, you need to be strict with yourself. Demand from yourself to be efficient with the time you have. Do not allow yourself to give in to laziness and weaknesses.

The more you do it – the harder it is to fight giving in. The less you allow yourself to be ineffective and lazy – the easier it is to fight it. As Zig Ziglar likes to say, “If you are hard on yourself, then life will be infinitely easier on you”.

Internalize information


Motivate yourself to absorb and internalize information from each subject you study. It must become part of who you are and what you care about, almost to the point of short-term obsession.

You need to sink into it and build a relationship with it. You need to know it to the point that you can confidently teach someone the knowledge covered in the study material. Only then are you be really prepared.

These points are not a complete list of everything you could do in your exam preparation, but it will put you on the right track to success. Remember, the marks you get will stay on your record for the rest of your life and will likely significantly influence your career  journey.

You are at “war”


If you want your exam preparation to result in A or A + results, you have to take drastic measures. The only exception to this advice applies to people with out of the ordinary intelligence who can gain such results without doing significant amount of work.

To get really high marks, you need to disconnect yourself from all the distraction during exam preparation. Work, work and work, day and night. Your exam material needs to be what you think about when you wake up and when you go to sleep, when you eat and when you taking a shower. And the closer it is to the examination date – the more you need to operate in this manner. Exam preparation must engulf your life.

If you are a straight A student, it sets you apart from other students who are less diligent and driven. When all of you will be applying for the same jobs, who do you think will have a huge advantage over whom? Of course you! Therefore, the first step you need to take to help ensure that you have a great career is to finish your degree as best as you possibly can.

It you already have a degree with average results then consider continuing your education part-time and finish the next level exceptionally well. Academic excellence will always set you apart. It is really hard, especially while working full-time, but it definitely worth it if you want to have a great future.

Good luck with your exam preparation. Give it your 100% and, as Zig Ziglar likes to say, he “will see you at the top”.