Too much stress? Try this.

“We are connected. What we need to do is to become aware of it, to live it, to express it.” – John A. Powell

Too much stress? Try this.

By Andrea Novakowski

You’ve got your to-do list (but it’s bordering on the size of War and Peace), the phone hasn’t stopped ringing since you walked into your office, and the line of people waiting to see you before your next meeting keeps growing.

How is that stress working for you?

When the stress gets to be too much, it can be overwhelming!

What’s the best way to take care of yourself during times of overwhelming stress?

Connection.

In contrast to all the articles that recommend disconnecting in order to reduce stress, the book Connect: 12 Vital Ties That Open Your Heart, Lengthen Your Life, and Deepen Your Soul, by Edward Hallowell, M.D., asserts that the thing that sustains us emotionally, psychologically, and physically, is connectedness.

According to Hallowell, feeling like we are part of something that matters, something larger than ourselves, is what gives life meaning, direction, and purpose.

Lest this definition create further stress by making you think you need to be involved in life-changing causes and activities, Hallowell adds that the connection could be as simple as a friendship, a marriage, a team, a school, a company, a hobby you love, a country, a set of ideals, or a belief system. It’s not just one type of connection, he says, but the diversity of our connections that enhances who we are.

Connection can even come just from talking to people and treating them with respect. As a business owner or leader, of course you want your employees to get the job done, and it’s easy to rely on your position of power to drive the work. But treating your people with respect and care can accomplish the same result while enhancing your sense of connection, and thereby your sense of self.

As a society, we’re doing well at achieving, but not at connecting. Technology helps us get the job done faster, but it also distances us from interactions with each other. Think about the last time you were on a train or other form of public transportation. How many people were talking vs. looking at their phones?

Science has proven again and again that connection is good for your health and helps you live longer.

How to create connections that will make a difference for you

Figure out your priorities. You can’t connect to everyone all the time. And remember that priorities change over time so what once was true before may no longer be the case.

When my children were young, I made time for family, work, and self-care through exercise, spiritual practice, and learning. I chose to make the connections that filled me up: I knew I didn’t have the capacity for more.

Now, with an empty nest, my priorities are still the same, but my time commitment has shifted. Family time has made way for caring for the generation that came before me. I also have more time to build and rebuild friendships.

Not all connections are equal. Consider a few different types of connections to serve your different needs.

Periodically, I assess which of my connections enhance my life and which ones don’t. I work on cutting the connections that don’t inspire me, and in fact, drain me. If eliminating these connections isn’t possible, I at least limit the amount of time I devote to them.

Take time to recognize what re-energizes you. Be sure to consider both the personal and professional aspects of your life with this question – what helps you re-energize at work and in your personal life?

One of the executives I coach spends 80 hours a week at the office, but he has realized that what really means the most to him is being with his children. So, he has made a shift to start taking more time to honor that connection. He is now working from home periodically, or leaving work early so he can pick his kids up from school and enjoy some one-on-one time with them.

Connect with both personal and professional networks. Although your intention with each is different, their results may overlap.

Back when I was leaving my previous job and thinking about what type of work I wanted to do next, I was an active member of a women’s group at my church. One day, I confided to the group that I was drawn toward professional coaching. Turned out, one of the women’s sisters worked for an executive coaching company and that company was looking for marketing support.

I met with the sister – and I was hired! The lesson? You just never know what will come out of your connections. Your work connections may introduce you to a person or an idea that helps you in your personal life, and vice versa.

Want to feel better about yourself? Take time to slow down and make connections.

YOUR CALL TO ACTION

Nurturing connections might take some readjustments to your habits and your way of thinking. Here’s a good way to start: Instead of being so intent on the next thing on your to-do list, take a break and have a chat! The feeling of connection can start with a simple conversation.