Practices to reset when stressed by your high performance lifestyle

Change, even good change, takes its toll.

In a recent coaching session I had with a client, he expressed that a recent job change had introduced newfound and unwelcome anxiety in his life.

Overall the change was good—he was excited about a new opportunity that would help him achieve his professional goals. However, despite the excitement, he found himself dealing with an uncomfortable amount of stress in his new role.

His experience likely sounds familiar. Change, whether small or large, and even when that change is positive, brings excitement and stress, both of which can be exhausting. Working through his issue, we spent most of the coaching time talking about the importance of the principles of sustainable renewal to manage anxiety and uncertainty.

Sustainable renewal is the final step of what I refer to as Sustainable Performance Excellence (SPE).

SPE is an approach for achieving long-term, sustainable performance and it involves:

  1. Dreaming big with purpose
  2. Planning small steps 
  3. Engaging in renewal practices

Learn more about Sustainable Performance Excellence

My client was doing fantastic on the first two elements: dreaming big and taking small steps towards big goals. Unfortunately, he wasn’t taking the time out to practice renewal and found his mind harboring anxiety throughout his day.

Staying present despite anxiety

If left unchecked, the mind will often race on both the excitement and the fear of an uncertain future. 

My client was suffering from both elements of excitement and fear. During our discussion, he framed his concern as follows: How do I stop my mind from racing?

The answer: Mindfulness through sustainable renewal practices.

What is mindfulness?

This term has gained popularity over the last few years, though the concept is by no means new.

The definition of mindfulness I most prefer is:

A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Mindfulness sounds like a great place to arrive, but the key concern remains: How do you reach mindfulness when your mind is racing? How do you focus on the present moment when your mind just won’t let you?

To achieve mindfulness, you need to engage in regular renewal practices.

Regular Renewal Practices for Sustainable Performance

On our call, I coached my client on 4 practices of sustainable renewal to manage the anxieties he was facing due to the uncertainty of the future. Here they are:

  • Write a gratitude list daily
  • Exercise regularly
  • Pray and ponder inspired literature 
  • Meditate daily

Write a gratitude list daily

Starting each day with an attitude of gratitude is a great way to teach the mind to stay focused on what is going right vs. what you feel is missing or going wrong in your life.

Amy Morin, the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Do (which I highly recommend), shared in Psychology Today seven proven scientific benefits of gratitude:

  • More and stronger relationships
  • Better physical health
  • Better psychological health
  • Greater empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Better self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

High achievers often have the bad habit of focusing excessively on what needs to change. Writing a daily gratitude list of 3-5 things is a great way to remind yourself of what about your life is already good and that you should celebrate.

See my podcast for additional research and practical tips on enhancing gratitude.

Exercise regularly

What’s the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? According to neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, exercise! 

In her Ted Talk, Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory—and even protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Exercise is a keystone habit as Charles Duhigg suggests in his book The Power of Habit:

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

Here are my thoughts on exercise and keystone habits:

Pray and ponder inspired literature

Together with prayer, studying inspired literature like scripture has been proven to quiet the mind and slow down (mind racing,) among other mental health benefits.

According to Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., a lecturer at Harvard:

“It’s clear from the correlational studies within the epidemiology data that positive relationships exist between religious and spiritual practice and health outcomes on a variety of different conditions.

According to the Heritage Foundation:

“We have a logical reason why religion might influence physical health through mental health, through enhancing social support, through influencing health behaviors, all affecting physical health outcomes.”

Taking time to read and pray can get your mind more focused on something big than yourself and your life and put things into perspective.

Meditate daily

In 2017, Dr. Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD, wrote a great article on the 12 science-based benefits of meditation, talking about how meditation can help:

  • Reduce stress
  • Control anxiety
  • Promote emotional health
  • Lengthen attention span
  • Potentially reduce age-related memory loss
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve kindness
  • And more

I have recently found the benefits of short meditations to be quite powerful in managing anxiety.  When your mind is racing because of uncertainty or a setback in your daily or life goals, try doing a short 10-minute meditation from the Ten Percent Happier app. Meditation works.

Consistency Brings Capacity

None of these activities stands alone—each one needs to be done regularly with the others to manage a high-performance lifestyle.

There is power in building capacity to manage your mind. When building muscles in your body, you know you have to do regular muscle building activities. Otherwise the muscle weakens.  

The same principles apply to achieving mindfulness: You need regular practice to quiet your mind and stay focused on your goals and dreams.

Start practicing these 4 elements of sustainable-renewal today and start enjoying the journey towards sustainable performance excellence.