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Are You at the Top of Your Game?

A little stress can keep us on our toes, but too much can leave you running on empty. If you are feeling overextended, overscheduled, tired and just plain ... stressed out, try these tips from Michelle Steffes, Certified Coach/Business Consultant/Speaker/Trainer at IPV Consulting. She has identified six key factors that should help you avoid burnout. For those of us looking for ways to repair the burnout we've already endured, she has us covered, too.

1. Take control, encourage yourself, encourage your team.
Michelle says steps of discipline and encouragement must be taken on a daily basis. Balanced people control the things they think about and listen to. She suggests that people tune out the news, which is becoming increasingly difficult in our current climate of 24-hour "in-your-face" reporting. She also believes we should replace the media with materials that will inspire, encourage or educate us. As we invest in our personal growth, we create a healthier state and increase our emotional intelligence levels making us an encouragement to our teams.

2. Get more exercise/respite.
"Exercise affects our mind and body. When we exercise for at least 20 minutes, our pituitary gland floods our bodies with endorphins. The benefits are enormous—making us more alert, increasing our creativity, clarity and focus as well as boosting our immune system." She emphasizes most only recognize the physical effects of exercise and ignore the incredible mental benefits.

Michelle also encourages her clients to unplug. She believes we all need moments of complete respite from the constant "drip" of our digital devices. This means we should regularly shut down our iPads, phones and computers. She acknowledges the feeling of euphoria we might get when someone "likes" our social media posts, but suggests we allocate time to spend on nontechnological engagements to achieve this happy feeling, especially when we are with family or friends.

3. Learn how to manage stress.
Everyone manages stress differently. That being said, Michelle believes any stress management method we choose should involve activities that produce a sense of peace and provide moments of respite. During this downtime, some people read; others take a walk, go for a jog or meditate. And get this: Michelle says eating chocolate and chewing gum can both be effective stress management tools!

4. Make a plan and work with vision and purpose.
When one creates a written plan, goals are more likely achieved. Flying by the seat of your pants just doesn't work. Michelle explains that just as you create a business plan for work-related success, a life plan is also important. "Writing something down dramatically increases the odds that you will achieve it." Furthermore, when it is in writing, we tend to feel more confident and peaceful knowing it will get done.

5. Prioritize your life and job.
Michelle is a big advocate of prioritizing. She suggests you record everything you want to accomplish into personal and professional lists. Then take another look at your lists and prioritize them beginning with the goals or tasks that will accomplish the most in the quickest way. Finally, break them down by month, week and day, allocating time to accomplish each task to ensure completion.

6. "Sow" into the lives of others.
"Becoming a blessing in someone else's life is one of most beneficial ways to affect your own well being and state of mind."

What specific changes can we make in our daily lives in order to minimize the stress that is already present?

Here are Michelle's specific remedies for those of us who have already been bitten by the stress and burnout bug.

Morning Fitness
Start out your day with exercise to gain the benefits of endorphins for the entire day. You will notice less fatigue in midafternoon and dramatically reduce "brain fog." According to Michelle, it takes 30 days to form a habit, so start today and empower yourself to stay committed! It will likely be extremely difficult at the beginning. However, by consistently incorporating morning exercise into your routine, you will find that a month from now, jumping on that treadmill at 5 a.m. will be as natural as brushing your teeth or drinking your first cup of coffee.

10- to 20-Minute Daily Restorative Activities
Plan one activity each day on your lunch break, after work, in the evening or whenever it fits. Michelle finds immeasurable benefit in activities that help you unwind and relax. While she notes that in an ideal world we would all spend hours each day to practice yoga or meditation, engaging in these activities for even 10 minutes can be beneficial.

Schedule Time with Friends and Family
Allocate time on your calendar for family and friends. When we don't put things on the calendar, they just don't happen, period. Not only is scheduling time with friends and family important, Michelle says we must also be cognizant of how we act during this time. We shouldn't stare at our phones, check work e-mail or look at pop-up news updates. Rather, we should give our loved ones our full, undivided attention.

Make a Daily Plan for Nutrition and Sleep
Plan at least 7 or 8 hours per night. "When we sleep, our brain regenerates cells and restores chemistry which cannot be replenished by any other means." Sleep is a key component to success. Michelle also believes what we feed our brains is equally important. "Water and nutrient rich foods help our brains function at their optimum levels."

Maintain a Professional Appearance
Take time and effort to dress for success. "When you feel smashing, you act like a winner. Statistics indicate that people will judge you within the first 30 seconds. No matter what industry you are in, it is always important to make a good first impression." In addition to your appearance, body language plays a role. One example is your handshake. Avoid the "dead fish" technique. A strong handshake can go a long way.

Information provided by Michelle Steffes, a 25-year Leader, Certified Coach, Consultant, Trainer and Speaker. Michelle is President of IPV Consulting. Learn more at


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