Charlotte Haigh-MacNeil

Doing the things you’re good at cuts stress and boosts self-esteem, says

Are you feeling overwhelmed, out of control, uptight? These are all symptoms of stress – but reducing it may not just be a question of having to cut your workload, reduce your responsibilities or take time out to relax. While all those can certainly help ease symptoms of stress, new research suggests spending time doing things you’re good at can significantly lower your chances of feeling anxious and tense. Researchers believe playing to your strengths is powerfully connected to feelings ofAre you feeling overwhelmed, out of control, uptight? These are all symptoms of stress – but reducing it may not just be a question of having to cut your workload, reduce your responsibilities or take time out to relax. While all those can certainly help ease symptoms of stress, new research suggests spending time doing things you’re good at can significantly lower your chances of feeling anxious and tense.

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Researchers believe playing to your strengths is powerfully connected to feelings of accomplishment and endurance. They found those who know their strengths and work with them are, on average, 7.8 per cent more productive compared to others, and are more likely to feel engaged in their work and perform better. So why not make a new year’s resolution to spend time every day doing something you’re good at, whether that’s inside or outside work? Try the quiz on the left. How many boxes did you tick? If six or more of these apply to you, you’re probably spending a substantial amount of time fulfilling your potential. We all have days when we feel a little flat or discouraged, and even if you’re good at what you do, you might still have times when things go wrong. The key is to be spending the majority of the time doing things that play to your strengths.

If, after taking our quiz, you realise this isn’t the case for you, try the following suggestions.accomplishment and endurance. They found those who know their strengths and work with them are, on average, 7.8 per cent more productive compared to others, and are more likely to feel engaged in their work and perform better. So why not make a new year’s resolution to spend time every day doing something you’re good at, whether that’s inside or outside work? Try the quiz on the left. How many boxes did you tick? If six or more of these apply to you, you’re probably spending a substantial amount of time fulfilling your potential. We all have days when we feel a little flat or discouraged, and even if you’re good at what you do, you might still have times when things go wrong. The key is to be spending the majority of the time doing things that play to your strengths. If, after taking our quiz, you realise this isn’t the case for you, try the following suggestions.

Nurture self-efficacy

‘Developing a competency of any kind strengthens your sense of self-efficacy, a belief you have mastery over the events of your life and can meet challenges if they come up,’ says Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence (Bloomsbury, £9.99). It will help you to feel more optimistic, even when things don’t go your way, because a strong sense of self-efficacy helps you trust in your ability to‘Developing a competency of any kind strengthens your sense of self-efficacy, a belief you have mastery over the events of your life and can meet challenges if they come up,’ says Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence (Bloomsbury, £9.99). It will help you to feel more optimistic, even when things don’t go your way, because a strong sense of self-efficacy helps you trust in your ability to deal with difficulties. You can find a way to develop this even if you’re not in your ideal job. Think about your strong points, whether that’s your mastery of a new computer system or your creativity. Remember ‘soft’ – or emotional – skills as well as practical ones.

For example, you might be good at managing junior staff members, helping with others’ problems, explaining things clearly or dealing with difficult people. Now look at ways to develop your skills. Can you go on a training course, do some voluntary work, or rearrange some aspects of your job so you’re spending more time doing what you’re good at? This doesn’t just apply to work, either. In fact, it’s particularly important to have a hobby you’re good at if work isn’t fulfilling your potential at the moment – that way, you’re still getting a sense of achievement, which can help to minimise other sources of stress in your life and put difficulties in the workplace into perspective. Doing things you’re good at outside your 9 to 5 could also help build your overall confidence and self-esteem, which may in turn help you find more rewarding work.

Consider skills you’d like to develop, from brushing up on a language you studied at school to playing netball or baking. Think back to what you were good at as a child – our strengths are often innate, says Goleman, so you’re likely to find your dancing, painting or sports talents are still with you…deal with difficulties. You can find a way to develop this even if you’re not in your ideal job. Think about your strong points, whether that’s your mastery of a new computer system or your creativity. Remember ‘soft’ – or emotional – skills as well as practical ones. For example, you might be good at managing junior staff members, helping with others’ problems, explaining things clearly or dealing with difficult people. Now look at ways to develop your skills. Can you go on a training course, do some voluntary work, or rearrange some aspects of your job so you’re spending more time doing what you’re good at? This doesn’t just apply to work, either. In fact, it’s particularly important to have a hobby you’re good at if work isn’t fulfilling your potential at the moment – that way, you’re still getting a sense of achievement, which can help to minimise other sources of stress in your life and put difficulties in the workplace into perspective. Doing things you’re good at outside your 9 to 5 could also help build your overall confidence and self-esteem, which may in turn help you find more rewarding work. Consider skills you’d like to develop, from brushing up on a language you studied at school to playing netball or baking. Think back to what you were good at as a child – our strengths are often innate, says Goleman, so you’re likely to find your dancing, painting or sports talents are still with you…

ARE YOU FULFILLING YOUR POTENTIAL?

Tick the statements that apply to you to find out…

.I often end the day with a sense of accomplishment.

.I feel comfortable answering questions from colleagues.

.usually look forward to going to work.

.When I have to do something that’s out of my comfort zone, I’m able to see it as a challenge, not a threat.

.I have a hobby doing something I’m good at.

.I regularly spend time on activities that totally absorb me.

.I frequently feel proud of my achievements.

.I’m rarely bored or demotivated.

.I do something every day that feels like an achievement, however small.

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