4 Tips for Being Aware of Your Stress Level… and Reducing It

Being Aware of Your Stress

Stress is emotional and mental pain resulting from adverse circumstances. Everyone experiences stress from time to time. It’s normal. But it can get out of control and cause serious problems. It’s important to monitor your stress levels and watch out for signs such as headaches, acne, chronic pain, poor general health, fatigue, lower libido, digestive problems, poor appetite, depressive moods, rapid heartbeats and uncontrollable sweating.

If your stress becomes unmanageable, seek the services of professionals, such as licensed mental health counsellors, social workers, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. Also, there are steps you can take to reduce your stress. Let’s take a look at four important ones.

1. Breathing Exercises

Stress-relief breathing is one of the quickest and easiest ways of reducing your stress level in any situation. These breathing exercises reverse your physiological response to a stressful situation by relaxing your body and mind. They’re great for relieving chronic stress, promoting clear thinking and reducing overall stress.

Take a five-minute break and pay attention to your breathing. Close your eyes and sit up straight with a hand on your belly. Gently inhale via your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and proceed up to your head. Reverse the process as you breathe out through your mouth.

2. Exercising

Exercising reduces stress and promotes overall wellness. In addition to stress relief, regular workouts help you manage your weight and improve your longevity. Exercise is highly effective at reducing stress because:

  • It’s a physical outlet for frustrations and stress.
  • It distracts you from stressful thoughts.
  • It gives you a natural endorphin high.
  • It improves your mental wellness in the long term.

3. Adopting an Optimistic Perspective

Research shows that optimism reduces stress. When exposed to the same stressful situations, optimists tend to be less reactive than pessimists because optimists interpret challenges and threats as opportunities. Optimists are also more likely to believe that they have the power to change their situations.

4. Meditating Regularly

Meditation has a variety of benefits, one of them being stress reduction. Taking a few minutes to meditate can center you in the present, pushing away worries about the future and regrets about the past. Like optimism, meditation can shift your perspective of a stressful situation and help you identify opportunities rather than fixate on seemingly insurmountable difficulties.

Ways to Get to Know Your Customers Better

The Business Development Bank of Canada suggests that all customers are not equal. While it’s important to treat all business connections with deference, it’s vital that you identify your top customers and give them most of your attention because they are likely the ones filling your coffers. Try to group your top clients by gross margin impact, then sort them into categories by geography, demographics and preferences. This type of analysis lets you develop targeted marketing strategies and research that produces insights beneficial to you and your customers.

Turn Negative Reviews into Repeat Customers

According to Inc. magazine, a personal touch often wins back disgruntled customers. Sometimes, picking up the phone and making a connection helps the customer realize that there are caring people behind your company’s logo. It’s also a great way to find out more about what matters to consumers and how you can better meet their needs.

Learn More About Your B2B Customers

Finding out why your B2B clients went into business gives you valuable insight into their ultimate goals and motivations. Here are a few essential questions you can use to suss this out via a survey or, better yet, a quick phone call:

  • How did they get started in their business?
  • Why do they believe their product or service is superior to competitors?
  • Why is their offering better than their competitors?
  • How can you make their lives easier?

Keep your objectives in mind throughout this discovery process. At the end of the day, you are collecting business intelligence to improve or expand your product line and make more money.

Create a Customer Advisory Board

According to Small Business BC, you can get to know your customers by including them in the process. This approach may work best for larger businesses that provide products and services directly to the public, such as schools suppliers, subcontractors for municipalities, commercial developers and transportation businesses. Here are some ideas for whom to include on your advisory board:

  • Current Customers. Choose a group of excellent customers to provide valuable product feedback.
  • Potential Customers. Find out why they don’t use your products yet.
  • Agents/Distributors. Include agents or distributors so they’re tuned in to customer needs.
  • Investors. Investors may have important insights into current market trends.
  • Strategic partners. Any business that serves the same market segment, such as suppliers, can be considered as strategic partners.

Whether you choose to approach this challenge from a personal or technological perspective, getting to know your customers better is the key to providing them with products and services they want and fatten up your revenue stream at the same time.

4 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month in Your Workplace

The number of working women in Canada is increasing. Women’s History Month is a time to shine the spotlight on women’s issues and appreciate female colleagues. Here are four thoughtful ways to do that.

1. Say Thank You Out Loud

We all like it when people acknowledge our effort and accomplishments. Unfortunately, women in the typical workplace receive less recognition. Similarly, compared to their male counterparts, women are more likely to receive negative feedback. If there’s a woman in your workplace whose work you admire, Women’s History Month is a good opportunity to make it known. For example, if one of your female members of your team performed exceptionally on a recent project, put in a good word for with your supervisor.

2. Take Action

If you’re deeply concerned about women’s issues such as the gender pay gap or sexual harassment, take action to help. Throughout Women’s History Month, call your representatives and insist that they pass legislation that is supportive of women in the workplace. When many people make frequent calls to legislators about a given issue, the lawmakers are encouraged to enact or change the laws to reflect the demands of the people. You can also attend events and protests related to the women’s issues that you are passionate about.

3. Mentor Female Newcomers

Public and private institutions perform well when there is diversity in opinion and experience. You can boost women’s representation in your organization by mentoring them. The higher your position in the organization, the more you have to offer female newcomers who are interested in learning from your journey. Share your experiences and vouch for female newcomers who demonstrate the talent, skills and commitment to succeed.

4. Uplift and Honour Yourself

Many women in the workplace are not good at advocating for their needs. Uplifting and honouring others is important. Doing the same for yourself is just as essential. If you’re among the women who shy away from exhibiting self-congratulatory behaviour, Women’s History Month is a good opportunity to take time to appreciate and reward your successes because your accomplishments are worth celebrating.

Women’s History Month is a chance for us all to celebrate women, but making the above practices part of our daily lives will have the greatest impact.

5 Tips for Backing Up Your Data

You can lose all your data suddenly because of corrupted files, hardware failure, inadvertent deletions, malware or virus attacks and overwriting data, among other causes. When this happens, the only thing that can save you is a backup. Always keep the following data backup tips in mind to be safe.

1. Choose a File Organization Standard that Works for You

The first step to a robust data backup plan is to organize your data. Develop or choose a file organization system that is easy for you and your users to navigate. Having a well-organized file storage system save you a lot of time and effort when you need to retrieve and restore all your data to the right locations.

2. Prioritize Important Files

Identify important files and give them the highest priority. Crucial files include:

  • All files you can’t do without
  • All files you might need in the future
  • All files related to your product or service
  • All files you can but wouldn’t want to recreate
  • All files that can’t be recreated

3. Back Up Your Files in a Local Physical System

Create a local backup for all your important files. Keeping backup files physically at your offices gives you maximum control and makes retrieval easier.

4. Back Up Your Files in the Cloud

An off-site backup system is important because it provides redundancy and mitigates catastrophe. Cloud backup offers an additional layer of redundancy, which would prove useful if your local backup fails. Causes of local backup failure include:

  • Failure to run
  • Failure to run properly
  • Media filters
  • Hardware failure
  • Degradation of data

Local backups can also be destroyed by natural disasters such as floods and accidents such as fires. Having cloud backup helps mitigate these risks.

5. Automate Your Backup Systems

Automation eliminates the need to remember to run scheduled backups. Still, check your backup systems periodically to ensure they’re running properly.

When it comes to data backup plans, something is better than nothing. Implement a backup plan now even if it’s not ideal. Many businesses and individuals have fallen victim to data loss because they were waiting for their data backup plan to be perfect before putting it in place. Remember, the best backup strategy includes both cloud and physical backup.

4 Great Tips for Preparing Your Office for Spring

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to prepare your office for warmer temperatures, upcoming seasonal storms and spring fever. By preparing early, you can keep the office motivated, ensure the safety of your workers and keep work flowing as it should. Consider the following tips and tricks to prepare your office for spring.

Get Organized

Spring clean your office to reduce clutter. Clear off bookcases, throw away documents and files that are no longer needed, purchase organizers to keep office supplies neat and tidy and give everything a good wipe down.

Change Your Decor

Make your office feel more like spring by freshening up painted walls with light pastel colors. You can also bring the outdoors in by adding plants. Plants decorate a space, and a study by the University of Technology in Sydney found lower levels of stress in workers when plants were placed throughout the office. Plants also reduce carbon dioxide levels in the air, making it easier to breathe, and serve as a natural buffer to reduce noise in common areas.

Do a Building Walk-Through

Winter snow and ice can wreak havoc on everything from your parking lot to your building’s roof. Routine inspections can help avoid expensive, time-consuming repairs and help protect your inventory and assets from damage. Look for any obvious signs of water damage to the building’s exterior, including water rings on the walls and soft and sagging spots on decks and the floor. Water damage can cause changes in color and texture of surfaces, cracks in the foundation and odors.

Inspect basements and areas closest to the roof for mold or wear. Also hire a landscaper to remove any of foliage and leaves from the previous season that can cause mold, mildew and rotting wood.

Check All Systems

Schedule a maintenance appointment with your HVAC specialist and have him check the coolant on your system to make sure you are ready to switch from the heat to the air. Failure to have periodic checks can run your energy costs up and can cause component failure if you let your system run for long periods without being serviced.

Banish the cold-weather blues in your office by getting ready for the upcoming warmer weather. By giving your office a face-lift, you can increase productivity and help keep employees healthier and happier.

Getting Your Business Ready for Tax Season

Early preparation for the end of the fiscal year for your business can reduce stress at tax time. Whether you have an internal accounting department that handles your paperwork, or you hire someone out of the office to file your taxes for you, there are a few ways to prepare for getting those returns filed accurately, timely and to help you achieve the biggest refund possible. For most individuals and businesses, the tax deadline is April 30 in Canada. If you are self-employed you have until June 15th to file without penalty, but any taxes owed are due by April 30. Consider the following tips on how to prepare to file.

Organize and Gather Your Financial Records

Update all books to reflect any end of the year transactions to prepare your tax records for your accountant. For a double-entry accounting system, make sure books are balanced so that the sum of all credits is equal to the sum of all debits. If you use a program like QuickBooks, this is completed automatically. Obtain your final bank account statements for the year and make sure your books match the bank records.

Cut down on accounting fees by gathering common business records. These documents include:

  • Income statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Cash flow statements
  • Payroll information
  • Expenses
  • A copy of the previous years’ tax return

Locate All Receipts

Maintain copies of receipts throughout the year as proof of any deductions. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recommends you keep tax records for a minimum of six years in case of a business audit. To eliminate stacks of papers tucked all over the office and in filing cabinets, consider going paperless and uploading all receipts to cloud storage. Apps like Bench, Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote support scanning and storing. Organize all receipts by type. Also, separate personal spending from business spending.

Understanding Tax Forms

When filing taxes on your own, find out in advance what tax forms are required. For a sole proprietorship or partnership, the CRA requires a T1 personal income tax form. For a partnership, the T1 income tax return package is needed, which includes form T2125, which is the statement of business or professional activities. The CRA has a complete list of forms and publications online for both personal and business use.

Start early to ensure important documents and data are in order to help produce a favorable outcome during the tax season.

How Healthy Sleep Helps Job Performance

World Sleep Day is an annual event that focuses on the importance of healthy sleep patterns and calls attention to sleep issues. Not only can good sleep patterns affect your personal life, but they can also impact your job performance and productivity.

This global event addresses the management and prevention of sleep disorders, and it’s held the Friday before the spring vernal equinox. Consider these benefits of getting a good night’s sleep.

Improved Concentration

Sleep is vital for all aspects of brain functioning. This includes concentration, productivity and performance. Sleep has a positive effect on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for cognitive thinking, decision-making and social behaviours. By getting enough sleep, you are naturally more alert and focused, so you get more done throughout the day, and you are better prepared for innovative thinking and less likely to have sudden mood swings.

Reduced Risk of Disease

Sleep quality and how long you sleep have a direct impact on your health. Individuals who slept seven to eight hours a night are at a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. One study from Harvard University suggests sleep deprivation can cause obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and can lower your immune system function to put you at a greater risk for the flu and colds.

Expanded Memory Function

There is growing support to suggest that sleep helps improve your memory. Whether you are trying to learn a new skill at work or memorizing your to-do list for the next day, sleep strengthens your memory so that performance is restored the following day.

Make Fewer Mistakes

Our bodies produce a chemical known as adenosine that helps make us drowsy so we can sleep. This chemical is flushed from the brain as we sleep, so we wake up feeling alert. When we fail to get enough sleep, the adenosine is still in our bodies, which can cause grogginess that impacts our performance at work. Proper amounts of sleep can reduce the number of errors made, which is especially important when working on an important project or when numbers are involved.

Getting the right amount of sleep each night affects your overall well-being, including your job performance. Be sure to focus on good sleep habits to help you get the most out of each workday.