STRESS! We all have in some form or another but did you know there is actually good stress and bad stress?
That’s right. First up we have short term or acute stress which actually helps improve your performance in some situations. Hello, business presentation! But, it is the long lingering effects of chronic stress that we need to be aware of and manage because there are some very serious sideffects including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and high blood pressure if we do not take control of the situation.
So in numbers things don’t look so hot. About 70% of Americans have the chronic variety with 10% saying it was because they felt overworked and undercompensated!
The good news is we can prevent these numbers from growing. While we can’t necessarily control our responsibilities, pay, or the people we interact with at work, we can control how we respond to these stressors by developing the ability to adapt to it in a healthy way. The key is to being mindful of how you are feeling.
Establish a regular quiet time practice
Having some quiet time allows us to think and get a perspective on our situation just by having a moment of pause. A few deep breaths don’t hurt either.
Counteract some Emotional Stress with Some Physical Activity
Emotional stress can manifest as physical tension. To help ease both, practice relaxing your body with this simple exercise:
While sitting at your desk, settle your attention on your hands, (particularly if they are holding something—a cup of coffee, a pen, a computer-mouse) and/or on your shoulders and if you find your grip extremely tight (or your shoulders tense), choose to loosen your grip and/or release the tension in your shoulders as much as you can. Take a second to feel the sensations of loosening up. This is being aware and mindful of how your body feels when it is tense or when it is relaxed.
Think before you speak
Stress can often lead to irritability so try this exercise that can help stop negative self-talk as you develop a softer and more forgiving inner dialogue.
Write down an accusatory statement like “You’re incompetent for forgetting a deadline.” And then rewrite it in a more constructive fashion like “I’m sure there is a good reason you missed the deadline however, how can we ensure that it doesn’t happen again? It is really important to me that we work together on this.” Rephrasing things in a way that is sensitive but still gets the message across is not only beneficial to your stress level but those that you are interacting with. Talk about win-win!
Another stress busting language tip is to let go of using generalizing words like “never” and “always.” Practice using specific language that leaves room for improvement (e.g. “I was disappointed when you arrived late to our meeting. How can we ensure this doesn’t happen again?” versus “You always disappoint me.”).
Set Goals to Reduce Stress
When we have a lot on our plate, we tend to feel overwhelmed so it is important to set up daily goals that can be accomplished and remember to take it just one day at a time. When it comes to managing g our stress we can have little mini goals for a day that may be as easy as saying to yourself that you will choose to be more open minded in all interactions today (or maybe just this morning if that is a biggie to start with)! The point is being mindful and then getting back on track if you notice yourself slipping from that goal.
Reject the Smartie Pants Syndrome
I think this next one is one we can all relate to but it is a real deal breaker if you are trying to manage stress. In your daily grind are you willing to give up being seen as right all the time or do you want to be seen as someone who is compassionate and open-minded?
Arguing a point and closing your mind to other’s opinions is nothing more than stressful (even if you “know” you are right). Same thing with the email, before you send an email, take three breaths. Then reread the email and imagine being its recipient. Consider the emotional impact of the message and ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve with the email. Rewrite it (before sending) if need be.
Re-Think Your Coping Mechanisms.
Make sure things are as balanced as they could be by trying this quick little exercise.
- On a piece of paper or on your computer or phone, make a list of everything that contributes to your stress at work.
- In another column, list everything you do on a day-to-day basis to relax, lift your spirits, or have fun (listening to music, exercising, cooking dinner with friends, etc.).
- Make a third list in which you describe the effects these activities have on your stressors.
- Look at all three lists. Reflect on how much you need to cope, if you are coping well, and/or if you need to change the ways in which you cope. Then write yourself a “prescription” for your own self-care.
The ability to communicate kindly with others is not only crucial in doing a good job in the workplace, it just makes you and those around you feel better! This means less stress.
This Seems Like a Lot of Hippie Stuff
So in a nutshell the above ideas to control chronic stress may seem a little overwhelming. But, to break it down in its most naked form I would have to say, think before you act, don’t sacrifice your peace for trying to be “right”, be kind to others and finally…breathe!
Your stress level is counting on you so go get’em tiger!
Real Happiness at Work, Sharon Salzberg