The work environment is one of the places where stress is amplified because you spend the bulk of your waking hours interacting with many others, meeting numerous demands and working towards tight deadlines.
The level of stress you experience professionally (and personally) is unique to you and so too are the challenging emotions that stress, especially chronic stress, can trigger.
There are many emotions that can manifest due to stress, two of the most damaging and unfortunately prevalent ones, that many people feel in our fast paced and volatile society experience are anxiety and depression.
Although there are many books, articles and other resources analysing anxiety and depression in more detail, the aim here is to identify how you can deal with such feelings by managing your level of stress.
So, what can you do about it?
Let's look at the habits you can adopt to manage stress in your life…
The 4A’s of stress management
A certain degree of stress is considered healthy. It is a natural reaction that can increase your awareness in times of danger and trigger your flight or fight response.
Beyond this, stress can become an issue. There are various methods you can use to restore your balance and avoid the negative effects of stress.
The concept of the 4A’s was created by the Mayo Clinic* and is used by many to deal with stress in their lives.
Avoid the unnecessary.
There are many situations that are within your control and can be avoided.
- Avoid people who annoy you or aim to reduce your interaction with them where possible.
- Ignore, delegate or reschedule items on your to do list where appropriate.
- Master the art of saying no. Your personal resources are not infinite.
Alter the situation.
There may be aspects of a situation you can change for the better or to your advantage.
- Respectfully request others to be mindful of inappropriate behaviour. Remember that this goes both ways so be open to others requesting the same from you.
- State your tolerance and thresholds in advance e.g. let the host of your meeting know that you are not able to stay beyond the 30 minutes allocated to the meeting if it runs over the agreed time.
- Communicate your feelings clearly. This reduces the friction that can be caused by misunderstandings.
Adapt to the stressor.
There are various ways you can adjust your outlook on the issue and create a fresh perspective.
- Be realistic with your expectations. Not because something is easy for you means that it is easy. We all have different strengths and weaknesses.
- See the issue through different lens. Is that colleague as annoying as you think or is that person suffering in silence from anxiety or depression?
- Consider the bigger picture. Ask the question - Will this situation matter as much; one week, one month, one year from now?
Accept the things you cannot change.
There are times in life when you just need to go with the flow.
- Identify the things that are completely out of your control and learn to let go. Trying to control everything is not only impossible, it’s exhausting.
- Use positive words with your internal dialogue. Are you the type of person you would be friends with?
- Practice forgiveness, it takes a lot of energy to hold a grudge.
Are there other options?
The short answer is yes; there are many other techniques you can use to manage stress in your life. These options are discussed in more detail in the course - Achieving Professional Excellence - but let’s look at a couple of them below…
Avoid ruminating on negative thoughts
Recognise when this is happening and do a pleasurable activity, in a mindful way, to distract yourself.
Note: when you are depressed, you will have a negative cognitive bias i.e. you will predict an overly negative outcome. If you find yourself ruminating on negative thoughts, then consider challenging your thoughts.
Identify the actual evidence for and against the thought. This can help to put things into perspective and give you the insight to generate an alternative or more balanced thought.
Is someone really unfair to you ALL of the time? Will it be really as disastrous as you think if that thing happens?
Also remember that feelings are not facts. How you feel does not necessarily reflect the reality of the situation.
Accept your own highs and lows
We all have them. No one has wonderful days everyday… it is not possible. Even the people you admire or those who seem to have life all figured out have low days too.
Society, especially with the explosion of social media, paints the illusion that everyone else is living a happy life but this could not be further from the truth.
Many people are now openly expressing their battle with the stresses in their lives. Many are sharing their stories for others to know they are not alone.
Apart from knowing that ‘feeling low’ happens to everyone at some point…
Is there a trigger that makes you feel low? Can you use one of the 4 A’s to deal with the feeling?
Coping with stress, especially chronic stress, is a major problem in our modern society but there are many techniques and tools you can use to help you deal with stress.
However, if your stress management efforts are not sufficient to help you face the challenges of your current situation, please seek professional help… you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Use the course - Achieving Professional Excellence - to help you deal with managing stress and improve your professional life.
... remember, stay curious and keep learning.
The Institute for Achievement and Excellence ©
*The Mayo Clinic - 4 A's to manage stress: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stres...