Deadlines. Commuting. Colleagues. Technology. Wages. According to Everest College’s 2014 Work Stress Survey, 80 percent of Americans are frazzled by something at work. Think about it: That means only two out of 10 people in the workplace aren’t stressed.
Working in a state of frenzy can be a heady addiction for some, but it’s not a healthy one. Stress is linked to depression, heart disease, insomnia, weight gain, memory and concentration problems, as well as a host of other unsavory disorders. Not to mention that it’s unpleasant to work with anxious people. How can more of us join the happy and healthy minority?
The first step begins by noticing the symptoms of stress. Sometimes they’re subtle: a racing heart, hot ears, tensing muscles, talking fast or a clenched jaw. Sometimes they’re more obvious, such as the urge to yell or kick something. Self-awareness begins with emotional awareness. And recognizing these symptoms, before reacting, is where it all starts.
Once we can recognize a symptom or two arising, we just need to pause. Take a breath. Let the feeling subside. Let whatever triggered it wait for a few seconds, or even a minute, before responding. It’s like mentally stepping away from a strobe-lit, throbbing dance floor in a club and into a quiet library for a tiny moment. (Picture it and breathe. Can you feel the difference?)
In that moment, because of that pause, we can regather and then examine the cause of the stress and how to best deal with the situation. Some people find the Four A’s of Stress Management useful at this point:
• Accept: If you can’t change the cause of the stress, begin to accept it. (Hint: forgiveness is a useful took for this process.)
• Adapt: See the problem as an opportunity and think of new ways to cope.
• Alter: Explore whether there’s a way to communicate with the person who triggers the stress or if there’s a way to address a certain problem that happens frequently.
• Avoid: Some things can’t be changed. If, for example, traffic during your commute is stressful, explore other routes or transportation options. Or, if you’re simply overwhelmed by your workload, can you say no to some of the responsibilities?
Sometimes all we need is that pause, and the rest of the assessment and good decisions will follow. Eventually, perhaps we’ll even become more resilient to stress.
To your happiness and success,