Have you ever had one of those streaks when it seems as if every machine in your life is broken, your body is falling apart, and all the people you know are experiencing some sort of trouble? My wife and I are there right now. And I’ve got to say, our stress levels are up.
Everywhere I go, people are stressed. At work there’s too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. Customers are crabby, coworkers are freaking out, and the bosses are wound way too tight.
Stress at work (or stress carried into work) creates quite a mess. It saps our energy, changes our mood, and wrecks our concentration. Instead of supporting each other, we start snapping at our teammates. Bad behavior wears on relationships.
While stress does create a lot of problems in organizations, it doesn’t necessarily have to. How do I know? Because there are many examples of two people in the same circumstances, one deals with it while the other melts down. This same phenomenon shows up when examining whole departments and even organizations. Some remain effective during tough times and others don’t.
So what’s the difference? It’s rarely the presence or absence of stressors. All workplaces are filled with problems. It’s the different choices we make in dealing with these stressors.
Learning to manage our stress and applying what we learn is part of being an effective team member. One might also say it’s part of being an adult. I do a lot of stress management workshops, and share with people the same strategies that others before me have shared. The information isn’t new. The problem is that we don’t apply it.
Here are three stress relievers that will help you relax. Which of these strategies might you apply right now?
1. Use diversion
If you aren’t thinking about the stressors in your life, they won’t affect you. So one popular and relatively easy strategy is to distract yourself by watching a movie, playing with your kids, or diving into your favorite hobby. Taking your mind off the problem for awhile isn’t a long term fix, but it’s a great way to give your body and mind a break.
At work, diversion could be as simple as changing tasks for the time being, taking a walk around the building, or doing some deep breathing at your desk. For more intense diversion, take advantage of paid time off. Vacation and personal days are there for a reason. Use them. Even making the effort to take your breaks and eat your lunch away from your desk can help.
2. Straighten out your thinking
Stress isn’t a result of what happens to us; it’s a result of the story we tell ourselves about what happens to us. Sometimes those stories are pretty incredible. They don’t represent reality and aren’t helpful. Your stories should make sense. The power of positive thinking really is…well…powerful.
Here are some examples. When you think your boss hates you because he’s loading you up with too much work, consider instead the possibility that your boss thinks you’re the only one capable of handling that much. When you’re upset because your coworker is purposely slacking because she knows you’ll do the heavy lifting, consider the possibility she’s sick today and just doesn’t have the energy to carry her normal load.
3. Solve the problem
Most of the things that cause stress in our lives can be defined as problems. The best way I know to remove stress is to solve the problem that’s creating it. Life is full of problems. Instead of worrying about them, why not take action? Think about those times when you gave more energy to worrying about the problem than you gave to actually solving it. What a waste.
If you’re mad about a coworker’s snarky comment, invite him to have a conversation about it. If you’re sick of a shoddy process that allows things to fall through the cracks, initiate a process improvement project. There are plenty of problems that need solving. Solve one.
Stress is your problem
We all love to blame our stress on others. Bad move. We are stressed because we allow ourselves to be stressed. We can make different choices. I’m working hard to make those choices in my life. These three strategies are all viable options for doing so.
If you’ve got the stress in your life under control, then help your coworkers learn to manage theirs. Forwarding them this post is a simple first step. Do it now.