How to manage stress in the work place
Whether you just got fired, witnessed a crime, found out your wife is pregnant, or turned the all your white shirts pink - stress is an inevitable part of life. To say that you can live a life without stress is like saying that you will go on for the rest of your life without getting hungry or thirsty ever again.
Good stress vs. bad stress
Stress is primarily a physical response and a vital warning system to any perceived threat. When your brain perceives a situation to be threatening to you, it releases a number of chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action; to either fight or flight.
In appropriate amounts stress can be a stimulant and it can motivate you to work under a tight deadline and reach your goals. Good stress however can turn into bad stress when it becomes persistent, ongoing and chronic. While good stress is temporary and it triggers an adaptive response, bad stress is persistent and it triggers a destructive response.
Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body. Sadly today, stress is part of a number of lifestyle diseases that according to WHO are killing more than 16 million people prematurely every year.
What are the sources of stress in your life?
Whether you are worried about the bills pilling up, your children, your work and family responsibilities, or the state of the current economy take a note of what you usually loose sleep over.
Over a number of days make a note of all the things that stress you on a daily basis; anything from the traffic on the road to the increasing cost of university fees. Give yourself enough time to ensure this list is as inclusive and complete as possible.
Once you are satisfied with what you have penciled down, go over each item on the list again and ask yourself: “how can I influence that?”
Go through the list as many times as required until you have classified each item as either one you can influence or one you cannot.
Are you stressing over things you have no control over?
Now look at the list again and you can see that there are a number of items that you have no control over and some that you can do something about. If you are having a higher number of items you cannot influence, you are spending a big number of your day worried about things you can do nothing about. Such items might be a co-worker’s bad work ethic, politics and celebrity gossip, instability in the economy, your neighbor’s annoying habits or the traffic on the road, what other people think about you.
When you spend your time worrying about things you have no control over, you become reactive, you assume a defensive position and you may feel wronged or victimised.
The more you focus on items you cannot control, the more you allow such situations to control you.
Focus on what you can influence
What you want to do instead is reduce the time you spend on items you cannot control and instead focus on those things you can influence.
You may not be able to control your colleague’s bad work ethic or tardiness, but you can control how you allow such a behavior to affect you. You may not be able to control politics and foreign policy but you can control how you vote.
When you focus on things you can influence, you become proactive, you are responsible for your actions, you choose to focus on your choices, responses and attitude.
When you are focusing your time and effort on things you can influence, you can better manage your stress levels because you understand that not everything that happens around you needs your immediate attention and response.
So every time you are faced with a stressful or challenging situation, ask yourself: “can I influence this?” If you do, then look at how you can do so by either changing your behavior or the way you approach a situation. If there is nothing you can do, then you have to learn to let go and move on.
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Sophia Fromell is the Founder of Ithaca Life and is a certified Life Coach with a degree in Life Coaching Skills and Practice from Newcastle College, UK and a member of The International Coach Federation (ICF). The views expressed in her columns do not necessarily reflect those of Esquire or Hearst International