Want to lose 50% of your stress at work this week?
And, quite likely, 50% more effective.
Some minor changes can make a huge difference in how you think and feel on the job.
Have you ever noticed the connection between your thoughts and how you feel? The simple science is that you feel every thought you think, so all you have to do is pay attention to when you don’t feel your best.
You know when you’re worried, because you’re probably more tired than normal. Your head hurts, or you suddenly get the munchies. Your back bothers you. You’re just not yourself.
Here’s the good part: you don’t have to try to think positively to shift things for the better. In fact, if you’re really worried, trying to think positively will just stress you out further. Trying to be happy when you’re not is like holding up the ceiling; sooner or later, it’s just too much effort.
A simple way to reduce your stress is to unplug from it.
I’ll give you an example. One of my biggest and most important clients recently made a change in their programming that significantly cut both revenue and utilization for my organization. My first reaction was a combination of surprise, disappointment and fear, and I could feel the stress of worry start to creep in.
My mind began to race with ideas on how I could control or change the problem. Almost instantly, my stomach got tight and my shoulders turned to wood. I knew I was trouble energetically. So the first thing I did was distract myself. I grabbed my copy of Feathers: 50 Things You Can Do in 50 Seconds or Less to Lighten Up and Set Yourself Free and read one of the 50-second essays, which shifted my focus. (Note: any non-business book will work–keep your favorite on your desk or in your backpack.) Almost instantly, the wave of negative energy that had engulfed me calmed down.
I didn’t have any answers at that moment, but I knew by how I felt that I no longer had the problem, at least energetically.
By the time I got back to my office, there was an email waiting saying a new opportunity had just opened up with a company near my hometown, where my parents live. When I looked at the dates the client needed, they would have been impossible for me if the dates I had originally blocked for the other client were still in play. Better still, I discovered I could add a day of PTO with every visit, allowing me to see my parents multiple times over a period of a few months. This is a real blessing, since my mother is struggling with issues of memory loss. Not only did the revenue and utilization loss lessen immediately, so did my stress about my desire to be more supportive of my parents.
In other words, two of my biggest stressors were both cut significantly.
If you can stay out of your own (negative) way, you’ll likely find that what you need to reduce your stress simply appears on its own, in ways you could never imagine.
Everyone wants to be kind and polite, but it’s incredibly stressful to listen to others complain. You have to work twice as hard just to keep a smile on your face.
I had a colleague who loved to stand in my doorway and talk about how he was going to leave the organization. The wasted time of these conversations was stressful, and so was the fact that I didn’t want my enjoyment of my own work tainted by someone who was unhappy for reasons I could do nothing about.
Worse, others started complaining to me that he was also complaining to them, too. It was like having my head pushed back under water every time I came up for air.
No one wanted to be rude or unkind, but to lower everyone’s stress (including his, since complaining without action is stressful), I said, “Everyone here wants to see you happy and successful. So please focus on the new job you do want, not the job you don’t.” He took the advice-or got the hint, depending on your point of view- and within a few months, had found a new position with another excellent company.
If you mess up, admit it. It’s twice as stressful to involve others in what is yours to solve, since they are going to powerfully resist getting involved or taking the hit to their time and/or reputation. Worse, if they have no choice but to clean up your mess, you’ll all be stressed by their resentment and the career consequences of their lowered opinion of you.
Instead, focus in on where you made the mistake or caused the problem. Be specific. Apologize if you inadvertently hurt someone or something.
Then use the opportunity as a lesson and share what you learned from the situation. Grow from it, mentally and emotionally.
The time and energy you’ll spend defending yourself about something that was your fault–or your team’s fault–just causes a lot of needless stress. Stand in the spotlight and rise to the occasion.
In the early days of my career, I was in Public Relations. I had to secure a caterer for a big event at our organization. I did too good a job–I hired two of them, and forgot to cancel one of them. This was a five-figure mistake, one I was sure would get me fired. As the two catering trucks pulled up to the building, I went into my boss’s office and told him everything. Until that moment, the word “compassionate” could never be used to describe him, but he was unbelievably kind and forgiving. “I’ll take care of it,” he said quietly and calmly. “But what did you learn?”
I learned that it was ok to take the blame, and to never underestimate the hidden kindness of others.
If you really want to cut your stress by half this week, stop fighting some simple truths. Things usually do work out in the end, even if change was unexpected or unwanted. It is possible to be both honest and kind, not only to others, but to yourself. We learn as much or more from our mistakes as we do from our successes.
I once got a message from a secret friend that I’ll share with you now:
“Everything’s ok. Keep going.”
Robin L. Silverman is a Senior Consultant with Right Management who helps companies build resilient, agile leaders.
4445 West 77th St. Suite 130 Edina, MN 55435