How to deal with Stress at work.
Dealing with work Stress can be really hard. Figuring out ‘what to do when you are feeling stressed or in the process of Burnout can seem an impossible, even confusing task. With many therapists suggesting similar ways of dealing with Stress, you’d think that Stress related issues would be lessening by now. But the opposite seems to be true – Stress seems to be spiralling out of control.
Could it be that current Stress management strategies simply don’t work?
Commonly-suggested methods of work-related Stress management:
- Talk to the boss and tell him you feel overwhelmed.
- Ask for longer deadlines.
- Use to-do lists and plan your time more effectively.
- Communicate more effectively – learn to say no.
- Stop checking your emails every time they ping in.
- Give yourself a mental break after lunch.
- Try flowery, spiritual, ‘woo-woo’ Stress-management workshops.
- Consider changing your role, employer or career (which often actually just turns a stressed-out (for example) banker into a stressed-out personal trainer or a stressed-out massage therapist instead!)
I’m going to be very straight here – if you are feeling stressed, low and/or overwhelmed, you may actually be in the process of Burnout or starting to). The second point I’d like to make even more strongly is: Do NOT go and speak to the boss just yet! The chances are, if you are feeling this pressured and Stressed, then so is your boss. Let’s face it – in the workplace, Stress tends to filter from the top, down. The last thing either of you needs right now is a conversation which is likely to end in a full-blown ‘negative situation’.
How to reduce Stress?
I have used and recommended mainstream Stress management techniques in the past. Some of them can have a positive effect for a while, but the long-term Stress is seldom if ever, resolved. I believe the reason why mainstream Stress management techniques often don’t work in the long term is down to the lack of understanding of how we, as human beings function. Maga Therapy’s Natural Default System is very different to the generic ‘Stress management techniques and therapies.
I believe just understanding how Stressful feelings are created within us will reduce your stress levels considerably, bring about a level of clarity and improve your thinking/doing skills. Stressful feelings are created the same way all feelings are created – whether good or bad, positive or negative. You may be thinking that feelings are created by situations or events in our lives, but I would argue that is not strictly true. I believe every single feeling we have is caused by our body reacting to thoughts.
What is causing your Stress?
Let us take a very basic and apparently factual example.
You feel hungry. That’s because you haven’t eaten for a while and your body needs fuel, correct? OK, now think about a time when you felt hungry, then suddenly something urgent happened at work and you were incredibly busy for the next 2 hours – wasn’t it only when the urgent thoughts stopped that the hunger feeling returned again? Both the hunger and the sense of urgency were apparently valid, real feelings prompted by the outside world. Reality. Truth. But interestingly, both feelings were switched on and off. Also reality. Also truth.
The thought “this is urgent” switched off the hunger. The thought “the urgency is now gone” switched the hunger back on. This doesn’t mean the urgency and hunger weren’t real – they obviously were.
But the switching from one feeling to another was just as real. And that is because our thoughts – and particularly which thoughts we latch onto and focus on – create and/or influence the feelings that we experience.
That is the key to understanding.
True, many of our thoughts can be triggered by the outside world (a deadline, a compliment, a criticism, the sun shining, an inconsiderate driver, your child’s smile). But the way we feel and behave is NOT triggered by the people or events in the outside world.
How to relieve the symptoms of Stress?
In 2009, scientists at Stanford University suggested we have thousands of thoughts every day. All of these have the potential to spark (good, neutral or bad) feelings/ behaviour in us, not just the few thoughts that are triggered by outside events.
The key is to understand that none of our thoughts is more true, real or valid than the others (obviously, with a few genuinely important, life-saving/life-changing exceptions, such as not stepping in front of a speeding car, not *actually* giving your boss the finger when he annoys you, etc.) It is when we give undue importance to an individual thought that Stress occurs.
But simply understanding that a Stress-causing thought is just one of the (90,000) thoughts we will have that day, is enough to reduce the hold that Stress and Burnout can have on us.