Stress may be seen as a negative thing, but in truth, we all need a little bit of stress to keep us at the top of our game. A bit of pressure to achieve, to beat a deadline or to make a sale can be a great motivator that can bring out the best in us and, as we discuss elsewhere, as long as you find ways to manage your regular stress level, you can prevent it from affecting your physical or mental health. But what happens when you come across unusual levels of stress at work and have to find ways of dealing with it that go beyond chill-out music, massage and meditation?
Unexpected work stress can hit any of us, whether your job is playing for thousands at the poker table, dealing with millions in the boardroom or just trying to get to your minimum wage job on time. Even people who seem to be at the top of their game at work can suffer from stress. Many of them are open about their experiences and have their own advice on how to deal with stress, whether they are in a high stakes situation or simply trying to cope with their boss, their workload and their deadlines. Here are a couple of techniques that you can use to help you reduce the impact of unusually stressful situations and cope better when things get tough.
Don’t lose sleep over it
One of the worst parts of unexpected workplace stress is when it follows you home and stays with you all evening, leaving an unresolved situation running around and around in your head. Inevitably this leads to sleepless nights where your mind goes racing off on trains of thought, imagining all kinds of disastrous outcomes from your current predicament. Not only is this ‘disaster visualisation’ incredibly unhelpful, and probably untrue, but the lack of sleep itself will also significantly reduce your ability to deal with the stressful situation. The more you think about that, the less likely you are to be able to sleep, leading you into a vicious circle of being stressed about being stressed.
The key phrase to pick out here is ‘trains of thought’, because it is these trains that take your mind to the kinds of places you really don’t want to go. Think of the station as your awareness, your calm, in-control mind, and think of the trains as your thoughts and feelings that arrive and depart around you. Sat at the station, you can simply watch these ideas come and go without getting carried away by them, but once you get tempted to board a train of thought, it will quickly take you away from this calm place of control. The good news is that as soon as you become aware that you are on a train, you’ll find yourself off it again and back at the station. You just have to keep yourself aware of what your mind is doing and catch it when it wanders off along the platform.
Stick with what you know
This kind of mindfulness is an excellent way of keeping yourself grounded in reality. To avoid excessive stress, you need to stay mindful of the important difference between what you know to be true, right here and now, and what your mind is making up. Worrying what other people are thinking, or speculating about what is going to happen in the future, is utterly pointless, because you simply don’t know. We all worry far too much about what others are thinking about us when in reality they probably aren’t thinking about us that much at all. They are too busy worrying about what other people are thinking about them. Stick with what is true and ask yourself if you really know for a fact the things your mind is worrying about. You’ll find that the truth is so much smaller, easier, and less stressful to deal with than any of your anxious imaginings.
The workplace can be stressful enough, without letting your own mind become a part of the problem by exaggerating that stress. So, stay off those trains, stick with what is true and stay in the here and now. Chances are, you’ll find your problems are not nearly as bad as your mind would have you believe they are.