‘A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’
(Oxford Dictionary definition)
It seems these days that many people associate high levels of stress with success and take pride in how stressed out they are. We almost want to wear ourselves out because we get to boast about how hard working and important we are!
If you are not showing signs of stress, there can be a perception that you are not working hard enough. I see more and more people complaining about feeling stressed and what long hours they have to work and although I am sure they do not enjoy the feeling, they have a slightly proud air attached to the statement, as if it somehow reflects an achievement.
It’s a sad state of affairs when people are getting recognition for how busy they are, how many hours they have to spend at the office, how they are unable to take holiday and how little free time they have to enjoy their life. My definition of success does not include any of those criteria but rather how productive I am in the time I have available, how satisfied I am with the things I am spending my time on, how much value I feel I am adding, how healthy I feel and how much I can enjoy my life.
It seems that people have started to accept that life is a constant source of stress, running around, complaining about lack of time, all the responsibilities they have and generally carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. It doesn’t have to be like this, there are various things you can do to reduce these stress levels:
1) Lose the arrogance
It is very easy to form the mindset that unless you are in charge of a task it won’t be done properly. When you let go of this believe, you can share your workload. I have seen people keeping all tasks that could and should be given to someone else to do, but they keep control of them all, for fear that someone else won’t do them as well or maybe that they will look bad if they are not delivering everything themselves. It pays to take time to analyse whether you are really focusing on the right tasks and if there is anyone else who you can share them with if you have too much on your plate.
2) Stop being stubborn
It can become easy to become a bit stubborn. Even if the offer of help is available and would ease the burden, for some reason you decide not to take it up. You almost feel a bit satisfied about how stressed you are and get into the habit of enjoying complaining about it. When you realise that this is not benefiting anyone, you can consider whether there is anything you can do to change this and consider talking up the offer of help.
3) Ask for help
In some cultures in particular, it is seen as negative when you ask for help, like you are not capable of doing the job yourself. This does not need to be the case. There are ways to ask for help effectively. It can be very powerful to ask the right people for help at the right time. Consider if you need help and if you do who you can ask. It can be beneficial to have all the data clearly laid out along with what help you need and why.
4) Stop wasting time stressing
Have you ever been so stressed that you are spending time just worrying about everything rather than tackling any of it? It is a common issue that people are so stressed about being so busy, that rather than ticking things off the list, they jump from one thing to another, wasting energy and not actually achieving the tasks that need to be done. The best advice for this is to adopt a ninja mindset. In the Productivity Ninja, Graham Allcot talks about how to take on a ninja mindset and gives clear advice on how to minimise time wasting and get on with the tasks at hand.
5) Live in the present
Do you ever stop to consider how much time you are worrying about things that might or might not happen in the future? You can end up spending lots of time thinking about what might go wrong and what could happen in the future, but the more you live in the present, the less time you will spend stressing about things that might never even happen. Planning for the future is something different and can be very helpful, it is wasting time worrying about things that you can’t control that you should try to minimise.
6) Take action to make a change
There may be some things that stress you out that you can’t change. For example, if you hate your boss and they aren’t going anywhere, you’re probably not going to be able to escape from them. You are however still in charge of the situation and you can make a change. You could change jobs, move companies, speak to your boss to try and address the issues or change your approach to dealing with your boss. When you realise that you always have an option and you can always make a change, the stress will lift if you take positive action.
Don’t join the masses in a stress frenzy, slow down, breathe, relax and enjoy today. I’d love to hear in the comments below your views on stress and how you manage it.