Are you feeling stressed at work? Would you like to Stop The 9-5 Stress Cycle? When we feel immense levels of stress, a part of our brain called the ‘amygdala’ lights up, triggering our “fight or flight” response. We get a hit of adrenaline, our heart rate and blood pressure increases, and suddenly we find ourselves making quick, impulsive decisions. Now, this is usually a good thing when we are in actual danger.
But it does not help us in the slightest when we are at work and have a tense moment with a colleague, boss, or client. We end up saying things we wished we hadn’t or saying things in a manner we wished we hadn’t. You can probably recall a time (or two) when this has happened. And to make ourselves feel better we try to justify our position to colleagues and friends because we feel so bad in knowing we were wrong in the situation. This strategy may make feel good for 5 minutes, but you will find yourself repeating the same story many times, just so you can get your 5 minute feel-good feeling!
Too much stress can not only land us in the frying pan, but can affect our physical and mental health, as well as work productivity. The solution?
1. Focus on your message. A major source of stress in the workplace is that we focus on protecting our reputation. That means we do anything to ensure that others like us, affirm us and validate us. Focus instead on your message. What is it do you know? Where do you stand on any given topic? Have you adequately reflected on what you believe in any given situation? Be true to yourself and allow yourself the opportunity to change your mind too. It’s okay if others disagree with you. What’s important is that you understand & respect each others point of view and stop fighting to win for the sake of your reputation.
2. Manage Up. If you are a manager, team leader or boss, you need to be aware of the warning signs of a highly stressed employee before they crash and burn. Be proactive by talking to your staff about how the risks of taking too much on, and invest in stress reduction strategies such as meditation. By treating your staff to a personal or team development session such as meditation in the workplace, you are helping to eliminate low productivity and poor mental health in your invaluable employees, and creating a closer, healthier team environment. They’ll love you for it!
3. Take a Long Pause. This is a tricky one because it’s that very personal comment that has triggered the amygdala to fly into an out of control state in the first place. So here is how you might learn to change from reacting to responding mode. Momentarily shut yourself down. It’s as simple as that. I call it the long pause. Just pause and wait. It might feel awkward at first but what generally happens is that the other person continues to fill the silence with more words. Those extra words can help you understand whether they are being mean and a jerk or whether you just avoided a misunderstanding.
It’s not enough to do that. You must also ground what’s happened and I simply suggest you go for a walk. Switch off. Deactivate. Leave your devices at your desk. Go for a walk to your favourite spot or sit somewhere unfamiliar where no colleagues can run into you. Focus on you. Process the day, the week, or even the year that you’ve just had. You might even want to write some things down so that you can catch up with what has actually happened. That little bit of time that you give to yourself by simply detaching from social media, emails, and phone calls will have an immediate affect on your mental health. You will start to feel lighter and more free, meaning you are more mentally available to not only your workplace, but your friends and family, too.
4. Enhance Your Work Environment. It’s important to be surrounded by things that make us feel good and remind us why we work so hard. Some people mix things up by putting an air-purifying plant on their desk, or pinning up photos of loved ones, holiday destinations and invitations to upcoming events that they’re looking forward to. This can inspire you throughout those stressful moments, bringing you back down to Earth when you feel overwhelmed by things, and triggering a more rational response to bad situations.
5. Take Control and Disconnect. Consider this. The average office worker spends 90% of their time indoors. Most of that time is spent behind a computer. When we leave our desk, we are accompanied by our smart phones, iPads, and laptops that keep us connected to our boss, employees, and/or colleagues. Ironically, this theory of “connectedness” is what separates us from ourselves and can cause a stress overload.
Bonus Tip! Get Help. Too much stress can result in a burnout. When we ignore the warning signs or simply don’t have enough time to even focus on ourself, we may find ourself at sudden breaking point. It is essential that we avoid this. How? Talk to your boss or manager, especially when the stress involves another colleague or a need for clarity in your role and responsibilities.
If your boss or manager is not able to provide you with adequate communication and leadership, approach human resources (HR). Just be sure to not make any rash decisions before you feel grounded and sure.