Needless stress at work. 5 self-defences

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The Dalai Lama said: “People fascinate me. First, they sacrifice their health to get money and then they try to sacrifice money to regain their health. They worry about the past and future so much that they do not enjoy the present. They try to live as if they are never to die and, in the end, they die without having lived.”

It’s easily said for him, you may think. After all the Dalai Lama does not go to work! However, there are plenty of people who love going to work even in this country. People who do not become stressed needlessly. People who can smile on Monday. Why aren’t they suffering too?

According to the statistics, more than 35% of Europeans suffer from work-related stress. Why do we let it affect us so much when it’s “only” about work, not life? How many times have we promised ourselves to stop getting stressed with idiots, to start looking at problems with a light heart and to see demotivating difficulties as motivating challenges?

Revenge according to the Dalai Lama

I have focused on ways to get rid of needless worries. After all, the Dalai Lama, who appears on the cover of this issue, says: “Let’s imagine a situation when your colleague hates you and constantly tries to create problems for you. If you lose self-control and let hatred grow inside you, it will be you suffering from poor digestion and loss of good sleep, and it won’t be long before you have to start using medicines to calm down. You will become grey and wrinkled. Even more serious health problems may appear. It will also affect your mood. As a result, your friends will start avoiding you. And your colleague will have a reason to be happy. His wish has been fulfilled without him having to hurt you physically.

However, if you stay calm despite all of his attempts and injustice suffered, you will stay healthy, and you won’t lose your joy or friends. On the contrary, the darkness will creep into the mind of your colleague. This is a wise payback.” Just consider how right he is!

The positive side of stress

Stress is not all negative. When we maintain stress at the right level, it can even help us work more effectively, promote healthy competition and force us to resolve problems and seek creative solutions. However, when it gets out of control it can rob us of the ability to perform our work effectively, jeopardise our career, affect our health negatively and lead to illnesses. Chronic stress is the second most common health problem after back pain.

So, how do we find the right balance? Let’s look at a couple of points briefly. We will start by removing the needless stress – the one stemming from us.

1. Communicate clearly and effectively

Many needless problems that cause stress stem from insufficient or ineffective communication. Let’s not focus only on our verbal or written expression. Listening is also part of communication, especially in high-ranking jobs.

TIP: Let’s read to improve our vocabulary, let’s write emails in longer sentences instead of points and let’s focus on communication mistakes made by ourselves and others to learn from them.

2. Delegate tasks

Are you also one of the workers who believe that nobody else can do even simple tasks as well as you can? And are you then overcome with a feeling that you are doing too much and the others are lazy? Let’s eliminate lots of needless stress by learning to delegate – let others do some tasks. Of course, nobody will do them the same way we do but the same applies vice versa – we cannot do the work the same way others do. Let’s use the abilities other people have that we may not. Let’s learn to use our own head, creativity and solution methods. One person does not need to manage all the tasks relating to their work. A team can manage much more than an individual. We only have so much time on our hands.

TIP: We will work more effectively if we focus on the things we do best and let others take care of the rest.

3. Let’s not procrastinate

The desire to postpone a task until later appears whenever we encounter a task we would rather not do. So how can we stop procrastinating? TIP: Read the book The End of Procrastination.

4. Let’s rest regularly and sufficiently

When one asks stressed-out workers why they don’t take their leave, they explain that 1) they do not need leave; and 2) they have so much work, they can’t afford to take leave. This is despite the fact that annual leave is not just a replacement for holidays we used to have at school. Annual leave is an opportunity to relax, to be open to new stimuli, and to focus more. People working long-term without taking leave are more prone to diseases and, unfortunately, they tend to underestimate the messages their bodies are sending. They do not stop to cure their illnesses because once again 1) they don’t need to lie down; and 2) they have so much work that they cannot afford to lie down. Yet, every illness is a warning from our body to say that we need to rest.

However, the body finds its own solution. When we don’t listen to it, it simply switches us off. We can only hope that it will be temporary.

TIP: Let’s plan our rest time – whether weekends or longer holidays – let’s plan these roughly a year ahead. We will see the days off in the calendar and we can prepare for our absence at work and look forward to these days. Anticipation brings positive energy.

5. Let’s learn to say NO

Many people have an entrenched problem with uttering these two letters. They learnt in their childhood that they should not oppose others; that they need to win other people’s favour and that if they do not fulfil a task, a punishment will follow and that hurts. Yet, we cannot take on every project, task and role that comes our way. We lack the capacity, ability and time for this. Let’s consider whether projects that do not fall within our responsibilities will help us achieve our career objectives. If this is not the case, reject the offer politely and focus on more important tasks at hand (more in the article 5 ways to say No).

TIP: Our excessive efforts will not even be met with appreciation because continuous work, day and night, reduces our productivity. Let’s start training ourselves by saying NO to easier tasks. Saying NO from time to time is important for a healthier life.

© Petr Casanova