Not all stress is bad. Hans Selye, a stress researcher, explained:
"No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress all the time. You may think that only serious disease or intense physical or mental injury can cause stress. This is false. Crossing a busy inersection, exposure ot a draft or even sheer joy are enough to activate the body's stress mechanism to some extent. Stress is not necessarily bad for you; it is also the spice of life, for any emotion, any activity, causes stress.
Of course, your system must be prepared to take it. The same stress that makes one person sick, can be an invigorating experience for another.
Coping with Bad Stress and Anxiety
I have found that the biggest cause of stress in my life is rushing to get a job done. We all know that anxiety leads us to rush but many of us do not consider that rushing may lead to anxiety. That's because when we rush we keep telling ourselves we better move faster or else.
A typical thought process at work that leads to stress is: I am having trouble solving this problem, I have to finish the project soon and this problem is holding me up, I have to solve this problem fast. When I think this way I become anxious and stressed. I try to speed up my problem solving. The truth is though that I can't. It is natural that in many projects that unforseen difficult problems continually arise. We don't know how long each problem will take to solve. In my experience rushing actually causes me to take more time to solve a problem. When I rush I make more mistakes and when I rush the job becomes stressful and I look for distractions like going on walks or going out to get food, in order to avoid the stress. The result is that I spend less time working on getting the job done. Whenever I feel the temptation to rush and anxiety about a problem I have found that a helpful thing to say to myself is that the key to getting the job done is not rushing but putting in as many hours as possible and making the best decisions possible.
What happens when there is a deadline? Lets imagine the following scenario. One's angry boss says that we have to get the product out by tomorrow and criticizes us for not being fast enough. He tells us that he's tired of our missing deadlines and he feels that it's our fault. The economy is bad and it would be hard to find another job if we were fired from the one we currently work at. We have children who depend on us for food. We are still more likely to get the job done faster if we are steady and methodical than if we rush.
A favorite saying of a former supervisor of mine is:
"There never is enough time to do the job right, but there is always enough time to do it over."
A simple step toward reducing stress is trying to relax (See the relaxation section). Then we have to stop creating stress within ourselves. One way to do that is to make a plan of action and decide that once one follows that plan of action one won't worry about it. In the case of my web site I could make a plan that I will stop working on it by 11 AM whether I have finished doing what I want to do today or not and then do my other work. That way I'll know I'll get some of my work done. Making a schedule and allocating specific time slots for different tasks prevents tasks that take too long from preventing one from doing other tasks one has to do and creating a lot of anxiety and stress in the process.
Taking breaks is very important. During breaks one can use one's relaxation muscle. Exercise relieves stress. A friend of mine told me about women at her work place who exercise during breaks. They go on a walk together. That's probably very healthy both physically and psychologically. It's certainly healthier than turning to food for stress relief.
Although there may be a lot of pressure to get a task done now, usually deadlines are artificial and don't have to be met. What's more important, rushing to meet deadlines or working methodically and enjoying life. A favorite saying of a former boss of mine was "There's never enough time to do it right but there is always enough time to do it over". If one loses a job because one didn't rush than that job is one that would have made one miserable and one is better off without it. If one takes breaks one can try and relax and put one's goals in perspective. One can try and deal with anger and anxiety and other emotions that can build up at work.
One way to cope with stress is to set realistic goals for oneself. I had a friend who was a graduate student who was working on computer software to solve a difficult problem. Her supervisor went to meetings and told everyone how he had developed software that solved this problem and that he would make it freely available to everyone who asked for it. The problem was the software wasn't ready when he said it was and there were many difficult problems that needed to be surmounted. My friend, the graduate student, felt under tremendous pressure to get the software working.
She would have been better off saying to her supervisor that there were many unsolved problems and that it wasn't ready and not tried to rush it. She felt under pressure to get it ready in order to please her supervisor who she depended on for her graduate degree. If one's supervisor is making unreasonable demands then one can't meet them and it is only self destructive to attempt to accomplish the impossible.
Supervisors often make unreasonable demands because they are unaware of the time it takes to accomplish certain tasks. I have a friend who felt a great deal of stress at work because one of his supervisors expected him to accomplish too much too fast. He was looking for another job and wasn't sleeping at night because of the stress. A couple of months later I saw him and he looked relaxed. I asked him if he had found another job and he told me that he was still at the same job but that it wasn't as stressful anymore. He explained that he communicated to his supervisor that her expectations were unrealistic and that she actually appreciated his letting her know this.
Sometimes we may create anxiety in ourselves in order to motivate ourselves to accomplish what we want to accomplish. This is discussed further in the Happiness is a Choice section of this web site.
This topic of coping with anxiety and stress is discussed further in the pressure pyramid and inner peace sections of this web site. Reducing stress by changing one's attitude at work is discussed in the work section of this web site.
c o p y r i g h t ( c ) 1 9 9 9 - 2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises. All rights reserved
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