Remember the times when you saw “that guy” in the office? You know, the big shot, the VIP, with the hectic look and bags under his eyes.
The stressed appearance made him look 20 years older. When you started your career, you promised yourself that you won’t let the stress and pressure of the work affect you like that.
Years later, you find yourself in the same position.
You look at yourself in the mirror, but this time you don’t see that hectic look or bags under the eyes.
Instead, it’s the feeling of overwhelm and helplessness. Thoughts of being told your a failure or weak start to build as you try and hold back your emotions.
Sitting alone in your hotel room you try and call your partner but their phone is switched off.
You try to distract yourself by aimlessly scrolling through facebook and random videos, all the time trying to distract yourself from your mind.
It starts to get late, but your mind just won’t shut down.
Then you feel your body start to get warm, your heart starts to race. It beats so hard you can feel it in your throat, across your entire chest. You go into a panic.
Is it a heart attack?
Maybe it’s cancer or another disease…
Your palms become all sweaty and you feel totally overwhelmed. Alone you feel isolated, scared and broken. The shock is so powerful you can’t see an end to the panic.
With nobody to call you lay in bed and accept your fate.
Suicide and other random thoughts fill your mind.
Like most people panic attacks, burnout and suicidal thoughts can appear from nowhere, but the truth is it can happen to the anyone. Even those at the top of their game. The billionaires, CEO’s, VP’s, Heads, operational staff…..
It can build up over many years like a bucket of water which never quite fills up until suddenly, you hit that wall. It might be the excessive pressure from work, family troubles or some deep-rooted problem buried for many years. Whatever that is, it causes the water to swell and pour over the sides.
You suddenly have flashbacks to times when you ignored the same physical and emotional pain because you didn’t want to accept help.
The fear of being seen as weak in front of your boss or friends stopped you from seeking help. The embarrassment of explaining your thoughts to a doctor made you turn away. Drink, drugs, isolation or just working harder helped distract your mind.
But this time you know you’re in deep water and feeling alone in that hotel room causes you to re-evaluate what really matters.
You ask yourself how you could manage things differently.
Are there any simple things I could do to control stress at work?
You lay back on your bed call the employee assistance line and speak to a counselor which suddenly drops your anxiety level from 10 to 7.
Just taking this action makes you feel more in control. Next, you write grab a pen and paper and start to make a list of your next steps.
You write down:
1, Call my doctor at 9 am.
2, Cancel all my meetings and take time off.
3, Learn what causes stress
4, Find support
As you can’t sleep you start to google and find hundreds of pages, blogs, and articles on stress.
You decided to start by figuring out how to reframe your relationship with stress.
Your Starting Point – What Causes Stress
Stress isn’t an ON/OFF button.
It persists when you get back home from work and you can’t simply switch it off. It causes problems like:
- sleep disturbances
- short temper
- high blood pressure
- weakened immune system
- difficulty concentrating
As you take a look at the list you notice that most of them apply to you.
But you find out the bucket doesn’t stop here— it can get even worse. Chronic stress is linked with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
You recall all those times in hotels, offices, railway stations, and airports when you drank sugary drinks and sweets to alleviate stress.
The trouble is you start to understand why you and your peers behave the way they do when they’re affected by stress. Some overeat while some starve themselves. Some do drugs while others drink. The coping mechanisms are different, but the results are devastatingly the same.
But this only tells you about the effects of stress.
Being a smart you uncover different types of stress. And this is what you found.
Here is where the sources of stress hide
There are a couple of types of stress like eustress, acute stress, emotional stress, and chronic stress.
Because you know you suffered from chronic stress you keep researching its causes.
You find out it occurs when you get too much of one or the other stress in your body. Because stress, in small doses, is good for you but over a long period of time it can cause numerous health-related problems. For example, if you have a project coming up and you need to pick up the pace of work because of the tight deadline. Stress will help you push it over the line, but after the project is done, it needs time to settle down – like allowing the body to reset and find its balance. The term homeostasis from your old science class flash across your mind.
You now look at your watch and it’s 10:30 pm. You’re still wide awake but feel calmer the more you understand stress.
Next, you understand that when you are constantly stressed out, your body doesn’t have time to recuperate from it, problems start to occur.
The warning signs are sometimes hard many people disregard and ignore them until they become a problem. You suddenly start to see patterns in your own health. “Red flags” starts appearing as you note down the causes:
- Feeling anxious, irritable, depressed
- Social withdrawal
- Using alcohol and/or drugs to cope with it
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of sexual drive
- Sleep problems
- Apathy, loss of interest for work
- Feeling fatigued
- Problem sleeping
The last example of a sleeping problem is a big one for many of your friends.
You look at the time again and the clock on the hotel wall points to 11 pm.
After a deep breath, you carry on reading.
As a proud person you always wanted to show others that being “cool under pressure” was the right thing to do, but as this famous entrepreneur thought, stress still affected his sleep.
That gave you more relief knowing someone else was also suffering.
Knowing the effects of stress, what causes it to happen and the indicators (red flags) you decide to take action and protect your health. Not just for the short-term but as part of your daily habits and work.
You pull together 11 simple ways of how to manage stress at work using the best hacks and techniques from researchers, CEOs and thought leaders.
11 Ways on how to manage stress at work
1. Act rather than react
“We experience stress when we feel that situations are out of our control,” says Sharon Melnick, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of Success Under Stress. Melnick has studied over 10 years of Harvard research and has field tested this on more than 6,000 clients and trainees.
When we feel that the situation is out of our control, we activate the stress hormone which can, later on, become chronic. When it does, it affects confidence, concentration, and well-being. The advice that Melnick gives is to identify what is in your control and what isn’t. Typically, this means that you are in control of your behaviors and actions, while macro events and someone else’s tone of voice isn’t. Do your part the best that you can and let everything else go.
2. Eliminate interruptions
Modern workers are interrupted seven times an hour and distracted up to 2.1 hours a day. This causes us to always be busy without being productive, barely managing to finish any project on time.
That’s why it’s a wonder that a person managed to:
- Write 6 bestselling books
- Earn a computer science Ph.D. from MIT
- Obtain a tenured professorship at Georgetown
- Father three kids
Oh, and the biggest thing— he did all of this while shutting down work at 5:30 p.m. every single day and taking weekends off.
This 35-year-old person is Cal Newport and no, he isn’t a magician. Cal uses a principle called Deep work, “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task whose results are valuable and difficult to replicate,” and that’s how he obtains massive results.
3. Schedule your day to be focused and productive
Do you sometimes feel like the only thing you’re doing is putting out one fire after another? Like the only thing you’re doing is managing crises?
Well, that’s because you’re confusing urgent with the important.
This is something which Stephen Covey talked about in his book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. He introduces the 2X2 matrix called “The Eisenhower box”, also called the urgent-important matrix
The point is to prioritize the matter which is in the top right corner of the matrix— the non-urgent but important matter. If you can manage to spend most of your time in that quadrant instead of the urgent one, you will effectively deal with stress.
4. Eat right
This is something a lot of people are forgetting about when it comes to stress. Proper nutrition is important for almost every single aspect of our activity and energy.
Brendon Burchard in his best-selling book High-Performance Habits mentions that people ignore their health first by cutting sleep and taking fast food as a source of energy (this connects with the previous point of doing important tasks first)
Only 41 percent of employees say their employer helps workers develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. So it’s on to you to take responsibility and start eating the right food which will nourish your body with energy and optimize your health.
5. Get proper sleep
This connects to the last point heavily and there are many case studies done on the connection of sleep with stress and anxiety in life. One example that I will mention here is by Charlie Hoehn. He is a keynote speaker, author of four books, and he has helped edit and launch The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. He worked with people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, Eric Ries, and Charles Duhigg.
Hoehn had the tendency to work all around the clock, pulling all-nighters and he never seemed to sleep. He would brag about sleeping only six hours in three days. But then the lagging effect came and it struck him hard.
The way he recuperated was by optimizing the quality of his sleep. He knew that it needed to become a priority and it did. He made sure to plug his cell phone charger far away from the bed, to always go to bed at the same time (10 pm), and to cover all sources of light. After only a month of doing this, he started experiencing massive results.
But nutrition and sleep go in a trifecta and the third part is exercise.
6. Exercise regularly
Again, something that we ignore first when fires start to emerge but this is the last thing we should skip. Not only is regular exercise important for physical tasks and keeping up our body healthy, but you need exercise for mental performance as well.
Exercise increase production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF causes new neurons to grow in your hippocampus and other areas of the brain, creating increased plasticity and the ability to learn faster, remember more, and improve overall brain function.
7. Sharing is caring
In 2011 on Necker Island, a privately owned island by Richard Branson, a fire struck out from a bolt of lightning and burned down his main house.
Luckily, nobody out of the 20 people who were there at the time didn’t get injured. As soon as everyone was safe, Branson turned around and watched the spectacular fire that was gushing out of his former home.
While watching it, Branson realized that this fire made them all come together. He didn’t look at it as a catastrophe, but as a bliss which struck his life. After he rebuilt the house, he hosted a large spectacle every year on the same date as the fire to build the same spirit of connectedness with the people around him.
They build a huge bonfire and share stories with friends around. This is one more “excuse” for Branson to reach out to people he likes and invite them to hang around on his island.
You don’t need to have a private island for this. Inviting a couple of friends (and family) to do something together is rejuvenating. Sharing the good and the bad with your friends is what helps you lead a happier life.
8. Reframe your story
There was a Jewish psychotherapist named Viktor E. Frankl and he is responsible for creating the Third Viennese school of psychotherapy called Logotherapy.
Frankl’s personal experience was horrible. He was imprisoned in three death camps between 1940-1944 but he somehow managed to survive. After seeing the worst of humanity, he wrote a book called Man’s Search For Meaning where he reframed his story to draw strength from it.
He said that “In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” Frankl mentioned that all of us have the power to change our stories because there is a space between a stimulus and a response. And in that small space, we have the absolute control to choose our response. In that response lies our growth and freedom.
9. Use breathing techniques
When we talk about breathing techniques, we almost always imagine a new-age type of person sitting on a mat doing it. That’s why this will come as a surprise.
A retired Navy SEAL commander Mark Divine explained how they train the SEAL’s to handle stress. Mark is the founder of SEALIFT and an author of Unbeatable Mind and The Way of The Seal
Mark mentions that they teach SEAL’s his box-breathing technique which helps them deal with stress at life-threatening situations. The deep and controlled breath-ins through your nose let your body relax. This makes you feel a significant drop in stress.
10. Feel comfortable with people doing it at 80% as good as you would
This is a big one for anyone managing a team. Building trust in your team and your employees to do something the right way takes a lot of work. The concern is either in the trust that you have in the employees or their level of skill when they’re doing it.
That’s why Gary Vaynerchuk said that you need to be comfortable with people doing something at 80 percent of what you are capable of doing. So if you can do something on a skill level of 100 percent, find people who can do it at a 70-80 percent of what you could do.
This doesn’t mean that the task will be poorly done. Not at all. This just means that you will focus on things which require your attention more and that you will trust your team and your employees to handle the other tasks almost as good as you would.
11. Find purpose and joy in your job
This is something where Bigsmiles.co can help you out with.
We have a 5-week coaching program designed to help you find your purpose and passion in life.
To help you become more productive and motivated in a positive way, which enables you to feel able to relax, step back and refuel.
If you feel ready to change your circumstances and make positive changes to your like please get in touch.
See our coaching solutions.
Remember the times when you saw “that guy” in the office? You know, the big shot, the VIP, with the hectic look and bags under his eyes. The stressed appearance made him look 20 years older. When you started your career, you promised yourself that you won’t let the stress and pressure of the work affect you like that.
We covered all of this so that years from now, you won’t look at yourself in the mirror and find the same VIP guy in the reflection.
Now you know the causes and the sources of stress like headaches, sleep problems, stomachaches, irritability, as well as the 11 ways on how to deal with stress at work:
- Act rather than react
- Eliminate interruptions
- Schedule your day to be focused and productive
- Eat right
- Get proper sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Sharing is caring
- Reframe your story
- Use breathing techniques
- Feel comfortable with people doing it at 80% as good as you would
- Find purpose and joy in your job
I know that this can seem like a lot to implement. I’ve been there as well and I remember the helping hand from my coach when I went through a stressful period.
That’s why I offer you the same help I received.
See our coaching solutions here.