Last time we had a brief look at the symptoms of stress. Eight out of ten executives suffer from stress but most deny that it is a problem. The symptoms we discussed last time are your early warning system telling you to stop and think for a while. Next time you have an unaccountable chest pain may be your last, so now is the time to take some action.
There are 6 different types of stress:
Work related – From over work or working under constant pressure
Emotional – Stress caused by difficult relationships, family problems or bereavement
Fear – When you find yourself in a threatening situation
Anxiety – Worrying about what might happen
Environmental – Noise – Light – Smell – Comfort – Pollution – etc.
Biological – from your diet, and whatever else you put into your body
But the bad news is …. Stress is Cumulative
If you have a bad day at work, you sit in an uncomfortable chair looking at a flashing computer screen under fluorescent lighting or if you have a difficult relationship with your partner at the moment or if you are eating badly and you are not fit, then you will probably be displaying some of the stress symptoms that we discussed last week. Do not worry because I have a solution for you.
Stress is cumulative but so is the solution.
You may not be able to change your workload but you may not have to, to be able to solve your stress related problems. Write an action plan today listing the six types of stress above and write next to them what you plan to do to make your life less stressful. Consider the following questions as an example:
What can I do to make my workload easier?
Could I delegate more of my work?
Can I train myself to be more efficient (typing skills, speed reading etc)?
Is there something I can do with that difficult relationship at work?
Am I taking it out on my partner and family?
Do I still believe in myself?
Few of us live in constant fear, but if this is a problem for you is there something you can do about it? Maybe move to a different area for instance.
Worrying about what might happen is a real problem for some people but this is crazy. Planning is a possible solution for this problem. If you have a good personal plan for your life that you continue to work towards you will be less likely to worry about your future.
Is my chair comfortable at work? Do I have appropriate lighting? Am I working at the right temperature and in clean fresh air? Is my environment appropriate at home? (Every member of the household must have space that they can call their own, no matter how old they are.)
Am I eating correctly? We all know what we should be eating, our body, not our taste buds, tells us what is right and what is not, just listen and you will improve your diet.
Am I fit? Just 20 minutes exercise every other day is enough to get started.
Do I drink or smoke too much?
Drugs may also be adding to your problems. If you are taking drugs prescribed by a doctor of course you should continue taking them. Drugs for depression are often emotionally and/or physically addictive however and it is much better to look at the other things we have discussed to get yourself in order.
Now you have a plan, make it work and stress will simply be something that heightens your performance not something that holds you back.
Put the Glass Down
I heard this story recently and it is a good example so I am sharing it here.
A lecturer was giving a lecture to his student on stress management. He raised a glass of water and asked the audience, “How heavy do you think this glass of water is?”
The students’ answers ranged from 20g to 500 gm.
It does not depend on the absolute weight. It depends on how long you hold it.
If I hold it for a minute, its OK.
If I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance.
It is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.
If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, we will not be able to carry on, the burden becoming increasingly heavier.
What you have to do is to put the glass down, rest for a while before holding it up again. We have to put down the burden periodically, so that we can be refreshed and are able to carry on.
So before you return home from work tonight, put the burden of work down. Don’t carry it back home. You can pick it up tomorrow.
Whatever burdens you are having now on your shoulders, let it down for a moment if you can. Pick it up again later when you have rested.