Don't Stress It

by DavalosMcCormack on August 14, 2009

People handle stressful situations in very different ways. Some do so with dignity and aplomb – whatever aplomb is – others do so by freaking out and being semi-hysterical. One woman I know reacted to her husband being attacked by a mountain lion by whacking the lion in the face with a very large log, chasing the lion away. Now admittedly that’s a rather unusual circumstance but it just proved what an unusual woman she was.

In contrast someone else I know gets freaked out by anything that strays outside the ordinary office routine. Question something they wrote and they get really bent out of shape and hissy, a state of mind that can last for hours.

Now, we’d all love to be that first lady. Calm, resolute, purposeful under pressure. But sometimes things pile on so thick and fast that we all end up more like the latter guy. Frazzled, panicky, not reacting well. That’s not just bad for your performance at work it’s also bad for your health. Letting stress overwhelm you can increase your risk of depression, depress your immune system and leave you an emotional wreck.

So, here are a few pointers on how to handle or reduce stress and make your life much more pleasant.

1) Prevent it: how often do you see drivers honking their horns and yelling at other drivers because they are stuck in traffic or running late. Think how easy it might have been to avoid getting into that situation if they’d just left a few minutes early. Too many of us create our own stress by putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves, then over reacting to the outcome. So, instead, plan ahead. Leave for important appointments in plenty of time. Don’t wait till the last minute to complete important assignments or jobs, get them done ahead of time. You can’t control every aspect of your life, which is why it’s all the more important to control those areas that you can.

2) Set priorities: too often we get caught up doing things that we have little interest in or have little value for us. At work we may not always have the choice, but often in life we do. So, instead of just mucking through why not write down a list of priorities, things that have real value for you. It will help you focus on what’s important and what’s not.

3) Communicate: I used to work in TV and it never ceased to amaze me how often mistakes were made because someone forgot to tell someone else a critical detail. And these were professional communicators who were sitting in the same room all day! Talking to people not only ensures that you can avoid problems later, it also helps ensure that people understand how you feel about things. Bottling up emotions is never healthy, hiding your feelings achieves nothing. Be open, be honest, be communicative. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

4) Take time out: sometimes we all need a break but too often we fail to take it and end up getting into stressful situations we could easily have avoided. Take a break, go for a walk, get away from everyone around you. It’s a wonderfully simple way of clearing your head and giving you the breathing room you need to get some perspective. Exercise is even better. Working out regularly is a brilliant way of easing stress and staying healthy in mind as well as body. If you don’t have time to do any of that, just step away from your computer or desk and take a deep breath, then do it again, and again. Deep breathing is one of the easiest ways of breaking the stress cycle and giving you some, well, breathing room.

5) Keep your sense of humor; when all about you are in a tizzy and losing their heads, keep a hold of yours and try to find the humor in the situation. Being able to laugh in times of adversity, being able to laugh at yourself, can make a huge difference in your ability to manage stress.

We all have stress in our lives. It may be caused by a cranky boss, stupid colleague, crazy relative or any combination of the above. You can’t change any of those. All you can change is the way you respond to them.

So, next time one or all of them starts driving you crazy, remember those five points. They could make all the difference.

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