We define stress as the effect on well-being caused by the feeling that the demands of the environment exceed one’s own resources; surely today, with the pace of life we lead, whether for one reason or another, we all, to a greater or lesser degree, suffer from it.
Since it is difficult not to have stress in the society in which we live (catching up with new technologies, difficult access to the labour market, overload of work, uncertainty, combination of personal life with professional life…), we need formulas to be able to either eliminate it or reduce as much as possible the effects it produces on our organism.
We will focus on professional stress, that is, stress derived from work, and I will give you ten management strategies. We will start with the most important one:
Establish good relationships with your colleagues
This is the determining factor in being able to tolerate more or less stress. The social network, feeling valued by one’s peers, taken into account, supported in difficult moments, feeling understood in the face of difficulties, is the most powerful tool that we humans have to better tolerate what surpasses us. If, in addition, we have the possibility of sharing with our environment everything that generates a feeling of lack of control, the strategy is even more powerful. If in the institution where you work there are good relations with your colleagues, you are lucky in this aspect and you will be more resistant when you feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of the work. If you run a team of people, encourage good relationships, look to establish a good working climate between all of them.
If you feel that you can’t get to everything but are not organized, you need to get organized before you ask for help. If you bring a team of people, to work well, the tools they use to work must be in condition, the space must be tidy, things must be in place. Values such as meeting deadlines, punctuality, order, etc. are necessary to work well. It is not necessary to go to extremes but it is difficult to work well if these basic values are not followed.
Your workspace must be operational, not only for you, but also for all those who work with you. Not everyone works well with the same level of order; perhaps you are one of those who works with a table full of papers and works well; or perhaps you need to have everything in place and manage the affairs of one person at a time. Either way, a good criterion for knowing if you are working well is knowing how long it takes to find information each time you need it. The time spent looking when we don’t find things is a time that tells us something can be improved.
If you are overloaded with tasks, one option to have a less loaded list is to delegate; but think about the others too, if they are like you, all it will do is change the person problem, but the problem will still exist. Well understood delegation – not passing on tasks that you don’t feel like doing – is a tool that contributes to organizational growth, helps with maturation and the acquisition of new learning. Keep in mind that you should delegate time, capacity and knowledge to someone who is willing to do the proposed work. And when you delegate, assess whether you have to say how to do things; keep in mind that with people with initiative and self-confidence, the best way to turn into performance talent is to say what needs to be done, for when it has to be done and leave room for improvement. Talent always finds the path of least resistance, and it is that which passes through the capacities of each one.
Often when you take on tasks you think you shouldn’t take on or when you don’t put words to things that make you uncomfortable, you stay, “badly. Assertiveness is the tool that helps us on an individual level to combat this uncomfortable feeling. Expressing at the right time, to the right person, in the right context and in a respectful way what has bothered us helps us feel good about ourselves and at the same time tries not to make our interlocutor feel uncomfortable. It should also be clear that being assertive does not ensure that the other person will take what we say well. By the same token, we can be aggressive towards a person and not let him or her feel badly about it; in any case, if we are assertive it is more likely that we will feel good about ourselves and that our interlocutor will receive our message better. An assertive organization will not keep the discomfort, the uneasiness; people will express what they feel, although expressing does not automatically imply that the environment will listen to us, but it does generate a culture in which things can be expressed in a respectful way.
Breathing is necessary to live, but if we breathe better, we will live better. Perhaps you have never paid much attention to how you breathe. People who have been trained in this subject know that if we breathe using the diaphragm properly, we inhale more air and ventilate better. If we practice this breathing we will have less anxiety, less depression, less fatigue and we will contribute to the cells of our body oxygenating better. It is true that if we have never paid attention to this aspect, it is not realistic to pretend in a few days to always breathe using the diaphragm. A more realistic approach is, once you have learned to breathe using the diaphragm, to try to do so a few times throughout the day. Maybe in the morning, when you get up, before you start the day’s pace, can be a good time; maybe before you start a difficult task, maybe when you go to sleep. If, in addition, while you are practicing your breathing you fall asleep, that is perfect
Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation
Edmon Jacobson was a physician who around 1929 devised the well-known “Jacobson’s progressive relaxation”. It is about, in a few minutes and a little practice, achieving a state of body relaxation and releasing the tension that stress makes us accumulate in our body. The idea is to work with your own body by tensing and releasing muscle groups for a few seconds, so that with a couple of passes we manage to release the tension that accompanies us.
Certainly, as we practice this exercise, we will be able to relax more in less time, so we will have to dedicate more time to the first days to achieve a certain relaxation.
Researching stress, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, created the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) program in 1979. It is an eight-week program that aims to improve attention and reduce discomfort or stress, so that complex situations that arise throughout life can be better managed.
There are authors who affirm that the program helps to increase resilience, well-being, physical and psychological health, reinforces competencies and allows for more presence and more empathy; that we will be able to better connect with the people with whom we interact and reduce the level of conflict.
Biofeedback consists of increasing awareness and control of some internal processes such as muscle tension, heart rate or skin surface temperature that are normally overlooked. This practice requires the help of a professional who, through the use of a device, guides us and gives us tools to achieve this goal.
Exercise helps release endorphins, an endogenous opiate that helps us feel better emotionally and physically, so it’s a natural way to try to feel good. However, if you have to choose what kind of sport you do, choose something that you like, and above all, be regular, it doesn’t have to be very intense: there are authors who recommend that while you practice it you should be able to talk and you shouldn’t be able to sing. Often, people, when they start to practice a sport, have an enthusiastic beginning and little by little their motivation and dedication decreases; bearing this in mind, set yourself a realistic goal that you can reach with some ease (don’t set yourself an excessive milestone that is perhaps very good, but you won’t be able to reach).
And finally, if you’re stressed and mindfulness, going to biofeedback sessions or exercising is even more stressful, stop doing things. Look at your agenda, check your commitments, talk to your colleagues, co-workers, partner, friends, acquaintances and stop doing some of the things that cause you stress. You may still be able to cope now, but in the long run you may pay the price for having such a full schedule.
Keep in mind that stress can be an expensive experience and we only have one life. It is likely to be more fulfilling if, instead of living through it under stress, we enjoy it from the tranquility, joy and well-being with ourselves.