Work Smarter//

How to Control Your Stress When You Feel Overwhelmed With Work

It starts with empowering yourself to make necessary changes.

Fizkes/ Shutterstock
Fizkes/ Shutterstock

Who have you empowered to take charge of your work life? Who do you allow to judge you on the adequacy of your toil? When you tell yourself that you need more hours in the day, that you should or you have to or you can’t, you become a victim of the situation. 

But you’re not at the mercy of the work world. You just think you are. It’s essential to reach a place within you where frantic rushing, adrenaline surges, and fatigue no longer feel normal. No matter how stressed and overwhelming work becomes, you always have the freedom to choose how you respond to difficult situations. And work demands can’t take away that liberty unless you allow them to. 

Here are a few ideas for daily empowerment: 

• Instead of reacting immediately to that non-urgent but really difficult email, take a deep breath, step away from your workstation, and treat yourself to a brief walk or your favorite beverage. 

• When bad news hits, focus on the upside of the downside situation. “I have to pay a fortune in taxes” becomes “I made more money this year than ever before.” 

• When under pressure, bring to mind in vivid detail a time you handled a challenge with confidence and courage and notice your muscles relax, heart rate drop, and breathing slow. 

PINPOINT OPPORTUNITIES

When you’re stressed, your mind targets the negative threat instead of looking for a positive opportunity within the problem. If you’re searching for a solution to a crisis, your negative emotions keep you focused on the problem. Without realizing it, you block out the opportunity.  Positivity leads you toward more possibilities, automatically lifting your work stress. A positive scope widens your worldview, changes your outlook, and al- lows you to take in more information that can lead to better solutions. 

In order to pinpoint opportunities contained in negative situations, try asking, “How can I make this situation work to my advantage?” or “What can I manage, learn, or overcome in this instance?” 

STOP THE BLAME GAME

How often do you blame others for your shortcomings or foul moods? When things don’t go as planned, try looking deeply inside yourself and look for the real reasons. No matter how often you blame others, it will not change whatever it is about you that makes you un- happy. The main thing blame does is distract you from taking an honest look at yourself as you search for external reasons to explain your discontent. 

Every time you blame coworkers or family members for your work frustrations or failures, you prevent yourself from healing your work addiction. Looking deeper within yourself with compassion, and commit- ting to owning your actions, lifts you from workplace adolescence to workplace maturity. 

OVERRIDE NEGATIVITY BIAS

Scientists say that everyone is susceptible to a negativity bias that causes you to overestimate life’s obstacles and underestimate your ability to conquer them. When you’re constantly in survival mode, no wonder it’s a challenge for you to achieve work/life balance! 

But there’s good news, too. The secret is to underestimate challenges and overestimate your ability to handle them. Scientists say it takes three positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. With a little practice, you can override your mind’s knee-jerk negativity and activate your rest- and- digest response. It’s time to look at work demands as an adventure to experience and consider setbacks as lessons to learn from instead of failures to endure. 

EMBRACE MAYBE

Things don’t always go as planned. Life will go awry and unexpected events will blindside you. Maybe it rains on the picnic you’re having. The car stalls in traffic. A cold puts you out of commission. You won’t always get the promotion. Life is not on your time schedule, and you don’t get to tailor it to your needs. It tailors you to its needs. 

Work addiction counts on certainty and predictability. It wants you to know what, who, when, where, and how things will happen. Otherwise, you freak out. 

Being okay with not having a definite outcome of- fers you comfort from your rigid expectations. It loos- ens you up to the fact that for every possibility, there are numerous ways a situation can resolve. 

LEARN TO ENJOY WAITING

My guess is that you might have difficulty waiting for solutions to problems. Perhaps you look for quick answers to rush to closure and often make impulsive decisions so you can get to the next item on the agenda. 

If the right decision were nestled inside an egg, you couldn’t force the egg to hatch. Important work decisions are like that, too. They don’t come when you force them. Outside- the- box solutions tend to appear while you are doing other things — vacuuming or rearranging your desk — because they need the opportunity to hatch on their own.

Excerpt from #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life with permission from the author and publisher.

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