Stress is one of the biggest factors for us to manage day-to-day.
Whether the company is in the middle of a merger, maybe people are being put off or, perhaps you fear losing your job and thus, your lose your home and letting down your family. May you simply feel overloaded in your everyday life. All of these things, and many more, are key causes of major stress in our lives.
If you feel like you’re about to melt down, what should you do?
We all have different thresholds of stress and, all are equally real. Like any problem, what matters is what you do with what you have in front of you.
There are two kinds of problems, in my view. Ones that you can do something about and, ones that you can’t.
Problems that you can’t do anything about are all about focusing on managing your stress levels.
The problems that you can do something about are aided by making plans and, taking action to solve them.
In my experience, the trick is to not confuse the two!
Problems you can’t do anything about
In this instance, you can’t stop a merger and you can’t always stop other people’s behaviour. What you can do is be responsible for your own behaviour in the work place and, acknowledge to yourself that the stress is real and a justifiable reaction to the situation.
Allow yourself permission to be stressed right now and, acknowledge to yourself that this is a serious issue for you.
Brushing stress under the carpet and hoping for the best is simply denying your situation. You may even say to yourself that you ‘should’ be able to manage the load better. Resisting stress can sometimes make it bottle up and finally be expressed in a much more intense way later, perhaps even cause to seek psychological help. My experience is that simply acknowledging the stress, as a natural response to the circumstances, is enough to reduce the negative feeling that comes with it, even if only partially.
Take responsibility for your behaviour
I suggest your number one aim is to do the best you can, in the most professional way, regardless if you stay or are retrenched or if you seek help to delegate tasks.
Regardless of how you feel, remain professional and objective about your situation as you can. It is likely some emotion will be present and it is acceptable to feel these emotions, but the best advice I can give you is to keep them for a safe place to express them outside the office, or with the HR manager – of course this is sometimes easier said than done!
I can also vouch for this from the experience of not getting it right all the time too. If you feel overwhelmed emotionally, then explain this to your manager and seek a safe avenue to communicate – like HR, write an objective non-emotional (and short) email about the situation.
Know that the way you behave is your own responsibility, regardless of the treatment you are getting, the circumstances that are causing your stress, or what others are doing to cause your problems.
You need to take responsibility for yourself and, in doing so, does not equal a weakness. You can still make your point and get what you need in the process.
According to Yale University’s Psychology Department, there is a direct link to acceptance as a major factor in managing stress.
So, one of the most important things to do is to accept that situation. For example, in the case of a company merger, accept that the merger will happen and that you could very well lose your income.
The chance of losing it, when you accept the possible outcome, is real. However, it is likely to trigger you into a problem solving state of mind or, to be clearer about what actions or inactions are best for you right now.
By resisting the reality of it you will likely do nothing in preparation and, simply focus on the fear.
Set yourself a time frame to reassess the problem; it may help you review options. Deferring your worry to the next phase can sometimes help reduce stress.
In the mean time some basic stress management strategies will serve you well. Many are available widely such as exercise, yoga, hypnosis and, mediation.
Problems you can do something about
Solutions are available!
Often, we blame the world around us for our own situation and don’t take responsibility for ourselves.
I’m not talking about those we can’t avoid such as acts of God, accidents or, the harmful treatment we receive from other people. For example, while you can’t stop a company merger, you do have some level of control to prevent what you fear.
By putting a plan in place will help you greatly; not just in keeping stress levels low but, in avoiding the flow on effects. For example, losing your house because you lost your job in the company merger.
Additionally, the worst case scenario does occur, you’ll know you have done all you can to avoid it. That in itself is a good way to manage the stress and self-blame after the fact, too.
What can often get in the way of planning appropriately is negative self-talk around our own beliefs that there is ‘nothing that can be done.’ We leave our future to what we can believe is fate or, procrastinate to the point of no return.
I can’t tell you enough how important it is to replace the negative self-talk with something more resourceful. Something more resourceful sounds like ‘there must be something I can do’ and, therefore, you keep on looking for creative solutions to solve the problem.
Thought suppression doesn’t work
This is not the same as fooling yourself that the problem doesn’t exist.
There is now evidence to suggest that positive visualisation of a future, with your problems already solved, can inhibit your momentum and ability to actually achieve your goals and solve problems.
Thinking positive, it turns out, creates the exact opposite.
The Ghent University of Belgium’s Department of Experimental Psychology and Ghent Institute for Functional and Metabolic Imaging have linked denying ourselves of negative thoughts, by suppressing them, to increase the stress we feel to the point of depression and similar disorders. The test was based on smokers who suppressed their urges to smoke. Those who suppressed their negative thoughts about not smoking were more stressed and, ended up smoking more, than those that acknowledged their stress.
As Pennysylvanian Psychiatrist Dr.Heidi Grant Halvorson describes it ‘Not only does the thought-suppression strategy backfire, it feels terrible while you are doing it’.
You are better off thinking something like, ‘Things aren’t awesome, but I trust that I will find the solution I need to solve this problem’. Trusting yourself to find solutions keeps your mind open to finding options.
Anne Miles is Managing Director of International Creative Services who manage creative and production projects. If you have a question you can Ask Anne About Advertising here or visit www.internationalcreativeservices.com.au.