Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Help! I'm stressed out!

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith

Glenford Smith, Career Writer

QUESTION: I'm doing okay, generally. However, where work is concerned, I'm not doing so well, and it distresses me. I am worried and stressed out about it, but trying my best to cope. What helpful tips can you share?

- Marsha

ANSWER: Not all the details of your situation have been published. However, we can safely reveal that you're a wife and mother of children at various ages, with a very hectic schedule and a demanding workload. These realities make it easy to understand why you're feeling such overwhelm.

In order to regain your inner peace and feel in control of your work life, however, it starts with clarifying and correcting a popular misconception about stress. It is that stress is caused by such realities as hectic schedules and demanding workloads. It is not.

Stress doesn't 'happen' to us. Rather, it is a self-created internal response, arising from our thinking about our circumstances, and not the circumstances themselves.

Psychologist and author Dr Al Siebert, in his book The Survivor Personality explains: "Surveys identifying 'job stresses' and workshops on job stress reduction are often more harmful than helpful in that they mislead people. For example, whether or not a person experiences stress at work depends upon the person's perception of what is going on and the person's coping skills. It is not the circumstance, it is your reaction to it that counts."

What that means, Marsha, is that the stress and worry you're feeling isn't caused by your objective work realities. Otherwise, all your co-workers would be feeling as stressed out as you are. Fact is, they're not. The stress you're feeling doesn't exist - except in your own thinking.

The distress you're feeling isn't a result of what actually exists objectively on your job. It's the result of how you perceive and interpret what's happening. You are generating the feeling of stress within you by what you're telling yourself your circumstances mean. That's the bad news.

The good news is that you can change this. You can choose your reaction - interpretation and response - to your circumstances. Take charge of what you're telling yourself, and take effective actions to change your emotional state.

Make a list of all your undesirable circumstances. Divide them into two categories - category one: things you can do something about; and category two: things you can't do anything about.

List items in category one in descending order of priority or importance - most important first. Next, take action on item number one.

List items in category two in descending order of distress potential - most distressing first. Next, write what is good, or could be good about each item. For instance, work overload could mean your boss has enormous confidence in you. That's a good thing. Also, it's good you do have a job where people value and depend upon you so much.

Take a break from work, say over a weekend, and enjoy your favourite recreation. Visit the beach, or the park. Go walking with friends. Enjoy your favourite music or movie.

Remember Dr Wayne Dyer's insight: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.