Last week I had a day that was going along smoothly until my boss asked me to have the report I was currently working on done by the end of the day. My stress level shot up and I began to work like a wild turkey - no rhythm or reason to my actions. The funny thing was that I was probably going to finish before the end of the day anyway. Earlier that morning I predicted that I would be done around 3pm. The extra stress only freaked me out and it didn't help me work any faster.
I finished the report at 3:30 and I attribute the extra half hour to me getting all worked up and having to calm myself down. That's what spurred on the idea for this post. I wanted to share both the mistakes and the positive aspects of how I processed my stress. I lost a half hour and I don't want the same to happen to you. If you lose a half hour every day because of stress that adds up to 91.25 hours every year. That's over two weeks of work that could have been more productive if you could have released your stress faster. I'm not even factoring in the toll that is taken on the mind and body or the level of happiness that is probably decreased because of your worry.
It's up to you to notice the stress and work with its effects. You can do this by applying a few tips from this article.
1. Become a watcher of your reactions - When my boss told me that the report was due by the end of the day, my heartbeat picked up and a rush of thoughts bombarded me. My first instinct was to go to the bathroom and calm down. My thoughts were rebelling: "who is he to tell me when to get my work done? Uh duh - my boss!", "Maybe I can't get it done.", "I need more time." After I calmed down, I came out of the bathroom and I knew that I needed a plan.
2. Plan out what needs to get done - I wrote out a list of what I needed to do to make it happen.
1. Just keep doing what I was doing (it was just a reminder that I knew that just thirty minutes ago I wasn't worried, but now I am freaking out.)
2. Finish writing the report
3. Double check figures
4. Print it out
5. Check for grammatical errors
6. Submit to the boss
I was able to see the whole picture, which helped me calm down and I got my focus back on task.
3. Look for the positive side - My boss wanted me to get this report done and I knew that unless some emergency popped up that it would in his inbox by the end of the day. I also knew that this opportunity would help me look good.
4. Five minute break - Taking time for a break is the best way to ease your feelings of anxiety. Stress builds upon itself like a freight train going downhill, once it picks up speed it's hard to stop. If you can catch stress early then you can turn it into a productive feeling. That's why I went to the bathroom to collect myself and put the brakes on all my worried thoughts.
"We all know that we work better and feel less stressed if we take regular breaks during the working day. However, the stressed individual may feel uncomfortable and guilty about taking breaks, even when they admit that their usual driven work patterns are causing them stress ("but the work just won't get done"). Research is beginning to establish a scientific basis for common-sense advice.
Our bodies have a Basic Rest and Activity Cycle, consisting of 90-120 minutes of activity followed by 20 minutes of rest."
Andy Smith You Don't Need to Feel Guilty When You Take a Break
5. Process on the way to your favorite stress relief - Many people go on their walk or to their Yoga class with their stress engines running full steam. When they get halfway into their stress-relief routine they finally start to slow down. If you can start the process of relaxing yourself on the way to stress relief, you'll be more willing to release at the beginning of your relaxation routine. You'll have deeper and longer lasting relief. As you're putting on shoes or grabbing your Yoga mat, create relaxed feelings by focusing on the moment or imagining how you will feel when you are on your walk or in your Yoga class.
6. Your Patterns - We all fall into habits of allowing stress to get the best of us. It usually happens to many of us while we're in the car. When you notice these reoccurring patterns, you must begin to work with them. Getting upset because someone doesn't drive fast enough is a waste of energy. If you can't pass them, then you must take a different approach. You can do this by reminding yourself that they're trying to live life the best way they know how. Most likely they aren't trying to upset you. Then send them a little thought of thanks for reminding you to harness your stress instead of letting it get the best of you.
7. Have a conversation with a friend - Sometimes stress becomes so overwhelming that we need to vent. I vent by writing and talking to my co-workers. After my boss gave me the challenge to have the report done by the end of the day, I peeked over my cubicle wall later that afternoon and complained to my co-worker. She agreed with me, like all good confidants do, and after five minutes I felt better and I got to work on the report.
You process stress differently than anyone else, so try a few of these techniques to help you reach past your current level of stress relief. The more you work with your stress relief, the better you'll become at releasing your frustrations.
By giving yourself as many options as possible to process your stress relief, you'll be able to soften the amount of time that you feel stressed out and reduce the level of pain the stress creates.