Slowly Ease Back Into Your Work Before You Really Freak Out

Let's redefine stress so it fits into how you handle your life. Stress is the tension that you create to keep pressure on yourself. We do this because it keeps us on our toes ready to quickly answer a manager's question or finish a report before the deadline.

It's hard to admit that our stress is our fault, but it really is. If a lion was tracking you in the middle of an open field this stress would cause your heartbeat to skyrocket, igniting your thought processes and forcing you to act. Let's take a step back...If you weren't afraid of dying or pain, and you really wanted to end your life, how do you think you would feel?

You would probably be cool as a cucumber because you would be willing to take the pain to end the pain.

Acute Stress

If you were afraid of being eaten by a lion you would run like the inner track star that has always been dying to come out. This acute stress occurs because your heart is pumping like crazy, trying to keep the blood flowing to all the vital muscles. You want to live so you find the best actions to make it happen.

We feel this acute stress because it's fast, intense and takes over the whole body. This stress occurs when we are giving a big presentation, approaching a deadline, and other major events. It's easy to recover from this type of stress because we have no choice. Our bodies crash, shutting down our brains and forcing us to relax.

Chronic Stress

The problem with chronic stress is that it's soft and slow. It's a small river wearing away the rock bed. We don't even realize that our happiness is eroding away. Over time the constant pressure breaks us down.

We carry this burden with us wherever we go. We martyr ourselves out to the world, so the people in our lives know how much we give and give.

Imagine you had to stand for hours at a time. The first hour may be easy, but slowly the burden becomes too great and your muscles and ligaments can't handle the constant strain. You would collapse from exhaustion. There is documentary to illustrate this point, which I tried to find on Google and YouTube, but was unable to remember the name of the movie. The film follows a competition to win a car. A group of contestants try to stand and keep their hand on a car for longer than the other participants, and as soon both hands are no longer touching the car they lose. It's an excellent chance to watch people at their best and worst. They become delirious and eventually the pain is too much. All except for one, who looked like he was on the brink of letting go too.

Your chronic stress does the same thing to you. Imagine if you had to stand in one place for hours or even days; eventually you'd have to give in and rest. We all need leisure breaks to help us stabilize our productivity.

Ease Yourself Back In

After allowing yourself a break, you shouldn't just jump back in at full speed. You need to ease yourself back into a slower pace of work. I know this is hard to do at some jobs. Management expects full speed ahead.

If you enjoy what you do then you have to be creative with your effort. Try to work in smaller batches and when each batch is done then take a small break: bathroom, water, or a nice conversation with a co-worker. One of my favorites is making all kinds of crazy faces into a mirror. It usually makes me laugh and relieves the internal pressure that I put on myself.

You have to find the pace at which you are comfortable working. Your flow will fluctuate, so be willing to plow through work if that's the type of mood you are in. Just don't be afraid to take a break when you need it. It's all about being flexible with how you are feeling that day.

Do you take scheduled breaks or do you just go with how you feel?

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Images courtesy of Clover_1

11 thoughts on “Slowly Ease Back Into Your Work Before You Really Freak Out”

  1. "After allowing yourself a break, you shouldn’t just jump back in at full speed. You need to ease yourself back into a slower pace of work. I know this is hard to do at some jobs. Management expects full speed ahead."

    This is SO true! Personally, it is extremely difficult for me to slow myself down. I truly believe that if given the chance, I would be a workaholic. On a slightly different but related issue, if you have a career or a supervisor who expects you to be the queen or king of multitasking, realize that you are only one person and that things (if you want them done well) will need to be addressed one at a time. You can't help this. Our brains can only focus on one task at a time, so even when you think you are "multitasking," you're really not. You should allow yourself at least one break each hour to get up, stretch, regroup and then come back to it- otherwise you run the risk of burning yourself out....

  2. "the inner track star that has always been dying to come out" LOL! I agree that taking breaks as you work is vital. Breaks actually help you be more creative and productive. I've seen those car competitions, they look painful!

    Marelisa's last blog post..30 Ways to Increase Your Creativity

  3. Hey Janelle, I've burned all my energy plenty of times because I hate to leave what I'm doing when it's going good. I know that I talk a big game about taking leisure breaks, but if the writing or project is flowing then I ain't stopping.

    Where I have made the most improvement is being able to downshift when I need to slow down and press on the gas when I'm writing well. Learning and understanding those various levels of creative bursts has helped me keep a steady flow of articles on this site.

  4. Karl,

    I decided to take a much-needed and much-eaned break and check out your blog, after working on a report for two hours. And I'm glad I did. Sometimes I just need to walk away for ten minutes to get re-invigorated. You're right about the effects of acute and chronic stress. I often say that my primary objective in life is to minimize the stress in it. Happiness? It comes and goes. But living at ease in this world is the next best thing.

    Ric's last blog post..How to Identify a Job or Career with Ample Opportunities for Growth

  5. Karl,

    I like your statement about taking a break and going back slowly, "After allowing yourself a break, you shouldn’t just jump back in at full speed. You need to ease yourself back into a slower pace of work. I know this is hard to do at some jobs. Management expects full speed ahead." -- This is similar to how we get back to the highway after resting on the side. So true.

    Shilpan |'s last blog post..10 Simple Habits to Help You Look Younger and Live Longer

  6. Hi Ric, I'm glad my blog helped give you a much needed break. When we can minimize stress we have an easier time sleeping at night. And we all know how important a good nights sleep is to working happy.

    Hey Shilpan, the car merging back on to the highway is a great analogy.

  7. Hi Karl,

    What great advice. Too often I get busy and forget to take a break. If I do, I think I'm slacking. Now I realize those breaks are necessary. I'll practice stepping away from my work more often. It sounds like by doing so, I'll actually be more productive.

    Barbara Swafford's last blog post..Self Promotion - From The Archives

  8. Hi Karl,

    There is a great book by Dr. Paddi Lund about the Happiness Centered work environment. He is a dentist which can be very stressful.

    He makes the point that we actully have to "do" stress. This means that we actively participate in stress or it can not exist. He simply reminds himself or his staff does that they jointly decided not to "do" stress anymore.

    Stress does and will always exist and your tips on understanding it and managing it are much appreciated. That said, we also need to remind ourselves that we have the ability to control our stress levels to some degree as well.

    Thanks for the post and I love your Blog.


    Howard Cox's last blog post..Lessons from the Wizard

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