Deal With Stress

Relieve Job Stress With 3 Mental Turnarounds

angerLet’s say you’ve just lost your job, had your pay cut, or discover that your company hired a new young hotshot in the same position as you.  It’s likely that your mind instantly goes to worst-case scenarios.  “The economy is bad, what if I can’t get another job.”  “I’m really going to have to scrimp on my budget, but what if I can’t pay my bills?” “Am I too old to be hired or promoted?” Thoughts like that are natural.  They’re an ancient survival mechanism.   We all have a genetically ingrained response to focus on potential dangers, first and foremost.  If you can plan for the worst, you’ve got a chance to survive.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with this strategy—it can really ramp up your fear and stress. In the best case, it might light a fire under you and motivate you to rise up and handle the challenge.  However, it’s likely that this outlook will deflate you and leave you feeling uncertain at best and completely demoralized at worst.  You may feel powerless and think that there is little you can do.  If you already have a tendency to be insecure about your own skills and resources, the path downward is a slippery slope.

As a person who tends to over-rate the abilities of others and the potential for things to fall apart and under-rate my own resources and the potential for great things to happen, I’ve had to come up with some good strategies to counter these tendencies.  I’d like to share them with you.

When things at work seem to be going against you, falling apart, or overwhelming you, you can call on these three mental turnarounds that instantly relieve job stress.

1. I’m basically O.K. right now.

Focusing on the present moment may be way too frequently stated, but it isn’t over-rated.  If I can focus on how I am doing right now, at this exact moment, this can take an edge off my stress.  For example, I am alive, breathing, and in no immediate danger.  This is usually the case.  In the case of job stress, it’s pretty much always the case for me.

So, take a few deep breaths, really emphasizing the exhale—and release your stress.

After a few deep breaths, I can usually see that what I am stressed about is something that could happen in the future, but hasn’t happened yet.  Even if I just lost my job, the impending doom I’m imagining is likely out there in the future and hasn’t happened yet.  I am basically O.K. right now, in this moment.

It can help to take a brief inventory of all the things that are O.K., or even good, right now in your life.

2. There are many possibilities in this situation.

After I’ve taken the edge off by realizing that I am basically O.K. right now, it can lift my mood another notch if I imagine that there are many possibilities in this situation.  Rather than being locked in on one dire possibility that I dread, I open my mind to consider other possible outcomes.

Within every situation there are a wide variety of possible results.   Instead of being stuck on a worst-case scenario, what else could happen?  Out of those other possibilities, what ones might work well for me?  Perhaps, I could find another job that is even better, supplement my income doing something I’ve always wanted to do part-time, or strike up a friendship with my new rival?

When you set your mind to it, you can imagine many possible outcomes in any situation.  Seeing potential possibilities frees up your mind and lifts your mood another notch.

3. I can do something to move forward right now.

Finally, after I’ve realized that I am basically O.K. right now and there are many possibilities in this situation, I ask myself “What is one thing I can do right now to move toward one of those potentially positive outcomes?”

It’s amazing what can happen when you take one, small, positive action.  For example, you might call your boss for a chat, come up with a new initiative that will save or make your company money and serve your clients better, or introduce yourself to your new rival and get to know them better.  Taking action shifts you from feeling defeated to feeling empowered and less stressed.

I’d love to hear about mental turnarounds that work well for you when you are feeling job stress in the comments below.

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3 Steps From Stress to Empowerment!

Success winner womanWith all the talk about stress these days, you’d think we’d all be very aware when we are stressed-out and understand the consequences of it. However, over the past 30 years working with clients and myself, I’ve discovered that we often don’t fully understand the magnitude of the impact of stress. Most of us are not aware just how stressed we are and what this is doing to us. In this article, we’ll look at the effects of stress, it’s source, and three simple steps we can take to immediately shift out of stress mode into empowerment!

Chronic stress has wide-ranging mental-emotional-physical consequences, including:

-the inability to focus and concentrate,
-cycles of anxiety and/or depression,
-cycles of binging on food, alcohol, or stimulants,
-muscle tension, high blood pressure, and cardio-vascular disease,
-difficulty breathing and asthma,
-chronic fatigue, chronic pain, inflammation, and fibromyalgia,
-indigestion, acid reflux, and irritable bowel syndrome,
-inhibition of immune response leading to susceptibility to colds, flu, and even cancer or AIDS,
-suppression of the reproductive and hormonal system,
-diabetes. . .

Recent medical research points to the fact that up to 95% of all doctor visits are stress-related. While we may think that we need to go to the doctor to get medicine to make us better, what most of us really need first and foremost is to learn to consciously relax, while reducing, reinterpreting, and handling the stressors in our lives. If we do that first, I think we’ll be amazed at how the phenomenal intelligence of our bodies takes over and resolves the majority of our physical issues.

So, let’s take a look at the source of stress and three simple steps we can take to reduce it right away.

According to “The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook” (New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Oakland, CA, 2008, p.1), “Stress results from any change you have to adapt to.”

These changes can be related to environmental, social, or physiological factors.

Environmental factors include moving to a new home or place of work, weather, pollutants, noise, traffic, pollens, and environmental fields such as electro-magnetic, x-ray, microwave, and cell-phone transmissions.

Social factors include the demands of others on your time, energy, and attention, work deadlines and presentations, interpersonal conflict, financial difficulties, and forming, shifting, or ending relationships including marriage, divorce, and the death of loved ones.

Physiological factors include growing stages, menopause, lack of exercise, poor diet, inadequate sleep, sickness, injuries, and aging.

Though these changes have a great impact on the stress you feel, there is one thing that differentiates those who will feel overwhelmed from those who will handle these changes and thrive. I believe this one element is really THE FACTOR when it comes to stress.

It’s this: how you interpret the changes that are happening.

No matter what happens in your life, how you interpret it makes all the difference. The interpretive lens you bring to any event will determine if something stresses you out or inspires you to effective action.

Stress researchers Lazarus and Folkman emphasize just this point. They say that, “Stress begins with your appraisal of a situation. You first ask how dangerous or difficult the situation is and what resources you have to help you cope with it. Anxious, stressed people often decide that (1) an event is dangerous, difficult, or painful and (2) they don’t have the resources to cope.” (p. 2, TRSRW)

In other words, how you interpret and label your experience is the key factor—and this is such an empowering point!

Why is it empowering? Because it says that the stress you experience is an inside job. The stress you feel is the result of how you are looking at things. It’s the result of how you are thinking and feeling about what’s going on. If stress is a result of something you are doing internally, it is something you can change. You can choose to interpret events and circumstances differently. You can choose to take effective action.

So, the next time, you feel the slightest hint of stress rising up in your body, here are 3 simple steps to get a handle on stress and shift into empowered action:

1. Insert a mental pause. Stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and observe yourself. Just taking a brief time-out can interrupt the build-up of stress.

2. Notice what you are thinking, how you are feeling emotionally and physically, and what you are doing. Notice the words and images in your head, the emotions and physical sensations in your body, and the actions you feel compelled to take when you think and feel this way. See if it’s possible to just notice these layers of your experience and accept them, without judging yourself as “good or bad.”

Calmly observing and accepting yourself “just the way you are” and events “just the way they are” is a huge stress reducer.

3. Ask yourself “What is one thing I can do right now to move this situation in a positive direction?”

If you take a few moments to go through these 3 simple steps, you’ll immediately take the edge off your stress and feel more relaxed and empowered.

Enjoy your practice!

P.S. Click Here for an amazing guided audio experience to release stress and shift into a relaxed, positive, empowered inner state!