Stress is that all too common and ever-present feeling, that a lot of us seem to suffer from. Many years ago, stress was a big part of my daily life. I was constantly overwhelmed but at some point, I thankfully came to the realization that there was a choice in how I was dealing with it, and could manage it a lot better with a little bit of self-awareness.
A reliable estimate of what people stress about is below:
Things that never happen—40%;
Things over and past that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world—30%;
Needless worries about our health—12%;
Petty miscellaneous worries—10%;
Real, legitimate worries—8%.
In short, “NINETY-TWO PERCENT OF THE AVERAGE PERSON’S WORRIES take up valuable time, cause painful stress—even mental anguish … and ARE ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY.
Stress in an Organizational Environment
If we were to look closely at the workings of our mind, since all stress starts and occurs at the level of the mind, I would allocate this stress two 4 main sources.
1. INDECISION - Before taking any action – be it pitching a conversation, making a presentation, calling a client meeting, or even having a much needed conversation with your manager, we need to make a decision. Most people procrastinate on this because making a decision, involves taking responsibility for that decision. Further, it forces us to take action, and a lot of us will deflect taking action as long as possible. When we put together a multitude of indecisions, this creates a state of overwhelm and therefore stress in our minds. There is all these unmade decisions in the back of our mind, calling for attention which we are trying to ignore.
2. FEAR - The second main cause of stress is worry, which is driven by FEAR – the big “what if”. What if I lose my job, what if my boss doesn’t like what I did, what if I don’t get a big bonus this year, what if I don’t reach my targets. The what if stories that we tell ourselves create so much uncalled-for drama in our minds, and may have nothing to do with the reality on the ground. These are stories that we habitually tell ourselves because many of us grew up in an environment of fear.
3. PROJECTION & PERCEPTION - The third cause of stress appears to come to us from other people. When we perceive or feel that another person in the organization is behaving in a manner that conflicts with our own value system, or is possibly doing something that threatens us. This leads to agitation within. Sometimes this is a case of Projection (where we project our own insecurities on other people) and sometimes this could be genuinely “bad behavior” on the part of the concerned. Either way, we often keep these negative feelings bottled up which leads to even more stress.
4. OVERWORK – There are circumstances, where the organizational culture does not support the employees, and individuals are dealing with far more than they physically and mentally should be – working long hours, and over the weekends. This unhealthy culture – when tolerated over a long period of time will lead to stress both in the body and the mind.
So what can we do about it?
1. Make decisions fast, and stick to them. One of the marks of a successful leader is that they make decisions fast and rarely change their mind.
2. The way to handle Fear based stress is to first become aware of it. Realize that the thoughts you are thinking are literally created in the air, and have no basis in truth – And then gently dismiss them. Fear – really is False evidence appearing real.
3. Have the courage to communicate consciously (Dialogue) with the person who is the seeming cause of stress. This may be difficult in the short term, but much healthier for you in the long term.
4. Last – learn to set boundaries for yourself. This can be hard in the face of fear, but the sooner you learn to do it, the greater the chances of your long term success. If you find the culture of the organization to be too toxic and can’t seem to alter the circumstances, then search for alternative options.
Understanding and practicing all the above requires a certain amount of Self-Awareness, and is a journey that we all should be undertaking for our long term well-being and success!