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Cure for Work Stress
 

Change the way you think about the future, and you can reduce (or even eliminate) stress.

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Most people are convinced that stress is an inevitable part of the working world. They are wrong.

The level of stress that you experience is very much under your control. The trick is finding ways to exist "in the now."

Think about it: Why do people feel "stressed"? In every case that I've ever seen, it's because they're dwelling on future events over which they have no control. In other words, stress is just plain old worry--but rebranded so that it sounds less wimpy. (Nobody ever gets called a "stress-wart.")

For example, many people feel "stressed" because they "have way too much work to do." That sounds perfectly reasonable, but in fact, it's not the work that's creating the stress. It's worrying about what might happen (or not happen) if all that work doesn't get done.

Similarly, it's "stressful" if you have a job (like customer support) in which people sometimes scream at you. There's no question that such events are unpleasant, but the real source of the stress isn't the event but the anticipation that it's going to happen again.

Since stress is all about the future, the real cure for stress is to live in the present. Here are some suggestions for doing this:

1. Meditate or pray every day.

When done correctly, meditation and prayer place your thoughts in the present. When you're focused on your breathing, the energy flowing through your body, or the presence of God in your life, there's no opening for stress to get inside you. These activities not only create a respite from stress, they help train your mind to remain "mindful."

2. Set aside a daily time to plan.

Achieving goals is impossible without planning--and planning, by its very nature, involves imagining the future, including possible setbacks and problems. Limit your "future thinking" to a set time every day--and then spend the rest of your time executing the steps in your daily plan.

3. Detach yourself from results.

Though it's true the business world is all about getting good results, such results are usually achieved through the execution of a well-thought-out plan. Therefore, once you've made a plan, put your attention on the steps, not on the outcome. Until events prove otherwise, trust that you've created (and are now executing) the best plan possible.

4. Observe what's working (and what's not).

As you take action, note which actions seem to be leading toward your goals and which seem to be leading you further away. Rather than getting stressed about your "failures" while they're happening, use these notes to adjust your plan during your next planning session.

Do these steps take some practice and discipline? Absolutely. But the benefit--a largely stress-free working life--are well worth the effort.

For example, if you're "stressed" because you've got "too much work to do," following the guidelines above will quickly force you to realize that the concept of "too much" is meaningless and that you're going to get done what you get done. You'll start prioritizing what's most important and forget about what's simply not going to get done.

Similarly, if you're "stressed" because people scream at you, following the guidelines can help you better prepare emotionally for the screamers (e.g., learn how to shrug it off) or, failing that, help you plan to find a job in which you don't have to deal with such people.

Being focused on the present eliminates stress even when disaster strikes. Suppose, in the middle of your workday, you get news that your biggest customer is jumping ship.

You could react to the news by freaking out and obsessing about how the lost revenue might ruin your company or your career--even though none of that has happened yet. Or you could remain in the moment, note that the event happened, continue with whatever you're doing--and then, when you're relaxed and feeling creative, devise a step-by-step action plan to win the customer back or find some new customers.

The moment you truly realize that stress is only a creation of your imagination, you'll feel a vast burden of dread fall from your shoulders. And if you practice the steps and start living in the moment, you'll find that stress, far from being inevitable, is simply a bad memory.

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IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Sep 10, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES did a lot of business stuff and wrote a slew of articles and books. Now he writes this column. Preorder his new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, by May 12 and get an exclusive bonus chapter and a signed bookplate.
@Sales_Source




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