WHAT IS STRESS?
Most experts define stress as a response to life situations like the following:
- Having too many responsibilities
- Having vague or confusing expectations
- Doing unpleasant tasks
- Facing too many distractions
- Doing tasks for which one is unprepared
- Working with difficult people
- Being bored
- Being sick
- Experiencing too many changes
- Being in physical danger
- Living or working in a crowded space
- Getting inadequate exercise
- Getting inadequate nutrition
- Getting inadequate sleep
- Getting inadequate time to relax
- Being dissatisfied with one’s physical appearance
- Abusing drugs or alcohol or being close to someone who abuses them
WHAT CAUSES STRESS?
Stress has become a factor in our culture in the last 20 years because of technology that was originally designed to make life less stressful. Technology and the internet has made life easier in many ways but has also woven into our culture an expectation of instant gratification, a condition that causes stress.
WHAT CAUSES STRESS AT WORK?
These days, almost everyone complains of stress at work. This stress often results from one of the following:
- Having too much or too little work
- Having very complicated and demanding work
- Having boring and repetitive work
- Having unclear goals and expectations
- Having to follow changing or confusing procedures
- Being at a career dead end
- Working in a company with an impersonal management philosophy
WHY HAS WORK STRESS INCREASED?
The nature of work has changed. The fight-or-flight response to stress is ineffective in dealing with the stresses of today’s life. The workplace has become decentralized. In many places, people no longer work together in one place but are scattered around the world or working from home, connected by technology.
People change with each generation. Baby Boomers differ from Generation Xers in terms of their values, work ethics, and definitions of success. These generational differences contribute to stress at work.
HOW CAN STRESS BE MANAGED?
The most important part of any stress-reducing strategy is to learn to manage relationships. Here are some key components of such a strategy:
- Identify the sources of stress in your relationships.
- Write about these sources in a journal. Make a list of people who cause you stress and explore what the issues are.
- Resolve the underlying issues. For each of the sources you identified in the preceding text, assess what needs to happen to resolve it. Make a list and design a plan to improve the situation.
- Learn skills to improve relationships. Relationship skills are learned. We are not born knowing how to get along well with others, and from our parents most of us learned only limited skills. Identify the skills you need to develop; then make a plan for yourself. You can learn these skills by reading books, taking classes, or working with a therapist.
- Avoid toxic people and situations. Some people have a toxic effect on you. If possible, limit the amount of time you spend with these people. Look for opportunities to decline their invitations. When these people are family members, remind yourself that you don’t have to feel guilty about avoiding anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself. In the workplace, look for ways to rearrange your schedule or your workspace to avoid interacting with such people.
- Seek out positive people and situations. Think about people who make you feel good about yourself and look for ways to increase time with them. Look for opportunities to spend more time in situations that make you feel good.