Let’s take a look at stress from a slightly different perspective, moving away from psychology and putting the blame on the times we live in. It is important to be practical and down to earth as we review its causes. Let’s also see how to avoid stressfull situations. Here we go.
Stress is our natural defence system
People are born with an instinctive stress response. When a potentially dangerous situation comes up, stress hormones are released into the bloodstream.
What happens then? These hormones induce mental and physical reactions - we are scared, but at the same time, we feel pumped-up and ready to fight.
…today, instead of using our stress hormones in emergencies only, we activate them all the time: when we are running late, worried about missing a deadline or even just having a technical problem with a smartphone.
Because of this, we stay “pumped-up and ready to fight” way too often, and our bodies don’t get enough time to relax and calm down.
The effect? Well, apart from “being stressed,” we are also aggressive, moody, hysterical and regularly losing our tempers. We are each a ticking time bomb with a human face.
What we can do
First, let’s identify the circumstances that place us into that instinctive “fight or flight” state. And let’s see how to avoid stressful situations.
Of course, it often happens when we have to step outside of our comfort zone or when we deal with powerful predators (usually aggressive, scary or simply more powerful people). Granted, there is not much we can do about that.
But what about other stressful situations? Don’t you think we often get stressed when we know we are doing something that is not right? And it’s not about stealing or hurting someone. Often, it’s about breaking down some standards/rules and not meeting expectations, whether they are others’ or your own.
You might feel stressed when you do poor quality work. Everyone, including your boss and yourself, knows you could do better…
Example: John is really stressed about his presentation. But… did he start preparing it early enough? Did he do his research thoroughly? Did he use quality images? Did he learn the features of the software he will be using when presenting? Did he read the presentation twice to eliminate all the mistakes and rehearse? Let’s be honest: if he did, the chances are he wouldn’t be too stressed.
Solution: When you do something, just give it your best. Be focused on the here and now. Eliminate distractions, be prepared, read extra literature on the subject and have the reference material ready. If you have any difficulties, ask for help from someone in the field. Be serious about your work.
Understandably, you might feel stressed when you presume people are judging and criticizing you.
Example: Amanda works for a marketing department, and she is in a hurry to get to the meeting with her team. She has just sent out a newsletter to 10,000 customers. She is stressed, as she knows she wasn’t focused enough while preparing, editing, and formatting the message. Her colleagues always read and comment on the company newsletters. Perhaps they will find a mistake, and their criticism will be absolutely justified.
Solution: This is related to the previous point. If you did the job quickly and carelessly, you are in a bad position. If you are sure you did your best and used all of your skills and energy, you shouldn’t be worried. Just stay open to feedback.
To avoid stressful situations, be honest with yourself. Try to make sure you only accept tasks you can get done - meaning, ensure that you have the skills and the time to complete the job. If you are overwhelmed with work and don’t have time, admit it and inform your manager. Once you start a task, you need to make sure that you do your best, you are extremely focused, and you have the reference material and the time. If the tasks that you receive seem too difficult for you, maybe it’s time to talk to your boss or re-think your professional path.
You feel stressed when you say or do things that can hurt others, drive them mad or irritate them.
Example: Andrew lives with his parents. He promised to pay the electricity bills each month. He got into financial trouble and didn’t pay two months in a row. Now, he needs to tell his parents, and this is stressing him out. Would he be stressed if he spent less money on Black Friday deals or paid the last month’s bill instead of going on a trip with his friends?
Solution: Respect others, learn to admit your mistakes, and once again, whatever you do, give it your best. Every relationship needs honesty as well as maximal involvement of both “parties.” To avoid conflicts and difficult situations, be reasonable, stay focused and anticipate future outcomes. If you make a promise or commit to a responsibility, try to eliminate all possible hindrances.
Other situations for your consideration
Jenny is going to be late for work. Again, let’s be honest - perhaps if she got up earlier, she wouldn’t be late. If she prepared her clothes last evening, she wouldn’t have to spend 10 minutes deciding what to wear today, etc.
George is at the meeting with his team. His boss seems to be disappointed, as George isn’t contributing to the discussion. George could share a significant opinion on the discussed topic and suggest a cool solution - but he won’t. Why? Is he focused? Is he present, or he is thinking about something else or checking Facebook on his phone?
Blake is stressed, as he is having trouble paying his bills. But does he manage his budget and review it regularly? Does he note the most important expenses and plan his expenses rationally? If he did, perhaps he would be able to pay the majority of his liabilities.
It’s not about being perfect
None of us is almighty, but our stress levels could radically decrease if we make sure we focus on the present, stay reasonable and just do our best.
Author: Magda of the Nozbe marketing team