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Reducing Stress at Work—Part II

If you want to reduce your stress at work, consider whether your judgments are causing you additional stress. While judgments serve the purpose of helping us navigate our way in the world, they can also be a root cause of tension and anxiety. If you can, try tuning into your thoughts about your job and the people you work with. Perhaps your thoughts are along the lines of “He is too demanding,” or “They are not doing their task right,” or “She is so difficult!” Often the judgment itself creates tension. Bringing the light of awareness to the judgment can lessen its power, just like pulling aside the curtain in The Wizard of Oz and lessened the power of the Wizard. Notice what happens to your stress level if you simply note the situation around you while releasing your judgment about the situation. See if you can shift your judgmental thoughts to more neutral thoughts, such as “He is asking me to do a lot of work,” or “They are doing their task on a different timetable than mine,” or “She has a lot of requests of me.” Judgments often have an emotional charge to them which can cause stress. By releasing the judgment and the associated emotional charge, you are on the way to reducing your stress at work.

To help develop the ability to release judgments, consider taking up the practice of meditation. You don’t have to spend big blocks of time meditating; even a few minutes a day can begin to make a difference in your life. Can you interrupt your work flow and pause to focus on your breath? Just notice the coolness of the air when you breathe in and its warmth when you breath out, or notice your chest rising and falling with each breath. Practicing meditation can be very simple, no special equipment is needed, and best of all, it is free!

Reducing Stress at Work—Part I

Raise your hand if you have stress at work. My guess is that if I posed that question to a room filled with people who work, many hands would be raised.

If you’re wondering what contributes to on-the-job stress, here’s one explanation: You may have heard the expression you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I’ll extend that to you generally can’t choose your coworkers, either. It’s likely that those you work with may have very different work styles, values, and priorities than yours. This diversity can make for a wonderful mix of creativity and productivity, but it can also be a source of stress in the workplace.

Consider that you may have a certain view of how things “should” be. Then your boss approaches you with expectations that you find unrealistic. Stress ensues. Or maybe you’re depending on work product from one department so you can complete your tasks. The work isn’t coming to you within the timeframe you expect. Stress ensues. Or perhaps you have a difficult client that is not behaving in a way that you find reasonable. Stress ensues. None of these situations are unfolding in the way you think they “should.”

When one’s view of the way things “should” be meets the reality of the way things really are, stress is often a common side effect. One of the first steps in reducing stress is to accept the way things are. Instead of thinking, “It shouldn’t be this way,” try thinking “This is how it is. Now, how will I respond?” While you may not be able to change your boss’s expectations, your coworker’s habits, or your client’s behavior, perhaps you can change your internal response to those circumstances.

Accepting the way things are can go a long way to reducing stress. This doesn’t mean you should give up your personal power, and it doesn’t mean that you have to like the way things are, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t ask for what you need. But it does mean that if you accept that fact that you can’t always change external events, and you can only change your internal response to those events, this acceptance alone can go a long way to reducing stress at work.