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.

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