Over the past several years I've observed people reduce their stress by using simple Emotional Intelligence techniques. Knowing how powerful the use of these techniques can be, I've been amused as I've read a variety of suggestions for reducing stress — some of them more effective than others.
Just imagine: you’re working as hard as you can, the boss is demanding more, you had to cut your budget and staff so those who are still with you are putting in more hours than ever before, and the number of projects hasn’t decreased. And now you’re sitting in another bad-news meeting feeling stressed. Wait a minute! You remember an article you skimmed online with some stress reduction tips and suggestions. Now’s a good time to put those ideas to good use. Lets see, which one should you start with to minimize your stress right now? Should you…
- Call a friend and chat (maybe your friend is in a meeting too — you could IM him)
- Take a nap (that may be a good idea since you were awake from 2:00 to 4:00 last night)
- Dance (no, this group wouldn’t appreciate your talent anyhow)
- Take off your shoes (that one has possibilities — any holes in my socks?)
- Laugh (humor is good but you can’t think of anything that has been funny recently)
- Do some yoga (maybe if you do it slowly they won’t notice — downward facing dog?)
- Just say No! (I’m sure the boss will go for that one)
- Take a walk (maybe at lunch time, although you get enough walking when you manage by walking around)
- Watch funny YouTube videos (now that one has possibilities too — no one will notice — Right! And then you can go file for unemployment benefits)
Binge and Purge
Actually all of those tips and suggestions are good for you to one degree or another. The problem is that at work it’s not realistic to do them (and some are actually forbidden). In fact the vast majority of ideas and suggestions on the Internet and in print about managing stress are not realistic for use at work — and that is precisely where almost everyone experiences the most stress.
What do we do? We "binge" on stress all day, loading our bodies with excess adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone), and then when we leave work we try to "purge" it from our bodies by doing these techniques. Or worse, we wait until the weekend — or worse still, we wait for a vacation to "de-stress."
If we know what really causes stress — not just the triggers of stress (deadlines, last-minute requests, multitasking, children acting up, people at work acting like children, etc.) — we can look for solutions that will really work.
What is Stress?
Stress (the bad kind) is a result of negative emotions and beliefs that occur when people are unable to cope with the demands of their environment. There is also what is known as eustress, or good stress. Eustress is the result of positive emotions and beliefs that occur when people feel capable of coping with demands of their environments. So the real difference between bad stress and good stress is the difference between negative emotions (frustration, fear, anxiety, etc.) and positive emotions (appreciation, happiness, curiousity, etc.). And that is a huge difference because negative emotions have a significant detrimental effect on important work issues such as mental clarity, decision-making, personal productivity, accuracy, relationships, teamwork, and motivation just to name a few. Positive emotions have a positive effect on those issues.
If most all of the tips and suggestions can’t be used at work for one reason or another, what would work? What’s needed is a simple, easy technique that busy business people can use "in-the-moment" of stress, or better yet, right before a stressful situation such as a meeting, a phone call, a performance review, reading your e-mail, and so on. Ideally it should transform negative, draining emotions into positive, productive emotions — not simply stuff them away. And it would be great if it would actually create the motivation or guidance for more effective behavior at the same time. It would have to be something quick, and it should keep the adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) at normal healthy levels.