There’s nothing like stress that can turn your day upside down. On what seems like a productive morning, stress has a way of injecting itself into the company’s DNA -- and therefore your schedule -- and immediately sends the work meter plummeting into the red.
Stress impacts our decisions, willpower, mental acuity and physical and emotional health. To the extent that you can minimize stress not just in the workplace but in your life, the more effective you’ll be.
The next time the unexpected appears at your office door (or cubicle) try the following four mental methods to minimize its stress:
1. Reframe the stressor as a challenge.
Often, how we see the problem is the problem. Experiences, upbringing, values and culture all get thrown into one large pot known as you, and they forge your perspectives on reality. What is one person’s trash is another person’s trophy, so if you want to see worth where others see waste, ask yourself that very question: “How can I turn this challenge into an opportunity?”
2. Focus on the process, not the outcome.
In the book Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most, the authors cite a study of two groups of mechanics tasked with assembling an engine.
The first group was given one chance to prove they could build an engine, but they had to do so in a specified time period. To increase the pressure, they were told that if they built it correctly and within the allotted time, they would be in line for a promotion.
A second group was given the same task with the same promise of career advancement, but they were told that if they made mistakes that they would be given additional opportunities to build.
Who do you think built the engine faster? Yup, the second group, because they were focused on the process, not the outcome.
Related: How Successful People Beat Stress
3. Have a plan, but be ready to adapt.
It has been said that “chance favors the prepared mind” (Louis Pasteur). To the extent that you can minimize the degree of uncertainty associated with the unexpected, the more confident you’ll feel and the less stress you’ll face. To do so, always have a contingency plan for everything you do.
There was a saying in BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) that was drilled into our minds: “two is one and one is none.” What this means is far beyond the 700-word limit for this column, but generally speaking, everything we did -- everything -- was done in the context of pairs. Why?
Because two minds are better than one and four eyes see more than two, and plans, ideas and actions are no different. Backup plans facilitate change more rapidly than the start-stop-start cycle conjuring up new plans from scratch.
4. Get some greenery.
There’s just something about being outside that serves as a breath of fresh air (get it? That’s a little writing humor for you). Exercise, more than anything, is the single greatest stress reducer on the market -- and it’s free!
Physical activity is better than any drug or alcoholic beverage out there (no matter how tasty) and has positive effects upon the brain, heart rate, immune system, and, of course, stress. Can’t get away from the office? I’m waving the BS flag. Everybody has five to 10 minutes to take a walk around the block.
If you feel anchored to your computer or believe that being away from your desk for 10 minutes is impossible because you’ll just miss so much, I got news for you: you won’t.
Stress, just like change, is to be expected. Similarly, though, stress can be managed the same way adversity can. It just takes a little concerted focus and effort.