With the fast pace of information hitting us from all angles all day long, it’s no surprise that people feel that multi-tasking has been taken to a new level. Be it the balance between personal and professional life, or just keeping up with the pressures at work, we are now operating at a pace that the generation before us did not do. With that constant stream of action and reaction each day brings a new layer of added stress.
Some people are so far into this multi-tasking stressed existence that they don’t even recognize it as an issue. In other words, “that’s life” as we now know it.
I get that, but here’s a little secret, the real test to being successful is to manage and cope with stress in such a way that we don’t burn out, impact our relationships or seek destructive behaviours because we aren’t capable of coping. This is called stress tolerance.
Stress tolerance refers to being able to remain relatively calm and composed during high stress situations without manifesting physical or emotional symptoms. It’s based on seeking the necessary resources to manage stress; being open and positive about change; and recognizing you can control stress levels by staying calm.
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Let me make these ideas real for you:
Dial Into Your Stress
First, take stock of what your stress looks like. Do you feel wound up, wired or overwhelmed? Do you experience tension in the neck, back, shoulders, have skin break outs, rashes, dizziness, shortness of breath, involuntary sweats, poor sleep patterns, loss of appetite, or heartburn? There are many manifestations of stress, so the first step is to dial into what your body is telling you so that you can be self-aware of how it’s affecting you. These stress indicators are there for a purpose – to alert us to take action before we end up with more serious health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and ulcers. When you are aware of your body’s reaction to stress, start paying attention to what causes you to react that way. This will allow you to tackle and take control of problems one by one, rather than succumbing to panic. Next, make a plan for dealing with those stressful situations and find the resources you need to cope. It may be that you’re being asked to stretch beyond your capacity at work, in which case, fess up and find a course of action that allows you to maintain full competency. Operating in a high stress state can make one less capable of high achievement because they spend too much of their time worrying about juggling everything instead of getting on with the task at hand.
Remain Open and Positive About Change
Often people get stressed out when change is happening. And it can be just that one incremental change that has the ability to throw us off our game. For example, there’s a re-org at your office, your close colleague has decided to move on because the change isn’t the right fit for him, there are new policies being instituted that you don’t understand, and a new software imposed that must be used but you don’t have the time to learn it. Furthermore, your boss tells you that you have to move your workstation. And that’s it – you snap. Your stress response kicks in and you throw up your arms and say you can’t do this anymore! We have all been there. It’s a seemingly endless stream of change that you are subjected to that you can’t control but are forced to accept. Try to remain aware that while change is inevitable, suffering through change can be optional. Keep an open and positive mind that change per se doesn’t have to be bad and that in fact it could be making your life better. The key is always to find a positive angle when faced with a stressful situation.
You Are In Control
This point is in tandem with the second one. We can’t always control stressful situations that happen to us, but we can control our response to them. Get perspective on what is causing you stress – how significant is it really? Focus on remaining calm and thoughtful about what is happening instead of firing on all cylinders. You likely know people who are experts at this – nothing seems to rattle their cage. They are able to digest stress, remain composed, and strategically and thoughtfully act in a manner that moves the issue forward without creating stress around them. Compare that reaction to those who hear something may be changing and are volatile in their response, either verbally shouting or complaining, or physically with waving arms and fists. You need to know that you can choose that response, it’s all up to you. Eliminate the chattering monkey that’s replaying an old tape of “I’m never getting out of this situation” or “why me?” That messaging only serves to reinforce your inability to respond effectively to stress. Better to play a tape that says “stressful situations will be coming and going in my life but I am aware of how it affects me and know how to deal with it”. Sending that message to the universe each time a situation arises will undoubtedly take your mind and body to a healthier and happier state.
Hopefully these three tips can help you to build up your own stress tolerance at work and at home.