Recently, I was asked by a few people on how I remain calm during stressful situations at work. The question somewhat surprised me as I realised how a situation that many of my colleagues and I were facing was rather challenging and how once upon a time I too would have found this stressful. It got me thinking. As much as I have done a lot of self work, what really had changed over the years to help me remain calm during stressful situations?
It came down to a few things:
Previously, I used to get really stressed about work because deep down I used to worry how this would look on me if something I was working on failed. I since realised that sometimes it really isn’t about an individual and their effort, rather than the situation itself not being ideal. So it’s important to know where your ownership of a situation starts and ends and not to take on the emotional burden of something beyond your control.
2. Self belief
I know that I will work to the best of my ability with any situation. I’m sure that can be said of many people. So if we work to our best and something still doesn’t turn out right, then that really isn’t our burden to bear. The only time we should feel responsible is when we clearly made little to no effort to succeed with a situation we found ourself in. But if we have worked the best we could under a given circumstance, then the onus of a poor outcome doesn’t sit with us, it sits with the situation.
3. Having a support network
The colleagues I face the challenge with are in the situation with me. So I’m not alone. Outside of these circumstances, I have other people I can lean on. By having all of this support, I need not feel stressed. For work outputs where I am the sole person being relied upon, this can be trickier not to become stressed about so it is important to maintain a support network beyond an immediate work group or outside the realm of work. Stress can lead to feeling alone and then stuck. So it’s important to have your personal cheerleaders to hand.
4. Being realistic
When stress takes over, the cortisol levels rise and we go into fight or flight mode. Try to take a step back. Is your stress caused by the situation being unrealistic? For example, being asked to meet an incredibly close deadline that has only just been set? Assess if the situation is realistic. If it isn’t, talk to parties who can influence the situation to set it straight. Or if those parties are the ones applying pressure, refer back to point 2. Remember, you give the best that you can. Perhaps that might be less amount of an output than the next person’s or less nicely designed, etc. But remember, you gave it your best, and asking for more than your best is not realistic.
5. Respecting my health
Sometimes the pressure really can be plied on from all directions. In these circumstances, I frequently check in with myself to see how I feel mentally and physically. It can be so easy to get carried away with a situation that you forget yourself. If a situation truly is stressful and awful, you will only make it worse by getting ill. And the only one who will truly suffer (or at least suffer the most) is yourself. I used to be so dedicated to a previous job that I made myself ill many times. I eventually learnt my lesson. It is never worth it. The only person who carries the scars in the end is You. So listen to your body and mind and know when you need a break.
6. Don’t put so much onus on what others think
This one can be SO difficult. We want our bosses to be happy with us and for everyone to like us. Guess what? Not everyone will be on your side. Some might enjoy your upbeat ways, whilst others may find it annoying. Some may like your seriousness as it comes across as mature, whilst others may find you dull. Some might like all your ability to talk and present, others may want nothing more than for you to be quiet. Some may enjoy your efficiency, others may find it too showy. Whatever it is, people are going to like you, be indifferent to you, or dislike you. So again, just do your best and if that’s not enough for someone remember again the point about being realistic.
7. Know it’s okay to be stressed
Some people get stressed about being stressed! Remember, it is natural to feel stressed. Even as I remain calm in the latest situation, it doesn’t mean that I don’t get stressed. Of course I do. It’s more our response to that stress that we are able to change. So if you feel stressed, don’t stress out about being stressed. Let your stress be. Give yourself space and allow your natural human self to go through the motions of stress. It will pass, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
8. Know when to walk away
If pressure levels are too high for too long and the situation has gotten out of control and turned sour, know when to walk away. Don’t give all your energy to a person or situation who continues to abuse your health, energy and happiness. Sure, we will all face pressure every now and then, but try to recognise what is short term, middle term and long term. If something errs towards a long term stressor, think thoroughly about how you can alleviate it or if necessary, walk away.
9. Don’t repeatedly say, “I don’t have time” to things that brings you happiness
When stressed, it’s usually coupled with a loss of time. We can become consumed by a situation. This leads us to neglect other areas of our life. Often the things that we neglect are those things that make us happy. So, guess what? By neglecting the things that make us happy when we’re stressed, we’ll only get more stressed. Remember to balance out stressful times with things that restore you and give you breathing space.
10. Remember your number one life priority
If you are feeling super stressed by work, it’s a good moment to put things into context. What is your biggest life goal? Some may say it is to achieve wealth or fame and then they become stressed that they aren’t working hard enough to achieve that. They continue their route of over-work. But truly, what is your life goal, even if this includes becoming wealthy or famous? I am pretty sure the reason why we select anything as our life goal is because it will make us happy. By focusing on your larger goal, it helps frame that your current stress is not conducive to your life goal. This can aid in reducing your stress by reminding yourself of what truly is important: your happiness.