Picture this: You have an important event on the horizon, such as a departmental presentation or a keynote speech, and you can’t seem to get your mind off of it. You imagine yourself in front of the audience with a nervous grin on your face, and begin to think of everything that could go wrong. The anxiety and stress build up like a volcano ready to explode and before you know it, you’re kicking yourself for even committing to it in the first place. You ask yourself over and over again, “What was I thinking?!”
Many of us have experienced this feeling in our careers. We may blame the increasing anxiety we feel on our demanding jobs, colleagues, lack of rest, deadlines, commitments, etc. However, stress is not caused by our external environment – it is the reaction to what is going on around us. It is the result of internal factors that determine the response, whether through negative thoughts or hyperventilation. To reduce the impact of stress on yourself and gain power over your negative thinking, you must practice the following:
Regain control. You may not be able to control the people and events around you, but you can learn to control yourself, your emotions, and your responses. Don’t allow your attention to get caught in an unproductive loop, like a hamster on a wheel. Redirect your mind to areas in which you can take useful action, like coming up with solutions if your presentation goes awry or if you feel the urge to back out at the last minute. If you find your thoughts going in the wrong direction, pause, redirect, and take positive action.
Replace unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones. How are your survival tactics working for you? Are they supportive or hindering your success? If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to positive physical and mental health, it’s time to swap them out with healthy alternatives. Start by doing the things that naturally keep you calm, like relaxing music or the great outdoors, and make these activities a part of your weekly routine. Remember, take care of yourself first so you can give abundantly to others.
Build a work zone with few distractions. A simple, yet inspiring workspace makes it easier to focus. Without Instagram alerts, the TV, or your laundry buzzing, you clear your mind to allow yourself to be more productive each day. Also, don’t feel guilty if you need to close your office door (or put on some noise-cancelling headphones) to disconnect and restore energy for yourself.
Listen to your senses.
- Sight: Close your eyes and picture a calming and rejuvenating atmosphere.
- Touch: Give yourself a scalp or neck massage.
- Smell: Breathe in a calming scent, such as lavender.
- Taste: Indulge in a piece of dark chocolate or your favorite sweet.
- Sound: Put on some soft instrumental music in the background.
- Move: Step away from your workspace to stretch your arms, legs, and back.
The next time you begin to blame stress on everyone and everything around you, remember to focus on the inner self. You are in complete control. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, quick stress relief is within arm’s reach.