3 tried-and-true tips for handling job stress
“Businesspeople who do not know how to fight worry die young.” — Dr. Alexis Carrel, Nobel Prize Winner
Being in the business of coaching people and organizations to higher performance levels for over 30 years, I have seen a multitude of changes over the decades. One of my more interesting observations is that as technology has advanced by leaps and bounds (supposedly to make our lives easier), the professional and personal pressure to keep up with life has never been greater.
We referred to doing more, better, faster, with fewer resources as the new business reality several years ago. Well, the reality is no longer new, and the urgency to perform has never been stronger.
Handling stress has been part of Dale Carnegie’s training regimen for a long, long time. Thirty years ago, when we asked people where they would put stress on their list of most important issues, it rarely ranked at the top. Today, it is either No. 1 or No. 2. And demographics do not make any difference. Young or old, brand new to the job or a seasoned veteran, line worker or executive, single or married with a family — everyone is dealing with the same reality.
In one of our recent training programs, a young engineer came up to me about halfway through an eight-week process. We had been discussing Dale Carnegie’s book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. He told me that if I had asked him if he was affected by stress in his life before he got involved in our class, he would have given me a resounding “no!” Having read the book, he then went on to say that he probably had more stress than anyone else in the class. What he thought was normal was in fact very, very stressful.
So what to do? Here are just a few insights from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Cooperate with the inevitable: Sometimes things happen and we have absolutely no control over an event or series of events. So rather than try to control what you cannot control, figure out the best way to roll with the punches. Henry Ford once said, “When I can’t handle events, I let them handle themselves.” In our pressure-packed world, many of us have this incredible urge to be in charge. Often it just cannot happen. Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr is noted for the serenity prayer, which sums up this approach in 27 words:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Decide how much anxiety a thing is worth and refuse to give it more: Several years ago, I had a vehicle with well over 100,000 miles on it. Slowly but surely, the maintenance bills started to add up. Finally, when faced with a $2,000 fix, I decided that was the end and purchased a new car. Sometimes we drive ourselves crazy and really let situations eat at us. As Charles Darwin once said, “Don’t let the wibber gibbers get you down.”
Don’t worry about the past or the future: Yes, be concerned about where you’ve been and where you’re going, but do it in a constructive way. By calmly analyzing our past mistakes and learning from them, we can profit. But there is absolutely no value in lying in bed at night worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. It is self-defeating at best, self-destructive at worst. Rather than have today be the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday, why not learn from the past and look forward to the future with optimism and a plan?
One of the comments we receive from those in our training classes is that the concepts above, along with many others, are just plain common sense. The travesty is that it can be extremely difficult to put these concepts into practice. The only way to put the principles to work is to do it! You cannot control the world. You can control your own attitude!
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