Shift Paradigms and Eliminate Stress

“Reactive to Proactive”

Shifting this paradigm means taking control of your stress instead of reacting to it. You can’t avoid stress, but you can minimize it. For example, proactive people avoid having to worry about their finances by saving money and following a budget. They exercise, eat right and get regular check-ups to ease their stress about their health. They avoid relationship problems by being respectful, kind and forgiving. Research shows that a lack of control builds a sense of stress, while having a sense of control lessens anxieties.

“Unmotivated to Inspired”

If you’re not enthusiastic about your job, your lack of drive could provoke stress or could be a reaction to stress. The antidote to being unmotivated is to get inspired. Create a mission statement that compels you. List your values. Rank them from most to least important. Write about each aspect of your work that relates to your values, principles or ideas. Rephrase each value into a positive “clarifying paragraph,” a series of present tense, first-person declarations, such as: “Iam healthy and strong…I treat myself with respect” and “manage my stress in excellent ways.” Consider these purposeful statements as you make choices all day; put “every decision…no matter how small, through that filter.” Using your values to shape your actions decreases stress.

“Pressure to Priorities”

Many people feel overworked. They cope with pressure by “multitasking” – trying to do several things at the same time. But no one can truly multitask because the human brain can focus on onlyone thing at a time. Trying to multitask actually causes more stress. When you attempt several tasks simultaneously, none of them gets your full focus and attention. Instead, shift your paradigm from pressure to priorities by scheduling what you need to do, one thing at a time. List two or three of the most important steps you need to accomplish in a day, and forget the rest for that day. When you write out your priorities, you will feel less stress about trying to “do it all.”

“Hassle to Harmony”

Everyday workplace annoyances may include “turf wars, territoriality, ego issues and plain old fear,” being afraid of not moving up, or not getting a contract, or just fear of “losing” out in general. Instead of thinking of life as a battle with a winner and a loser, consider of how both sides can win. For example, the retail giant Costco carries a variety of goods, offers customers a generous return policy for customers and pays employees well. Some retail executives might think these policies post a risk of losing money, but Costco knows how to keep its customers loyal. And, by paying good salaries, it minimizes turnover and saves money in the long run.

“Anxiety to Empathy”

To manage anxiety, be more empathetic. Empathy is not sympathy. “Empathy is understanding what others feel. Sympathy is feeling sorry for others and comforting them.” Practice empathy by listening to people with the intent of understanding them rather than listening to respond. Although technology makes it easier to communicate, you may be having fewer face-to-face interactions; that can increase social anxiety. Empathy declines when people isolate themselves. They hesitate to invest emotionally in others and don’t realize how isolation generates stress.

Empathy requires mindfulness, focusing on the present – a major tactic in stress relief. Consider what you’re seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching or thinking at this moment. Like exercising your physical muscles, building mindfulness becomes easier with time. Try this exercise: Go to your favourite restaurant alone, and relish the experience. Instead of eating quickly, savour each bite of a dish you love. Focus on how each spoonful tastes as you eat it.

“Defensive to Diverse”

Feeling defensive often leads to “job strain.” Constantly guarding your territory can exhaust you and shut you off from different viewpoints. For example, Blockbuster maintained a defensive stance when Netflix founder Reed Hastings approached company leaders about working with his firm, which offered video rentals without hefty late fees. Blockbuster declined his offer and went bankrupt while Netflix flourished. Such organizational “group think” – or even stubborn adherence to a popular, single point of view – can lead to missed opportunities and lost profits. Challenge defensiveness by being open to diversity. Welcome different kinds of people, opinions and attitudes. Be open to travel, especially to places where you’ve never been.

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