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Stress management – Part 2

By Akindotun Merino
20 February 2020   |   4:17 am
Stress impacts all aspects of our society. Most Nigerians are entrepreneurs from the road side hawker to the civil servant who sells products on the side or the stay-at-home mother...


Stress impacts all aspects of our society. Most Nigerians are entrepreneurs from the road side hawker to the civil servant who sells products on the side or the stay-at-home mother who sells clothes to make ends meet and to the fully organized entrepreneur. It is often said that entrepreneurs are the backbone of the nation. Anyone with the passion and drive can become a successful entrepreneur as long as the planning and execution are done well. However, stress and entrepreneurship are highly correlated. The Nigerian lack of infrastructure also impacts those who work more structured jobs as they maneuver horrible roads and adjust to Lagos traffic. Leaders and decision makers in any organization are also well versed in stress. Refer to my last article for definitions of stress.

One of the things that undermine happiness is stress. We cannot choose whether we will have stress in our lives, though we can limit it. However, we can choose our stress response. We can choose responses like anger or panic, which will make us negative and unhappy. Or we can choose positive responses, such as focusing on solutions, taking a time out, or even sleeping on a stressful decision. Explore different stress responses and choose some that help you stay focused. Not giving in to a negative stress response will help you stay happier and healthier. Learning to navigate stress in a positive way will lead to greater workplace happiness as well. Stressful situations will always arise, but when we choose a positive response, we can emerge from those situations with our happiness intact!

Unhappiness with Your Job
Everyone can feel unhappy with his or her job at times, and this can yield frustration, which is an emotional cue that something isn’t working. Frustration results from problems that appear unsolvable. You may think you know the solution, but if you’re still feeling frustrated, it’s a sign that your solution is the problem. In order to combat frustration, you have to reframe the problem. A simple way to do this is to frame the problem with this sentence:

The real problem isn’t _________ the real problem is ___________.
This allows you the flexibility to consider a whole new range of solutions.

Feeling Underappreciated
Feeling underappreciated involves the emotions of dejection, depression, or disappointment. These emotions lead to poorer performance, unlike the swing emotions, which can go either way. Known as blue emotions, these are marked by a lack of arousal and self-talk that is too slow. To counter these, you need to instill emotions that arouse your energy level, such as enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, and tenacity. These emotions unlike swing emotions or blue emotions actually enhance performance.

All emotions have three components that work together, and you can think of them as a triangle:
• At the top of the triangle is cognition. The way you self-talk when angry is different from the way you self-talk when enthusiastic or when disappointed.
• At the bottom left corner is the arousal level of an emotion. Both high performance emotions and swing emotions are high arousal emotions whereas blue emotions dampen arousal. The arousal level allows emotions to act as cues to signal behavior.
• At the right corner is the behavior or reaction to an emotion. Mood management involves using cognition (your thoughts and assessment of a situation) to develop better strategies for reacting to your emotions.

Emotions also have a quality of being contagious. For example, when someone smiles at you, you feel an urge to smile back. When you feel underappreciated, this is a cue that you may not be appreciating yourself. Finding ways to increase your own enthusiasm and confidence makes you appreciate yourself more and this emotional state gets communicated to others. Here are some strategies to increase your high-performance emotions of enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, and tenacity.

• Acknowledge and celebrate successes.
• Listen to upbeat music that makes you happy.
• Look for and appreciate humor wherever you find it. A good belly laugh can change your outlook for the better.
• Acknowledge what is going well (such as in a daily gratitude journal).
• Before you go to bed each night, write down on an index card three statements that will put you in a good mood, and place it on a nightstand or table so that you look at it when you wake up. This way you start out each day on a positive note.

Not Well Rested
Football icon Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The quickest way to lose focus and have poor performance throughout your life is to not have enough rest. The amount of rest you need varies per individual. When you can awaken without the need for an alarm clock, this is a sign that you are getting an adequate amount of rest. Sleep disorders such as insomnia can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Here are some approaches to dealing with insomnia:
• Don’t try to force sleep. Let it come passively. One strategy is to read a book until you feel sleepy.
• Avoid late meals or exercising late at night.
• Go to sleep and wake up on a regular schedule every day, whether it’s a day off or not.

Being well rested throughout the day is not solely a matter of physical sleep either. Another form of rest involves taking breaks and getting briefly away from your work. When feeling tired during the day, stretching and doing a few minutes of vigorous exercise can help to recharge your batteries.

External stressors can often be a source of frustration. You have limited control over the things that come at you in life. When managing stress resulting from external stressors, adaptability and understanding what you can control are vital.

Manage Your Work Space
An uncomfortable workspace can be a constant form of stress. Sometimes, the stress is obvious: not having functioning equipment, for example. Sometimes, the stress is more invisible: equipment that isn’t ergonomically sound. Fortunately, you do have some control over how to arrange your workspace. Make sure that you have working and ergonomically sound equipment, so that these do not interrupt your ability to be productive.

It may seem innocuous, but clutter has very real and damaging effects. It will increase stress and create distractions that damage your creative process while encouraging procrastination. Simply getting rid of unnecessary clutter is enough to prevent procrastination in many instances. Create a clutter free environment by removing all nonessential items from the workspace. This includes trash, old papers, and gadgets. You should feel free, however, to keep inspirational items such as art to encourage you in your own creative process.

Steps to being Clutter Free:
• Remove unnecessary items.
• Clean up the area at the end of each workday.
• Keep everything organized and put things back where they go.
• Do not allow other people to clutter up your office.
• Have space chosen for items before you bring them into your work area.

Co-Worker Relations
Most of us aren’t saints, and it’s inevitable that you will run across people with whom you clash. However when you are actively in conflict with someone else, this can spill over into the rest of your life. If you cannot resolve differences with coworkers in a constructive way, how can you hope to handle challenging customers? When you are angry and in conflict with someone, it’s rare for it to be one-sided. Consequently, when resolving a conflict with a coworker, it’s important to be willing to meet the other person halfway. Conflict is not the sort of circumstance where you can win unless the person you’re in conflict with is winning too.

*Dr. Akindotun Merino is a professor of psychology at the Argosy University, California, United States.
Email: Info@akinmerino.com
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