013 Dealing With Stress at the Workplace

So today I have one of these topics that are relevant to all of us. Everyone is always talking about being stressed all the time. Let’s begin with what stress means. The official scientific definition of stress is an event, experience, or environmental stimulus that causes a state of mental or emotional strain or tension. It’s become almost fashionable to be stressed. You have to tell everyone that you are stressed, otherwise you’re worth nothing.

"Where the brain goes, the body follows."

In terms of the workplace, I see most issues of stress coming from the never-ending avalanche of urgent things you have to do. Stress is like sleep deprivation; after a while you get used to being chronically tired. Stress builds up over time. Unfortunately the stress we have, at least in Western Europe, comes mostly from our own minds! You don’t have to run away from tigers or things like that. It’s psychological now. Keep this saying in mind as it is very important: Where the brain goes, the body follows. Many studies link stress with a compromised immune system, increased weight gain, mood disorders, decreased brain functioning, disrupted hormone production, heart attacks and more. As a manager you have to make sure that you are at the top of your game. You’re the captain of the ship, you’re leading your team. Let’s speak about the standard stressors that you deal with in an office environment. Deadlines due to not prioritizing are a big issue, as are problems with your boss or colleagues. If you don’t take care of them, this negative baseline through years and decades is detrimental to your work performance and your health.

"I want you to be a proactive person, don't always react!"

Let’s now speak about handling stress, or de-stressing, in a positive way. There are positive and negative ways to de-stress. Healthy and natural ways to de-stress create a good to offset the stressful life that we live. In my experience, the first one is exercise! Physical exercise releases endorphins, a hormone in your brain that relieves stress and boosts your mood. Meditation, or practicing mindfulness, is also proven to reduce stress. Taking a 5- or 10-minute break and thinking about what needs to be done can have a great impact on stress levels. Take a minute for yourself because if you’re flustered, you cannot lead yourself, let alone a team. This gives you the ability to be more mindful instead of reacting. I want you to be a proactive person, don’t always react!

"Take the time to focus on the things you are thankful for."

When you’re consistently in a receiving state, you will constantly be on the back foot. Leadership is marathon, not a sprint. Journaling is also a big one. Writing down your thoughts, emotions and worries can help reduce stress. By putting your thoughts on paper, you kind of force your brain to process the issue and tap into that knowledge and insight that you have yourself. Another big one is socializing. Make time for your family and friends. This job, this career is not going to be there for you in your time of need. People will! The last two ways involve nature and being thankful. Go outside! There are many scientific studies that support the healing benefit of nature on the human body and mind. And finally, be thankful. Take the time to focus on the things you are thankful for. There is a de-stress checklist that you can access on the page to try all these steps! Life is not about being so stressed that you have a heart attack at age 50. Don’t let stress ruin your life!

Stay in lead!

OLAF KAPINSKI 🙂

De-Stress Checklist

  1. Exercise: Physical exercise naturally releases endorphins, which naturally relieves stress and boosts your mood.
  2. Meditate: time to meditate, focus on your breath, or practice mindfulness is proven to reduce stress and may also improve medical conditions caused by stress.
  3. Journaling: Keeping a journal of your daily activities, thoughts, emotions, and worries can also help reduce stress. By putting your thoughts on paper, you force your brain to process the issues at hand and tap into knowledge, healing and insight within yourself.
  4. Socialize: Spending time with friends or family that you enjoy can be a great way to relax and recharge. Also, the more you can laugh the better! Laughter is proven to lower tension and improve blood flow and heart health.
  5. Go outside: Fresh air, sunshine, and the natural landscape can instantly lower stress levels. There are many studies that support the healing benefits of nature on the human body and psyche.
  6. Be thankful: Taking time to focus on the things you’re grateful for is a great way to relieve yourself

Transcript

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So today I have one of these topics I would say, which is street talk, because everybody talks about “I am so stressed.”

And as I have Musaab as a psychologist here in the podcast, I’m very happy about this. Hey, man, what’s up?

How do I get not stressed?

Well, I think you know, whenever you have an issue or problem, we make sure we’re on the same page and we understand as much about the problem, before we talk about the solution.

So stress. In your words, what is stress? What do you think stress is?

Yeah, Stress to me is a feeling that may even be lethal. But it’s a very, very negative feeling. It may cause high blood pressure. At least it’s something which is like going back 10,000 years it feels like this big tiger is after me.

So that’s what the average person normally would say about what stress is and how they feel.

So let’s get into the official psychological definition of stress. So: a type of stress or stressor is any event, experience, or environmental stimulus that causes stress or a negative feeling in an individual. These could be threats or challenges to an individual, or they can be physical or, as we experience most of the time in our lives, psychological.

So tying this into the workplace, give me one example of a time when you felt stress? Or what do you hear people complaining most about in terms of workplace stress?

Well, I think when they can articulate this, they already made the first step to get out of it.

Good, because what I hear very often is quite an un-precise feeling. I mean, for some it’s a pheasant feeling! You get to tell everyone that you are stressed, otherwise you’re worth nothing.

You cannot be in a party and tell everyone how relaxed your job is and you make a lot of money. Nobody will believe you.

So you need to play this society, I don’t know what’s the word, society appreciation card. And you must be stressed. You’re high managers, so “Oh, I just got my plane and it goes tomorrow at whatever time,” and then picking a name of a country.

 

It’s about framing it. And I’ve had this with my friends as well.

I’m speaking to them, and it’s almost like it’s fashionable to complain about things. Like, “Man.

Can you believe I have to go all the way,” you know, connecting to your plane example; “I have to catch a plane tomorrow and go to a different country. Can you believe that?” Instead of framing it in a positive way?

I was thinking more, like, specific examples of the workplace. You’re at work, tell me something that happens that would stress you out. I think the standard thing is driven by the calendar. So it’s two things. The first thing is, the calendar is always full of brackets, usually with things that you don’t understand. Why you got to do this or why you attend these meetings is the one thing. The second thing is this never ending avalanche of absolutely urgent things that you have to deliver by tonight. Otherwise this whole company explodes.

So I think this is what I hear. And this is what I would have felt.

And this is what I still feel sometimes you know, when I feel stressed and when I can see that I jump out of what I do, then this is with me here in this company at the moment.

Only when I create this avalanche of tasks in front of me and I don’t sort it out. And I lose my priorities.

So then I get swept away, and in the meantime, I must say, this getting swamped was more my standard working for 20 years. So not really productive.

But you just get used to a negative thing. I liken it to almost sleep deprivation, in a way, because you get used to being chronically sleep deprived.

So you consistently get maybe six or seven hours on a weekend, if you’re lucky and the kids don’t wake you up.  You get used to being sleep deprived, so you don’t feel like you’re always tired. Your baseline is negative.

Stress also has a way of doing that. You get to a point where you can’t really move on.

And unfortunately, stress, we spoke about it being, at least in Western Europe, mostly psychological stressors.

There’s no animal chasing you.

You don’t have to run away from tigers or things like that.

It’s almost psychological now, unfortunately. Where the brain goes, the body follows.

It’s a statement where the brain goes, the mind follows. Where the brain goes, the body follows.

So, in many studies stress is linked with a compromised immune system.

So you get sick. More insomnia,  so you don’t sleep as well leading to increased weight, mood disorders, decreased brain functioning, disrupted hormone production, heart attacks and more.

I don’t know about you Olaf, but this doesn’t sound like the description of a happy and productive worker. So I think you brought it up.

If you think this is the baseline, you don’t really see for 10,15, maybe even 20 years that there is a different world out there.

So I give you give you a counter example?

Nutrition? Yes. Average nutrition in Western Europe, including America, consists of a lot of carbs.

And, as I’ve stopped eating carbs years ago, and I must admit this is a hard piece of work because everything that you can buy here for cheap, is super carby.

So I’m getting back on track, and I like to get back on track.

But I had then two years. The last two years were not so successful.

So but when I changed this my tiredness after lunch disappeared. And I made fun of this and put all the important meetings at 13:00 so nobody was arguing. I just said “Okay, we’re now 20 minutes and we’re 40 more minutes, but I can’t see that we have other other reasons and our arguments and no new thoughts in here. What about we finish this and we do it like this?’

And I just sent the protocol email around.

Done. Yes. You need to make sure that the protocol email hits them before 14:00.

So, if you do not do it better, then you don’t really see that there is another way.

This is why, as a manager, firstly, you have to make sure that you are at the top of your game.

You’re leading the ship, you’re leading your team.

But also, you need to watch for this in your employees as well.

And you need to be very careful and almost very deliberate in terms of handling and encouraging people to handle their stress in a positive way.

There are positive and negative ways to handle stress or de-stressing, as we call it. Let’s bring the stressors together.

Like what causes stress.

It’s like we discussed in the beginning, either physical or psychological or environmental factors. Let’s bring it to the point. Let’s go on to our standard working environment.

The only animal that runs after you is the one that you feed and lives in your house. So I mean, we were out of this.

Let’s go for the standard stressors that hit you in an office environment. What are these exactly?

So we touched on one earlier: deadlines.

So having things due that you’re not too sure how to do, or you’re not too sure how you’ll get them done in time.

Things in terms of social stressors in terms of having problems with your boss, having problems with your colleagues.

These can all cause you to have these negative things. Also having to balance work and home life.

So these are all things that psychologically and mentally take a toll.

So going into the deadline example, if you haven’t prioritised correctly and all of a sudden you have on assignment or project that’s due in a few days, you won’t be able to give it your full attention.

And you know it’s going to happen in negative way. That can cause you a lot of stress.

So not prioritizing is a big thing.

We touched on personal relationships, which are very important in an office. You’re working with people.

And we’re not school-aged Children. Not everybody gets along. Sometimes you have personal problems with someone. You have a professional problem in terms of how your manager wants things done and you disagree with them. “Why am I doing this?

Why am I here? Why am I working this job at all?”

So these are all things that can cause you stress, and if you don’t take care of them this baseline through years and years and decades is detrimental to your work performance and your health. What do we do?

So this is where de-stressing comes in. The healthy and natural ways to de-stress and to create a habit of good health in this stressful life that we live.

In my experience, the first one is exercise. Physical exercise releases endorphins, which is a hormone in your brain that relieves stress and boosts your mood.

Going for a run when you get home or going for a jog after lunch. Meditation, practicing mindfulness is also proven to reduce stress.

And what do you mean by that? So taking 5,10, or 15 minute break and thinking about what needs to be done instead of always being on a telephone or on a laptop.

As a manager, you have your office. sit down and take a minute to think about what needs to get done. Take a minute for yourself because if you’re flustered, you cannot lead yourself, let alone a team.

So let’s go a little bit more into this one. Because I think this is the cheapest, least-done thing. Cheapest, most effective, and least done thing.

So everybody thinks “I just even gotta sit on the bloody toilet with this stupid phone,” in your face.

Be mindful. I like this word. What are your thoughts when you wake up in the morning?

Do you like to turn around and hate the world and and screw everyone? Because this, that, the other negative shit on your plate?

Or is this an awesome day because you are going to the people. Would you like to like to list the stuff that you like? So you have this car paid by the company. You love it, right? You smell the new leather, so they pay even for the tire.

So all of these things. So where’s your focus?

Do this throughout the day. Don’t pretend that being busy means being effective. And this one email that you can write in this one minute when you’re just at the counter, I would say screw this one email because nobody dies if you don’t send it.

 

But close your eyes. Feel your feet, feel your breathing, feel your heart rate. Feel how all of this falls off and you become better.

Just go relax, reduce the external stimuli and project the internal stimuli.

Listen to your heartbeat. Stop taking things in.

And start almost Externalizing. This gives you the ability to be more mindful instead of reacting.

So we want you to be proactive, be a proactive person, don’t always react!

And when you’re consistently in a receiving state of mind boom, new email, ping, new text message. You will consistently be on the back foot, right?

Again, this is about your performance. You cannot perform in this stressed state. You cannot. Not for 20 years. Leadership is marathon, not a sprint.

And it gets even worse because I mean, what do you see when you go public transport?

Everybody is handicapped; in Germany, we call cell phones handys. So everybody has this cell phone hypnosis, and nobody is seeing the other.

So you can do whatever you want in a public transport. And in Hungary it’s quite funny because they even they use the phone in the public transport. In Germany, you will never, ever see this. Only if where you are it’s quite noisy and everybody hears what they’re talking about. So quite ridiculous.

Everybody is kind of addicted to this new trash that goes through your timeline whatever you do with your smartphone, but, very, very rarely do I see people just being there with themselves. This is the stuff that we can control because.

It’s not only that you have these influences from the outside from your boss, from your people, from your ticketing system from whatever.

Now, if you’re free, then you do the same yourself alternatively.

So I think this is the message you have this time.

This is better than reading this crappy news, which only scares you.

What else do you have?

So journaling. Just the act of writing down your thoughts, your emotions and your worries can help reduce stress.

By putting your thoughts on paper, you kind of force your brain to process the issue and tap into that knowledge and insight that you have yourself.

Another big one is socializing. Make time for your family. Make time for your friends.

This job that you’re in is a job. The career is a career. It’s there, but it’s not going to be there for you in your time of need; when you need a friend to pick you up or when you need your family to take care of you when you’re sick. The most you’ll get is a “Hey, get well, feel better,” from your boss.

And “Hopefully we can see you soon, right?”

 

One of the things that we speak about often on this podcast is making time for yourself. Go outside. If it’s a beautiful day, fresh air, sunshine, a natural landscape can really almost instantly lower stress levels. There are many scientific studies that support the entire healing benefit of nature on the human body and mind.

I think in terms off psychological framing how we see things; the last and most important one we can say is to be thankful.

Take time to focus on the things we’re grateful for.

It’s a great way to relieve yourself of stress and gain some good life perspective.

I think those are the most effective and healthy ways to de-stress.

Again, this is about your performance. I do not care if you’ve heard somebody that you call a serious leader talking about “Oh, you need to be thankful.”

This is how you can make or break your life. If you focus always on the negative things, then what? Make a guess, what happens, what will come into your life?

I would combine the journaling with the thankfulness. I do this exercise every evening. Minimum three points, which I’m thankful for, which I’m proud of.

Write it out and literally write it on paper. Not fiddling around with some technological toys, but pen and paper. Write it down, write it down, write it down.

And when you have a bad day like a real bad day, then you just go there and read it.

So the brain leads and the body follows. And that’s the thing. When you always think “I’m so stressed and the whole world is against me,” and make a guess what the body is doing. So that’s a good one. So, six ways to distress. Go to liveitleadit.com.

And there you will find this episode and find the six points written down in a way that you can seriously do them. And be our guests to really do them! Because this is what life is about.

It’s not about “I’m so stressed and I have a heart attack at age 50 because I’m so important.” You have 30 more years before you leave!

Cool. Thanks very much for the insights. Thank you. Have a good one. Bye!