Donna Rae Smith: How to change your thoughts and actions to fight workplace stress

Donna Rae Smith, Founder and CEO, Bright Side Inc.

Donna Rae Smith, Founder and CEO, Bright Side Inc.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”  William James, American philosopher and psychologist.

In an increasingly stressful world, William James’ remarks are just as accurate and relevant today as they were when he said them more than a century ago. We face countless stressful forces, most of them beyond our control: changing market conditions, economic uncertainty, new laws and regulations, and competition, to name just a few.

Confronted with circumstances and situations that we can’t change, our only hope is to affect what we can: our own thoughts and actions. Only by managing ourselves can we exert some control over our physical and mental health.

The first step is to change the way we think about stress. Rather than trying to take control by accomplishing more, we need a different tack: getting back to basics, with time-proven strategies like slowing down, truly connecting and living in the moment.

Why do these work? Because they tap into our fundamental need for purpose and meaning and help us remember what really matters. They allow us to put stress into perspective and truly gain control — not of what’s happening around us, but of ourselves.

Stay connected.

For most of us, staying connected means having round-the-clock access to our phones and email. However, nothing replaces face-to-face conversation, where you’re intently focusing on the person next to you and they’re doing the same. That kind of connectedness is a need we all share and it can’t be replaced by a screen or monitor.

Rather than constantly email the colleague next door, think about having more in-person, direct communication. Likewise, make a personal commitment to carve out meaningful time for the important people in your life.

Slow down.

The last thing you want to do when you’re stressed out is slow down. But the reality is that even a short break for quiet and relaxation will reap you benefits tenfold.

Even 20 minutes to go for a walk on a tree-lined street or to sit on a park bench makes a difference.

Whatever you choose, making time to slow down won’t set you back — it will actually refresh you and give you more energy for what lies ahead.

Have faith.

Having faith means different things for different people. If you have faith in a higher being, then you know it’s a source of strength.

Making time to read short meditations or prayers can center and rejuvenate you. Others find faith in themselves or in modern philosophers.

In either case, it’s important to find a source that fuels you when the going gets tough.

Find your fire.

A sure-fire way to relieve stress is to focus on something you truly love and feel passionate about. When you’re engaged in an activity you deeply enjoy, everything else recedes into the background.

Make time for activities you love and recapture that childhood enthusiasm.

Laugh it off.

Research suggests that laughing has healthful effects. But we don’t need scientists to verify that laughing feels good. Let your guard down and laugh when the situation calls for it.

If you can’t laugh at your natural surroundings, then create a laugh break by watching or reading something you find funny. Or do an activity that’s sure to make you laugh — like miniature golf, bowling, an amusement park or karaoke. However you do it, make laughter and humor a routine part of your life, not a special occasion.

 

Donna Rae Smith is a guest blogger and columnist for Smart Business. She is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc.®, a transformational change catalyst company that has partnered with more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, visit www.bright-side.com or contact Donna Rae Smith at [email protected] 

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