Take stress seriously
I just came across this article which provides a very shot, but very insightful analysis of some of the main caused of work stress:
I think stress is, by its very nature, always negative. Pressure may create stress, but pressure is not negative in itself. Some pressure is even enjoyable, getting the blood racing and the mind whirring. What turns pressure into stress may be any of these added factors:
- Tiredness. Lack of time or opportunity to relax between bouts of pressure. Almost any stimulus, if continued for too long, become unpleasant or painful. It’s the same with pressure.
- Fear. If the outcome of the situation causes you anxiety or dread, there is no way it can remain a positive experience. A great deal of workplace pressure comes into this category, since there is often an implied threat if you fail to produce whatever is required, on time and to order.
- Haste. Doing things in a rush tends to make you feel anxious. You may fear you have not had time to do a good job, or that you have been forced to cut too many corners for comfort.
- Riskiness. Pleasurable pressure is usually either risk-free, or comes with the kind of risk people enjoy taking (like skiing fast downhill). Stress arises when the risks produce real anxiety and apprehension.
- Feeling out of control. No one can avoid stress when they feel that their lives are being forced down a path over which they have no control. Feeling that you are no longer in control of important parts of your well-being is inherently stressful.
- Excess. We all have a natural tolerance level for pressure. As soon as it increases beyond that level, we start to feel stress. It’s like an aircraft wing. It is designed to withstand a certain range of pressures, plus a safety margin. If the pressures on it increase beyond the design limits, stress results. Too much stress and the wing will break off.
Many people dismiss the idea of slowing down, or taking work/life balance seriously, out of a mixture of bravado and the idea that pressure is natural. It is, and so is stress. We can all withstand some level of stress, especially if it comes in short bursts, with gaps in between for recovery. What leads to burnout and sickness is long-term, unrelenting levels of stress. When that happens, things go badly wrong and may not be recoverable.