A positive mindset and a successful career require the good management of stress; however, it becomes more difficult to be immune to it with the years. Whether caused by personal problems, professional pressure or unwanted events in life, it is vital to learn how to cope with personal and professional stress. On this occasion, I decided not to dig into the research on the subject but rather write from my own experience. Below I share thoughts that have helped me throughout my life to manage personal and professional stress, especially after tragic events at the family level. I hope my experience helps others to cope with stress and be positive. In the end, life never presents us with tests that we cannot overcome.
What stress IS and how to identify it
Stress is the physical and psychological tension that we experience when we demand a performance beyond what is expected from our body and mind. Throughout my life, I have described stress as a state in which the body and mind are interrupted and overwhelmed by an event, thought, feeling or plan.
Identifying stress turns out not to be as difficult as many expect. What I have seen more complicated is recognising it as part of our life and starting the process of combating it. In today’s society, stress appears normal in our lives; however, it takes consciousness and courage to think about its consequences and how it wastes our body. Instead of taking stress as an excuse for our aggressive behaviour, fatigue, or health problems, it is better to identify it and learn to handle it in all areas of our lives.
The stress manifests itself in various ways; from my personal experience and what I have seen in others, it has manifested physically and emotionally, for example:
- Headache, particularly right after waking up (quite frustrating!)
- Physical tiredness
- Lack of appetite, an aberration to a meal or addiction to others
- Stomach pain, bad digestion
- Weight gain without any explanation
- General fear or fear for something specific
- Nightmares or strange dreams, in many cases referring to the cause of stress
- Unexplained anxiety
- Lack of time becomes an obsession
- Bad mood with things of daily life
- Painful self-criticism (nothing healthy for self-esteem!)
If you have experienced any of these symptoms and wonder about the causes, I would suggest as a first step to consider if you are suffering from stress. Particularly in physical symptoms, many of us think that we suffer from a new sickness when the diagnosis is as simple as stress.
A point to clarify here: all the symptoms mentioned above occur sporadically and, of course, not all at once. If you see constant patterns in your behaviour, turn on your alarms! Avoiding sadness and depression is fundamental.
How to cope with personal and professional stress
Personal stress can be caused by several reasons: atraumatic event that marked your life, conflicts with friends, relationship conflicts, changes in life, health problems, physical or emotional pain, etc.
Like personal stress, professional stress is caused by several reasons: new job, new boss, new responsibilities, goals that seem impossible to fulfil, etc. In some cases, professional stress can be more disturbing than professional stress. Money is necessary for the current society; hence situations such as reaching goals to get a job bonus, unemployment or being fired cause more impact than breaking up with your high-school sweetheart.
Fortunately, I have not experienced serious professional or personal stress. I would even tend to say that the stress in my life has been caused by my perfectionism and sometimes addiction to work. Learning how to cope with stress is not an easy task for many, so I decided to share my experience. The recommendations written below do not have medical or professional support. As I mentioned earlier, I decided to write this article based only on my experience.
If you want to share more tips based on your life or from your perspective as a professional, leave your comments below or write to email@example.com. I will be happy to share your knowledge in a future article.
How to cope with stress after the death of a loved one
In two episodes of my life, I had faced situations related to the death of a loved one: when I was 7 years old with my grandpa’s death, and when I was 27 years old with the death of my mother. Which episode hurt me more? It’s inexplicable. Due to time and memories, it is much easier to share my experience regarding my mom’s death.
The points I describe below come from my thoughts and way of seeing life. They have no psychological source, neither spiritual and mental guidance. If I owe some credit to the thoughts on how to cope with stress, I will give them to the way my mom raised me:
- Focus the energy on positive memories of the person: both my mom and my grandpa died of cancer, so it is normal to have images of pain, frustration and sadness trapped in the brain. When the loved ones are already resting from all the suffering, it is good to focus on canalizing the remaining energy towards happy memories. For example, with my mother, I may not forget the moments in the hospital or ICU completely. Still, I can choose to voluntarily remember her with her smile, enjoying coffee, travelling and talking with me about how beautiful life is.
- Let them go: regardless of the religion you believe, when a person dies, he/she leaves energy behind. When you are very close to the person who died, that energy is focused on you, in your strength to continue with life or your pain. I grew up with the thought of “letting people go once they die”, or as many religions refer to it, “let them rest in peace”. In my case, my mom was exceptional, and she prepared me to live without her. Of course, it’s hard! I miss her like never before, but I’m not selfish to keep her tied to me and my life.
- Cry to overcome pain, not to cling to it: humans cry because something hurts physically or emotionally. Even though I could not cry at my mom’s funeral, it is usual for me to get nostalgic and cry when I miss her. The important thing is to be responsible and take those tears as an opportunity to grow and overcome the situation, not to make it a habit. My mom never liked to see me cry, so I think the less it happens, the better I honour her memory and lessons.
- Please find a way to overcome the situation and adapt: it is important to digest the new situation in life, accept it and remember that this special person is not with you anymore. In my case, it helped me a lot to see the photos of my mother’s last trip, select them and print some of them to decorate my house. In the case of other people, visiting favourite commonplaces or clean the house from memories helps. While I checked the photos of my mom and me, I remembered all the fantastic moments together and the exceptional relationship we had. After she passed away, I feel I gained an angel more taking care of me or inexplicable energy that makes me stronger than before.
- On the contrary, do not collapse; face reality with courage: I was always taught to move forward and fight for my dreams no matter how difficult they are. When my mom died was not the best time in my life, I was going through a tough situation with my partner (now ex-boyfriend), and I had big projects to complete at work; many of my professional dreams depended on my mental strength. I had two options: I let myself fail, or I go ahead, and I make her proud. I opted for the second; whenever she is, she should be smiling and proud of me.
- Instead, do not lie to yourself; instead, prepare for the future: this is linked to my mom and her cancer experience. We all tend to lie to ourselves and hang on to hope that not even doctors can find it. Instead of thinking about an unreal future, focus on enjoying the time with your loved one. If the story has a sad ending, your conscience will be calm, and your soul will be serene.
How to COPE WITH STRESS with colleagues AT WORK
At work, there are always conflicts; even if it is the tiniest startup full of sweet employees, there are situations where not everybody thinks the same. In my case, conflicts with my co-workers have been caused by differences in management style and leadership or conflicts related to how we cope with deadlines. Despite being good friends or acquaintances in personal life, professional life brings more challenges and conflicts of interest. The important thing is to be mature enough not to let the personal side influence work and vice-versa.
Here are some things that have helped me keep the situation under control:
- Practice empathy: in the same way that I have my perspective and my “personal demons”, each person has them. Whenever there is a conflict or discrepancy of opinions, I try to think about why my colleague feels bad to learn how to cope with stress. Putting yourself in the shoes of the other helps to lower the fumes and, therefore, your stress after feeling offended.
- Try to understand others as best as possible: we all think differently and act based on our thoughts. It is better to leave aside criticism and invest your time in understanding. Personally, I like to ask directly or indirectly the reason for things. Once you know the cause of the reactions and attitudes of others, you can see their behaviour from another point of view. I have been surprised to discover and understand the real causes why colleagues sabotage projects or use “indirect” speeches during meetings.
- Find moments outside the office to talk with those involved in the discussion: many times, the work environment makes a conflict worse. Especially when the stress is derived from work pressure, conversations in the office environment do not contribute to a peaceful solution to the conflict.
- Do not take comments personal: there will be multiple moments where your colleagues go over the line with comments or attitudes. The key for me has been to take these comments as impersonal and justify them with reasonable factors in my colleague’s life. For example: what if he/she is currently handling frustration at home or bad arguments with his/her children or spouse. Whether or not these justifications are true, the technique helps reduce stress and bad vibes.
- Define limits and moral parameters for yourself and follow them: either because of conflicts with colleagues or another kind of situations, work-life requires decisions. I have saved myself a lot of stress by defining who I am, what image I want to reflect at work, my objectives, and my limits. The best thing you can do for yourself is to have a clear conscience.
How to COPE WITH STRESS to achieve professional goals
Leading a team brings along responsibilities. In my case, the pressure to obtain quarterly or monthly results has been a challenge to handle, especially being a perfectionist and devoted to my professional development. Learning how to cope with stress will help you achieve those targets and keep yourself away from sickness.
Below I share tactics that have helped me keep stress under control, avoid it and concentrate on working with enthusiasm:
- Keep an agenda for “to-dos” and “already-done”: I have always criticized my ability to manage time and be very efficient. In some cases, this characteristic of my personality leads me to have more stress. Having two lists to see what I have to do and what I have already achieved has helped me feel triumphant. It’s great to see how my list of achievements increases; it makes me feel productive and reminds me of my potential.
- Take breaks more often if your work allows it: if deadlines and goals stress you; divide your daily work into small periods of productive time. It has worked very well to schedule my days with activities that last between 1 or a maximum of 2 hours. Once I finish an activity, I move away from my desk to have a cup of coffee, lunch, drink water, or just clear my mind for 5 minutes. In this way, the level of concentration for the next activity is better.
- Manage your list of priorities very well: if you know what targets you should reach, organize your agenda with activities related to that goal. Of course, you will have routine activities not linked to obtaining your quotas and work goals. However, this is not an excuse to waste time and motivation. Having clear priorities helps you decide what to do next.
- Eat healthy, especially snacks that help your brain: if I’m using my brain more than normal, it’s best to feed it to produce more ideas and avoid fatigue, right? Nuts, fish, avocados, tomatoes and strawberries have helped me stay well.
- Respect your daily free time: no matter how much work I have, I always respect my 2 hours of tranquillity in solitude. In my hectic life, I need to respect the few hours of my “alone time” after sharing spaces with others at the office and during meetings. Every day I reserve at least two hours to be with myself doing something that I like or whatever I decide to do alone: write, watch series, watch movies, read, exercise, walk, write this blog, brainstorm for work, etc. everything counts as long as I am alone. These 2 hours do not have to be consecutive or simultaneously every day; what I value is the silence and tranquillity to recharge energy and continue positive.
Live a happy and positive life
Regardless of the cause of stress, I always keep a positive mind and focus all my energy on my dreams. I see stress as a barrier to achieving what you really want. Therefore, whenever I identify a symptom of it, I stop along the way and try to eradicate it as soon as possible. I invite you all to do the same and never let stress take advantage of irreversible consequences such as a chronic illness or a bad decision. Life is too beautiful to waste it!
I decided to write about this topic from a personal angle because I want to see people around me be happy and achieve their goals. I hope this article has helped you and inspired you. If you have suggestions about topics for the next article write to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comments below. Remember to follow me on Instagram for more positive vibes! Cheers!