Fast Company

Turn Your Stress and Suffering Into Peace and Productivity

We could all use a little less stress at work, couldn’t we? Most of us contend with too many meetings, expanding workloads, overactive mobile phones, pernicious office politics and out of control inboxes. It all adds up to an enormous amount of pressure. And when the stress is excessive, it can negatively affect our productivity, our health and our personal and professional relationships. We know we need to relax, but we rarely do!

Unfortunately, many of us have accepted stress as a fact of life. We see the world around us changing rapidly, placing more and more demands on our time and patience, and we shrug our shoulders. The world is a stressful place, we think. I can’t do anything to change it. But that thinking is wrong. You can change it.

In fact, you are the cause of your own suffering. (If you’re familiar with Buddhism, this should sound familiar.) When a co-worker undermines a project you’re leading, it’s not the action itself that raises your blood pressure. It’s your reaction – your sense of betrayal or concerns about your reputation – that drives up your stress. You might worry, obsess and complain. You might fantasize about giving the co-worker a piece of your mind. You might start concocting excuses and ways to confer blame. If you pay attention, you’ll find that all of your pain and suffering comes from the convoluted story you have created around a simple external event.

That’s good news, because it means you have the power to alleviate your stress – in all aspects of your life. With practice, you can control your reaction to events that occur around you. Here are four helpful daily reminders that can keep you in a peaceful state of mind.

1.Stop using the word “should.” There is no particular way things should be. Stop arguing with reality, and get down to the business of finding solutions.
2.Choose happiness over the need to be right. Striving to be right all the time is a lonely and painful path – and it won’t necessarily advance your career. Being right just doesn’t hold as much water as producing results.
3.Stick to the facts. Stop editorializing on the truth, and focus on what you know for sure. Remember that the imagination is not a credible source for filling in missing information.
4.Stop judging and start helping. If you find yourself spending a lot of time and energy on other people’s problems, resolve to turn your focus to something creative and productive. The best way to get started is to ask, “How can I help?”

These simple practices will help you minimize stress, whatever you’re facing at work. They’re effective because they allow you to operate from a place of neutrality, freeing you from unhelpful emotional reactions to reality. You will shed all that heavy baggage of stories, excuses, drama and blame. The way forward becomes clear: you will know just what to do next, and you will have plenty of energy to do it.

Need more strategies? Check out Cy's latest book - Reality Based Rules of the Workplace