I was recently thinking about the stress caused by our work situation, something totally uncool and non-worthlivinit, but something I see all my friends trying to cope with on a daily basis.
It can be that work is too much or that work is not enough, or that there is no work at all. That the clients are too demanding, the boss totally unhelpful and the colleagues trying to step over your dead body. Deadlines, performance reviews, presentations to the board, salary cuts. All these paint a very bleak picture of how today’s working youth is looking at its work life.
I don’t think my parents ever experienced the kind of stress I and my peers live through every day. Of course there was no global crisis tormenting the economy and Greece was going through its golden age of modern times, but I think it wasn’t just that. It was also a different mentality. Of course they wanted me to want to have a job and be happy with my job and have a job that pays the bills (but doesn’t necessarily make you rich), an important job (so I can use all my skills, diplomas, foreign languages etc) and most of all a job that I enjoy and don’t lose my sleep over. I don’t believe my mom was ever stressed about her job to the extent she snapped out at my dad or had nightmares for three nights in a row. I, on the other hand, have been THAT stressed (I’m actually going through such a period right now, that’s how I thought of writing this post). I never remembered my dad complaining of stress (my dad is a lawyer, a job I find super stressful because other people’s well-being depends on you-even if that well-being is get out of paying a parking ticket). I, on the other hand, complain ALL THE TIME, when I’m stressed at work. I show signs of depression, I refuse to get out of bed in the morning, my tasks look like an endless list of challenges and I feel I’m drowning.
NOT COOL AT ALL.
So I’ve developed a few tricks over the years to try and calm myself down whenever I’m going through a phase like this:
1. Put things into perspective: There are so many things in this life that are pure SH*T. Like war, illness, death and loss. None of these are caused by not performing well at work though (unless you’re Obama). Things will get harder in life. If you’re lucky enough to have friends and family, then things are about to get worse in some years from now. I know it sounds morbid and totally bleak, but that’s how it is: you’re bound to feel great pain from the loss or suffering of people close to you. And this is just one of the things that might go wrong. So stop it. Stop delving into stress without any particular reason, other than “my project is crap”. Stop feeling like work is the only thing that validates you and that it is worth losing your sleep over it. Stop thinking that your PowerPoint presentation will make it or break it for you. Instead, think of all the great things that make your life #worthlivinit, of the people you love and of all the great things you have achieved so far. Every time I was stressed before an exam, a test, a difficult day at work, a big presentation etc. I would always complain to my mom: “Mom, I just want tomorrow/next week/next month to be over.” It will”, she would answer, “it most definitely will. 30 years (i.e. my age) have gone by and they have been good. Don’t you think another day/week/month will go by as well?” I always found this phrase so wise and liberating and I always have it in mind every time a challenge shows its face at work.
2. Share your troubles: Talk, take it out, don’t feel you’re burdening people, you’re not. To the contrary, you’re actually opening your heart and mind to them, which is therapeutic for several reasons: It helps you take the burden off your chest, it helps you realize how ridiculous it might (or might not) sound and get a perspective that you probably hadn’t thought about before. If nothing else, it helps you get out of the house, have a drink and catch up with a friend you hadn’t seen in a while.
3. Meditate: Don’t roll your eyes and stay with me for a second here. It is extremely difficult to start meditating if you’ve never done it before, and I have first hand experience with this because after several months, I’m still trying! The 20 minutes per day that most people advise are a far away dream for me, however, even starting with 4-5 minutes will make a huge difference. I first thought about meditating to make myself sleep at night as I often find myself looking at the ceiling 2 hours after I laid in bed. You can find many tips online as to how to meditate, but I got my first cues from Arianna Huffington’s Thrive.
4. Get help: If you feel that the stress is getting worse and worse every day and that none of the usual tricks will do it for you, ask for help. Professional help. Go online and search the name of a good helpline that works on the issues that worry you. Call them. It’s a great first step in your path to feel better.