The Best Strategy for Reducing Stress


Cover of "Reducing Stress (Essential Mana...

Cover of Reducing Stress (Essential Managers)

Imagine you’re sailing in the Bahamas, sipping a cold drink and listening to the water lapping the sides of the boat.

Relaxing, right? Not for every one of us.

(Adapted from an article by Peter Bregman at Blogs HBR)

We are not usually stressed-out. For many people daily work would be hair-pulling stressful — we routinely deals with a multitude of nagging problems related to customers, employees, banks, shareholders, market shares, turnaround, etc. But we routinely handle it all with steadiness and perspective.

The reason most of us get stressed, even on a blessed day during our vacation: frustrated expectations. For example we have an important call to make and our cell phone wasn’t working. Experiencing the gap between what we expected to happen and what was actually happening.

That’s the underlying cause of stress and it’s afflicting us more these days than ever because our expectations keep rising, thanks in part to exponential improvements in our technology.

In a hilarious interview with Conan O’Brien, the comedian Louis C.K. talked about how everything is amazing right now and nobody’s happy. He tells the story of being on a plane and, for the first time, experiencing working internet at 30,000 feet. He was amazed. The person in the seat next to him was also surfing the web happily until the connection dropped. The man immediately threw his arms up in the air and yelled, “This is bullshit!”

“How quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only 10 seconds ago.” Louis C.K. said. I fall into this trap, and most people around me do too. We expect more not only from our technology, but from each other and from ourselves.

We are usually laid-back in the face of our ever-present problems precisely because they’re ever-present. We expect them. These things are routine and we have routine responses to them, so they don’t stress us out.

But during our vacation, we expect our cell to work. So the cell outage far from land on an important phone call created a stressful unmet expectation.

So what can we do about the stress and frustration that comes from unmet expectations? We have two choices: Either change the reality around us or change our expectations.

Sometimes it’s possible to change reality. Continuously frustrated with an employee? We try to help him improve his competence. If that doesn’t work, we can fire him.

But often the reality around us is difficult to change. What if it’s a peer with whom we’re frustrated? Or maybe an entire department? We can’t fire them all. Maybe we can stop working with them, but that’s probably not in our control. We could quit, but that brings with it a host of new stress.

The best strategy for reducing stress: Change our expectations.

In other words, get used to not getting what we want. Sure this isn’t consistent with the kind of go-get-’em attitude most of us have been taught to embrace. But most of the time, fighting reality is not worth the effort. Either we can’t change what’s around us, or the fight is more stressful than the reward.

If changing our expectations proves too hard, our next best move is to get some perspective.

Almost everything we freak out about is somewhere in the 1-2 range of dashed expectations. In other words, our moods and our stress levels are determined by events that actually matter remarkably little.

That’s useful to remember when we find ourselves utterly irritated at our cable company because they erroneously added $5 to our bill or keep us on hold for 30 minutes while they investigate the matter.

That’s not always easy. A number of small stressors add up to a lot of stress and it’s natural to be stressed by things that don’t really matter in the whole scheme of things.

But we can substantially reduce our stress by recognizing that in many situations, we have become perfectionists in realms where perfection isn’t necessary, realistic, or even useful.

Full Article :

http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/07/the-best-strategy-for-reducing.html

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About Georges Abi-Aad

CEO, electronic engineer with MBA in marketing. Multicultural; French citizen born in Lebanon working in the Middle East and fluent in French, English and Arabic. I have more than 30 years of proven experience in the Middle East with European know how. I am good in reorganization and in Global strategic management business. I am a dependable leader with an open approach in working with people, forging a strong team of professionals dedicated to the Company and its clientele. Perseverance is my key word. Married to Carole and having 2 children: Joy-Joelle and Antoine (Joyante!).
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