Picture a regular day at work. You reach office and start your computer, log in while discussing an upcoming deadline with your colleague amidst pleasantries, see your mailbox getting steadily flooded (although you have already been checking mails and reverting on your way to work!), quickly prioritize your attention only to be disrupted by the impatient, persistent bleating of your phone, get utterly distracted because it’s an “important client call” and get into firefighting mode. No sooner than the flames have been doused do you realize you have to call up your family and cancel plans for the evening with the usual, sedentary “will be late at work again”. While the coffee at your desk gets cold, you get pulled into a team meeting here, a conference call there and your mind oscillates between the mail you barely got to glance at, the forgotten cup of coffee, the cancelled family plan, the discussion at hand, the weekly appraisal, the many deliverables, deadlines and the obstinate feeling of impending doom. All this and you’re barely 2 hours into the work-day! Managing Stress, are you?
That’s a glimpse into the ubiquitous irregularities of a regular day at work. Is it really too hard to believe then that about half of the total population of employees in India are under stress?
Stretch, stress and burn–out
There are theories that propose the benefit of small levels of stress. But, in our dynamic environments, does it take too much for eustress to turn into total distress? While at the organization level, various activities (or even “inactivities” where you get a group of individuals to basically do nothing for a while) can be planned to help employees unwind, at the individual level, we need to look within and understand our own limits beyond which we get stressed. Having a limit is not a limitation – it’s just the point beyond which you’re moving towards a working style that is unhealthy for you. While at some level each of each are rather accepting of small doses of stress (often, that’s when work gets done), what we need to realize that these small experiences of stress can and usually cumulatively lead up to burnout and severe health complications.
The good old planner
Besides the stress present at work, there’s also the petrifying insecurity of losing one’s job altogether with about 40% of the workforce being faced with considerable organizational restructuring. With the many devices that we are connected to at work, it’s no wonder than we tend to get distracted often. Roughly 10% of every hour goes into us being interrupted. Every time an interruption crops us, it increases our stress levels minutely because every interruption subconsciously implies a new problem that needs solution. That’s when planning your day can really help in managing stress. You cannot schedule every minute of every day but you sure can map your day in a way that you avoid one task spilling into the other or you work-life and non-work life negatively affecting each other. Getting interrupted is often a matter of choice and it’s up to you to draw the lines that help you manage work better.
The joy of disconnecting
The art of mindful living, of acting and not reacting and of being able to just breathe and exhale your stress out makes for interesting reading but tends to be almost impossible to practice at times. Granted it is difficult to disconnect but when you do, you know the benefits it brings in. Disconnecting does not imply you unplugging yourself out of work and going AWOL. You can disconnect while working too. All it needs is knowing yourself and knowing your work. You simply disconnect with everything to connect back with things that need to be attended to. Multi-tasking might be the norm but it’s always good to go against the flow ever so often.
Everyone seems to be on the hunt for the pause button, to reset our individual panic buttons and to be able to unplug. You don’t really have to go off to a DND vacation or pop nerve soothers or even run away to the mountains to meditate to battle stress. The solution to that is much closer home and within each of us. All you need to do is decide to break away from the cycle of stress. It might not be as easy as you would want it to be but easier than you think.