The World Health Organization calls job stress a worldwide epidemic. It costs global companies billions annually—and what does it cost you? During the first few years of my career as a corporate freshman, I was so stressed out that I came home from work and collapsed on the couch. By the time I woke up, it was almost time to go to bed again and I had missed the whole evening. I was in the doctor’s office so much with aches and pains and coughs and colds that the nurses thought I was a hypochondriac. I cursed my poor health all the time until I signed up for a self-improvement class. Then, I was finally able to put the responsibility where it belonged. There was nothing wrong with my health, but my stress management did need some serious work.
Did you know that people get physically tired because of emotional factors like boredom, frustration, and anxiety? True intellectual stimulation, on the other hand, doesn’t exhaust us at all. If you are drained at the end of the day, it’s not because of the mental work you have done, but the way you have done it. The first time I heard this, a light bulb went off. It occurred to me that I could write nonstop for eight hours and run a 5K immediately afterwards, yet after spending a few hours at my corporate job I could barely drag myself to the train station.
You’ve probably heard lots of advice for how to reduce stress in your life—exercising, eating right, going to your place of worship, making time for the hobbies you enjoy, talking it out with friends and family, etc. But my personal favorite tactic is to gain an understanding of the things at home or work that stress you out, and prepare to cope with them in advance. When I was working in corporate public relations, for example, I used to feel like crying when a situation became disorganized and overwhelming. If I knew that I had a complicated press event coming up, I thought about how I could handle it when executives started missing interviews and the journalists started complaining. By the time the event arrived, I’d rehearsed it so many times that I was cool as a cucumber.
If you think about it, there are always reasons to be stressed. Today it’s fuel and airline ticket prices, tomorrow it will be something else. Don’t allow life to carry you from one chaotic moment to the next. Make stress reduction a priority and don’t consider your day productive unless you have a substantial amount of energy left at the end of it!