How To Manage Workplace Stress When All You Want To Do Is Quit!

Employers in India will never implement measures to reduce employee stress levels because ours is a sales-driven corporate economy, in which we are always chasing targets and numbers. This is why most Indian corporates will perhaps have an employee stress management session once in the year at best, but the bitter truth is that as an employee the onus to manage stress levels is on you. You need to look out for your own health, rather than expect or wait for your employers to do so.

The Root Of The Stress Problem

” In today’s world, the content of your life will not change, which is why you need to change the context.”

In today’s world, the content of your life will not change, which is why you need to change the context. This is the only way to be stress-free and happy. Changing the context also does not require approval or permission from anyone else. The main reason that stress levels at the workplace in India are rising so high is because of our attitude towards life – we don’t manage stress because we only see the need to manage things that give us money. We manage our jobs, our investments, financial portfolio, banking, filing returns, and so on, but we just neglect stress because it doesn’t offer any obvious financial rewards. Wealth is simply the biggest parameter for success in the ‘modern’ Indian psyche, which is why parents too add to the stress levels, by putting pressure on kids to excel from a very early age. In fact, parents tend to worry when their children are happy and care free, as they tend to view anxiety about future earnings as a healthy and desirable trait!

Stress Management Tips For Employees

” I strongly advise every employee out there to not wait for physical signs of stress, as sometimes these warnings may come too late”

I was doing an event for McKinsey & Co. in Delhi, and ironically, while I was talking about stress and fitness I experienced heart arrhythmia and had to be hospitalized. This rare irregularity in heart rhythm is actually brought on by stress and doctors told me that it was because I was taking on a greater load than I could handle. I strongly advise every employee out there to not wait for such physical signs of stress, as sometimes these warnings can come too late. Here are some tips and strategies to manage stress that I have found to be highly effective, both through personal experience and through my interactions with employees.

1. Re-Evaluate Your Goals

Our ambitions are so high that the moment we achieve a goal, our sights just move higher; we do not pause to celebrate and enjoy the achievement or to catch a breath. The boundaries have blurred and even accomplishment of goals does not make us happy because we have become so accustomed to constantly chasing targets. The most important thing to do is therefore to take stock of life – spare time to enjoy life and celebrate the achievement of goals. Only set realistic goals and maintain breathing space between goals. Relax and recharge, if not to simply enjoy life, at least so that you are better equipped to chase the next goal!

2. Be Sincere But Take Break

Sincerity stress is a uniquely modern corporate phenomenon wherein people who are more sincere tend to suffer greater stress. I was in fact told by doctors that close to 90 percent of these people suffer from heart disease. This highlights the importance of sometimes letting go of your work responsibilities to take a break. People have just forgotten how to enjoy life and be happy. Even when people go on vacation, they are not really vacationing, but are networking; they use their time to take and post photographs online, all aimed at projecting an image to the world. Yes, even vacations are for others, not for ourselves! Learning to disconnect, relax, and recharge is therefore critical to lowering stress levels and I believe that this alone can reduce stress levels by as much as 50 percent.

3. Disconnect!

This is why my first suggestion is to avoid switching on your mobile phone during the first 90 minutes of the day. Because, if you switch on your cell phone within the first 90 minutes of wakefulness you allow the whole world to claim you. Those first 90 minutes should be your own time, your alone time for meditation, fitness, a cup of tea, and relaxation. Avoid reading the newspapers, or watching the television –  it should be interior time, not exterior time. Meditation, yoga, exercise, and fitness activities are in fact the perfect way to start the day.

4. Acceptance

A large part of our stress results from social interactions, at home or at the workplace. While your opinions and feedback will matter to those closest to you, it is often futile to try and force others to change. In such cases, avoid stressing over it and instead accept people as they are. Do not allow their behavior to affect you or to produce reactions that will only reinforce their bad behavior. With office colleagues, employers, and neighbors, you don’t have much of a choice, so focus on the positives that they bring to the table and ignore the negatives. In time they will come to respect you and value your opinion and may be receptive to change; either way the goal is not to change others, but for you to find peace through acceptance.

5. Fitness

Fitness or physical activity makes a huge difference and at first you may need to force yourself into the practice. Yes, getting started always requires the greatest effort, but in time you come to love the activity. Several studies have shown that exercise or even walking, has a positive influence on moods, releasing hormones that promote happiness and relaxation. Try to incorporate 30 to 45 minutes of a physical fitness routine into your daily life.

6. Meditation

For me, meditation was one of the most effective ways to lower stress levels. It is not simply about reaching some higher state of awareness, but it can also implies being focused and present in the moment. The best way to meditate is by focusing on your breathing, with yogic techniques like pranayama. I practice Kriya Yoga and was inspired to take up the discipline after reading “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda, which Steve Jobs wanted the world to read, before his passing. The book changed my life and it can certainly change yours too.


Slow Down!

Till the age of 40 or even 50 we are constantly in a race against time, struggling to achieve as much as we possibly can. But if we forget to pause along the way, age catches up even faster, forcing us to do so. Remember, life is not a race, but is a marathon. Don’t live your life for other people trying to please others or to impress them; enjoy the smaller pleasures in life. For me, the best investment was the simple board game of Ludo. Playing with my son is now a meditative and quality experience that is often the highlight of my day. I certainly wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

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