HIH: Ask A Therapist : Work-Life Balance

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Q: Recently I’ve noticed that I feel quite overwhelmed at work and it’s affecting my productivity. What are some simple things I can do to manage this? 

A:

  • Psychologists have proposed that our experience of stress is directly related to our belief about the skills we have to cope with the stressor, rather than the stressor itself. Some general ways to cope with stress include: 

    • Describe Specifics, Not Generalities 

  • Try to remember things in specific generalities vs. vague and general terms. For example, thinking to yourself “I have to complete this report” vs. “I have a lot of work to do today.” The advantage of this is that, the more specific we are, the better we are able to imagine ourselves completing the task. o Break it Down into Small Parts 

  • The first step to making stress feel more manageable is to examine the parts of the task and break it down into steps. Once you have done this, create a timeline for completing your tasks, have a plan to help you stay on track, and complete your task early enough for a final review. o Fixed vs. Growth Beliefs 

  • If you believe that your skills cannot evolve then you will also have the mindset that trying harder, persisting, and giving yourself time to learn more won’t work. If you believe that abilities can grow, then you will experience less stress when you don’t “get it” immediately or fear that you will never get it. 

Q: I’m definitely an over-achiever and a high functioning individual who thrives on stress. My friends say that I’m not normal and that I need to “chill.” Is it possible to find meaning in stress? 

A:

  • Not only is it possible to find meaning in stress, but you can actually change your stress into meaning. Some ways to do that include: 

    • Acknowledge Your Stress

  • Anxiety is often rooted in the past or the future. So in order to use our stress as fuel, we need to realize that stress is happening to us and recognize it as an experience.

    • Embrace Your Stress 

  • Although it sounds counterintuitive, we need to allow ourselves to feel the stress as it is and not as we fear it to be. Notice how your stress comes up in your body, become friends with your stress, realize that it’s not your enemy and it is, in fact, trying to pass on a message to you. o Find Importance in Your Stress 

  • Attempt to address the specific issue that your stress is trying to highlight to you. It is possible that something is at stake in your life and, once you listen, you will be able to find out what it is.

    • Turn Oppression into Choice 

  • The hardest yet most fruitful part of stress is to try to find positive meaning and purpose in life’s challenges. When you do this, stress can transform a path of avoidance to a path of growth and contribution.