What would it be like to go through your day without feeling stress? Is it impossible? There are people who are so used to feeling stress that they feel more anxious when they are calm. They’re not used to it and it makes them uncomfortable.
Before I worked in the Human Resources department at a financial firm, I coordinated adoptions from Latin America at an adoption agency in New York. Most days at the agency were geared towards getting a child out of a dangerous situation and into a safe and loving home as quickly as possible. Time was of the essence and I was used to feeling a great deal of stress.
At the financial firm, the same feelings permeated the air but the goals were different. I remember working with an employee who was on the verge of being fired and she wanted to take time off for medical reasons. My team had to discuss the relevancy of the medical situation and determine whether or not it warranted time off. The firm’s medical director had to weigh in along with an on site nurse, the employee’s manager and the managing director of the employee’s department. Additionally, the firm’s legal department had a point of view. We all spent so much time trying to come to a decision about whether or not the employee actually had a medical condition and if she did, whether or not she was entitled to time off.
If she was entitled to time off, we needed to determine how long she was entitled to take. The concern was that she was trying to prevent herself from getting fired by pretending to be sick. My colleagues and I were trying to do the right thing for her and for the firm but there was an emergency to her request that reminded me of helping children get out of their birth country before the coup took over their government.
The level of anxiety we all shared seemed ridiculous and I was having a hard time dealing with the bureaucracy. I kept comparing these meetings to the ones I had at the adoption agency and I couldn’t justify my anxiety, nor could I curtail it. Thankfully, around the same time that I started at the financial firm, a friend introduced me to a specific kind of meditation that teaches ways to harness stress. It is called, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR. On the website for Mindfulness Meditation New York Collaborative it is explained that:
“MBSR uses meditation, yoga and inquiry as a way of training people to relate differently to stresses in their lives and in fact, relate differently to each moment of their lives. It was originally developed for patients in chronic pain, but has since expanded and been incorporated into the daily lives of ten of thousands of people whether they are dealing with the serious stress of illness or simply the day to day stress which at times seems like it can be too much to handle. (After learning this technique there is) a greater ability to cope more effectively with short and long term stressful situations; an increased ability to relax, lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms; and most importantly a greater energy and enthusiasm for life.”
Once I learned how to be more present and not allow myself to be pulled into the stress that I created around the responsibilities of my job (and in my life), I was able to release tension and be more productive.
We can all learn the tools needed in order to become less stressed. Take a moment several times everyday. Step back and assess each situation from an objective point of view, you may find that your default is to react with stress but you will learn how to harness those negative reactions and be more present. That is one way to reduce the amount of stress in your life.