Stressing out is a fact of life. As far as we know, there is absolutely no way to avoid it; the best we can do is manage certain aspects of our lives to ensure that any stress we feel is more helpful than it is hurtful.
Sadly, we tend to do a very poor job of managing the stressful factors that negatively affect us. Whether this is a result of changing values (which expects us to be always accessible to practically all the people in our lives) or the ever-growing obsession with productivity is moot. At the end of the day, not drawing the line between good stress and bad stress will ultimately affect our performance, not just as professionals but as human beings as well.
So how exactly do we make sure that we get more productive stress than unproductive stress? You need to keep the following facts in mind.
How to tell the difference between good and bad stress
We all know that there is good stress and there is bad stress. Many of us can even offer some concrete examples of each type. But few of us can articulate the general differences between these two types of stress and accurately identify them when they apply to us. Even trickier is the fact that each of us can have a different response to stress triggers – some may be energized by it, while others are paralyzed by it.
As a rule of thumb, here are the most important differences between good stress and bad stress:
- As was implied above, good stress is associated with excitement and anticipation, while bad stress is associated with dread or outright fear.
- Good stress comes with goals that you perceive as achievable, while bad stress comes from problems which you think of as insurmountable.
- Good stress makes you feel healthier and happier, while bad stress makes you feel more sick and depressed.
Many experts agree that much of the stress we experience depends on our overall attitude towards certain situations. As such, it is recommended that we become aware of and explore such mindsets in order to react accordingly.
The countermeasures to bad stress
There are actually a large number of countermeasures to bad stress that have been recommended by experts over the years, the most common ones being:
- Using relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation to override panicked thoughts
- Arranging one’s daily or weekly schedule to include short breaks between tasks
- Eating better
- Sleeping better
While largely effective, many of us have trouble implementing these countermeasures. This is primarily because we live in an age of increased connectivity and productivity, thanks to vastly improving technology. Being surrounded by such gadgets and service accounts undoubtedly makes it difficult for us to disengage in potentially stressful situations. But here’s the thing – those same devices and services give you countermeasures to manage the amount of stress you let into your life.
Of course, phone systems like the ones offered by RingCentral and email inboxes designed for productivity like Microsoft Outlook make it possible for you to be contacted by people no matter where you are and no matter what time it is. But that doesn’t mean that you have to answer every call or read and reply to every email. Voicemail exists for a reason. So does the message options box. You need to integrate such features into your life in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who contact you.
Prioritize your interactions, and let other people know your protocols so they can act accordingly. That way, you can give yourself enough breathing room to avoid bad stress.