Stress is one of the most pervasive afflictions in the corporate sector today. The harm it can inflict is compounded by the fact that it is amorphous by nature, thereby preventing us from measuring it or even being aware of the extent to which it affects us. While there are reams of advice on the topic, I will attempt to summarize a few approaches for managing stress from my real-life experiences as a senior-level executive.

stressed_executiveAsk yourself is it worth it? While we think day-to-day living can have its tough or heavy moments, a point to bear in mind is one that my favorite author, Milan Kundera, said: "And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?" We can prepare 72 times for a presentation to the board, but no one prepares us for the sudden news of the unexpected death of a near or dear one. So, if life itself can disappear in a flash, why sweat over the components of life?

Acceptance. Once we get down to the business of day-to-day living, the biggest hurdle to overcome is acceptance. Yes, the bad news, the unexpected news is reality. There's no running away from that. Denial or a strong desire to restore status quo ante is one of the biggest creators of stress since the mind is then focused on a situation it can do nothing about, resulting in stress. Acceptance leads to solution-oriented thinking.

As Aldous Huxley wrote, in Brave New World, “Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.” We have to learn to dust the dirt off and get on with it. What is the easiest and biggest way to solve the situation? The moment the mind is focused on the how, it stops worrying about the why.

Accept that stress happens to everyone. Why me? Is one of the most frequently asked questions when you get stressed. Remember that it happens to everyone. Some talk about it, some don't. Some frown, some bear it with a smile. But there is no exception to this rule. In fact, some say that if all of us placed our troubles together on a table and were given a choice to pick one, in all probability, we'd end up picking the one we are already afflicted with.

Don’t undervalue stress management and coping tools. We tend to view "hard tools” such as formal certification, software training, etc. with seriousness. Unfortunately, we don't apply the same yardstick to "soft tools" such as yoga or meditation. Countless studies have proven that 15-30 minutes of focus on the mind every morning takes the stress out of the system.

Talk it out. What you think keeps circulating in your system unless you let it out. The mind has a tendency to build rapidly on simple thoughts themselves, unless we take them out of our system. For once, silence is not golden! Unless you let your hair down, you may not have much of it left.

Focus on life as a whole. The most common reason for stress is a single-minded focus on one dimension of our life such as work or a bad relationship. A continual focus on all the aspects of life ensures that no single factor gets a disproportionate share of the mind, resulting in unwarranted stress.

While we all have developed expertise in our professional areas over the years, it is equally important to develop the right attitude towards life and work so that we can manage stress. Stress elimination is virtually impossible, but stress management is very pragmatic.


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