A friend confided that, lately, he goes home from work every day feeling like a failure.
He is in charge of a sales organization that has been slipping ever since he took over a few months ago. The pressure from upper management is tremendous. It seems like everything is stacked against him – the tough economy, internal politics, the negative morale of his people -- yet every day he comes to work, sucks it up, and fights like heck to turn it around.
He hasn’t started yet with the facial ticks, but I know it’s been taking a toll.
Unfortunately, a similar refrain is playing out for many others in the hyper-competitive work world, where an otherwise mentally stable group of individuals are disintegrating under the mandate of getting more done with fewer resources while facing escalating expectations for results. Even when a win is scored, it is quickly forgotten. "What have you done for me lately?" seems to be the only message one hears anymore.
It’s no wonder, then, that the most natural order of things is to beat ourselves up with negative self-talk: "Why can’t I be more effective? I’ll never figure this out! They're going to fire me any minute!" Thus begins a downward spiral of self-conscious stress, which leads to lost confidence, and everyone knows you don’t make good decisions when you are feeling overwhelmed with stress and negative feelings.
So, how to overcome such a gnarly beast? Well, here’s an idea.
Research shows that turning around the self talk can make an enormous difference in your ability to handle things. Treating yourself kindly through "self-compassion" can vastly improve your outlook, by focusing on the positive and being more optimistic.
Self-compassionate people have been shown to be not only happier, but also better able to cope with stress, whether it is a major life event or a minor inconvenience. Much of it involves changing our interpretation of what is happening around us, our role in it, to realize that the fate of the entire universe does not depend on us, after all. That job belongs to Someone Else.
Next time you are under the gun, here are some ways to cope:
1. Be good to yourself. Sure, taking yourself out for ice cream after lunch sounds fluffy, but the benefits are backed up by hard science. So go ahead and reward yourself for all the crap you've been putting up with. Get a massage. Run off to Starbucks for coffee and some light reading. Get that workout in a few more times a week. You really, really deserve it.
2. Drown the negative chatter with positive spiritual truths. Remember, your identity is grounded in God’s love. Or at least it should be. Make that your baseline, and repeat after me: "God loves me, no matter what. God is working through me, even if I can’t see it right now. God’s presence surrounds me." Wrap yourself in the infinite security of God’s love. You are going to be okay.
3. Stop caring so much. Developing a healthy detachment will do wonders for your mental and spiritual health. There is freedom in letting go, in acknowledging that our little problem is not so significant in the grander scheme of things. Stepping back and letting things fall into the great loving abyss of God’s universal plan may be the very thing that puts it back on track. By not caring, you will ironically make better decisions, and ultimately come out the other side in one piece.
You may not see a magical resolution right away, but remember, we’re talking about what’s going on inside you, spiritually. That’s what you have control over. The rest can’t touch you.
And one more thing - don’t forget to breathe.
How do you cope with stress at work?