Reduce Stress In The Workplace By Changing Your Rules

Two girls stood up on stage with me in front of the rest of the school after they had volunteered. Each year the local private school asks me to speak to the school seniors about coping with stress. And I was beginning my presentation the same way as I did last year. I asked the two girls the same question... "What has to happen in order for you to feel relaxed and happy"? Just like last year, the two girls answered this question with wildly different answers...

Jessica, who was picked because of her laid back attitude replied, "Nothing much has to happen in order for me to feel relaxed and happy. It is pretty much automatic."

Caitlin, who was picked because she was a rather stressful student answered with a long list of criteria. " Well, I feel relaxed if I have completed all my jobs and finished all my assignments perfectly."

"Thank you,"

"Oh yeah, "interjected Caitlin. "Also people around me need to be happy, form me to feel happy and relaxed. I like to make people happy. And also...I like my clothes to look nice and have nice hair..." Caitlin was on a roll when I stepped in.

"I think we get the picture now Caitlin, thanks."

I called out to the audience "Who has the easiest rules for being relaxed and happy?"

"Jessica" called out the students.

"Who in real life do you find more relaxed and happy?"

"Jessica," came the resounding reply from the students amidst a few giggles and murmurs.

"Why are Jessica´s rules easier than Caitlin´s?"

An attentive girl in the third row raised her hand. "Firstly, Caitlin has many more things that need to happen before she relaxes so it makes sense that Jessica will be quicker to relax in most situations."

"Precisely," I said. "And there is one more thing that will interfere with Caitlin´s relaxation."

I turned to Caitlin. "Caitlin can you force someone else to be happy if they don´t want to."

"No," she replied in an incredulous manner that suggested that I had just asked her the most stupid question.

"Can you see why it is hard for you to relax and easy to get stressed when you are basing your relaxation on something you have no control over: others happiness?"

As Caitlin began to realize the no-win situation she had created that was causing her to be continually stressed I could tell by her mannerisms that she began to feel self-conscious.

"I was very much like Caitlin...I would only be happy if everyone else is happy. It is an admirable trait to wish happiness for others but when others aren´t happy it tends to make us miserable and feel like a failure. Who else has felt like this?" I said while raising my hand.

Caitlin´s demeanor changed when she saw that she was not alone. Over three quarters of the student body raised their hand.

Do you find it hard to relax or adapt to the different stresses at work while others seem to take it in their stride? You may want to look at your rules for being relaxed at work. By consciously changing your rules for relaxation you will be able to handle work stress a lot easier. To do this follow these stress management tips for greater relaxation at work:

Stress management tip for greater relaxation at work no.1

Ask yourself "What has to happen in order for me to be relaxed?"

List all the criteria.

Stress management tip for greater relaxation at work no. 2

Look at the list and determine if all the criteria are under your control. For example are you basing any of your relaxation and happiness on things like the weather or the actions of other people? If so, remove them from your relaxation list.

Stress management tip for greater relaxation at work no.3

With your remaining relaxation list ask yourself, "Is this list easy to fulfill every day?" (After all you do want to feel consistently relaxed and feeling stress-free every day, don´t you?) You could choose to adopt Jessica´s "I am just automatically relaxed" stress-free approach.

While these stress management tips appear to be easy on the surface, many people don´t begin to even try these stress management tips because they think that being stressed is a part of their nature. To those people I say this:

"If you spend time observing a young baby or something in nature you will acknowledge that everything in it´s natural state flows freely and easily.

When you observe nature you feel peaceful and calm.

When you are in your natural state you feel peaceful and calm.

There is nothing peaceful and calm about feeling stressed.

The feeling of stress is simply your body telling you that you are NOT being your natural self."


Dr. Paul Lanthois is a chiropractor, speaker and work life balance expert. He is the director of The Work Life Balance Foundation which provides health, stress management and work-life balance lifestyle programs specifically for businesses and their employees. Dr. Lanthois has been a successful Australian chiropractor for nearly 20 years. He has spoken to many business and community groups such as Optus Telecommunications,&nb...

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