How terror attack survivors taught me the secret to overcoming stress?Our generation is impacted heavily by workplace by stress. I was one of the worst sufferers of this pervasive, persistent and insidious psychological threat for years. I consulted neurologists, psychiatrist, nutritionist and personal fitness trainer in addition to countless hours of searching for find the magic solution for improving my condition.
List of things which I tried to get rid of stress and anxiety:
• Started circuit training and running in the early morning to increase my endorphin level naturally.
• Used to play and cuddle my pet dog to get enough oxytocin
• Tried Reiki and other meditation technique to control my mind
• Changed my diet pattern. I added dark leafy greens, nuts to increase intake of Magnesium, include eggs for breakfast, milk before sleep along with multivitamin capsules.
• I tried all these options along with taking daily prescribed medicine- Pexceps.
But, my life was not exemplified by abundance, happiness, and joy.
The problem became acute once I moved to Kenya in 2012. Workload and continuous traveling in African countries took a further toll on my emotional health. My existence became crippled. I became heavy smoker and alcoholic.It went to such extent that I started contemplating to quit the job.Some of friends told me that I am suffering from mid life crisis and time is the best healer.
One evening I tuned to the local English Channel to know more about the terrorist attack in Lamu, Kenya by Al-Shabaab. TV journalist was interviewing a young girl and her grandmother who not only survived the brutal attack but also walked whole night through the forest to reach a safe place.
The journalist asked the young lady “How they managed to remain calm and escape scratch free while such macabre murderous spree was going on?”
She responded in her broken English “My grandma told me to take deep breaths and move one step at a time. Thank Jesus with each step. I did that.”
“How did you gather such courage?”
“My grandma was continuously whispering not to think about the terrorist attack. Keep walking. My throat choked with fear. The whispering of grandma helped me to gather enough energy and courage to move ahead in the night.”
The old lady said (as translated by TV journalist) “The thought of saving the life of my granddaughter didn’t allow me to think about fear, shock of losing family and year old knee pain which restricted my movements for years now. I prayed for her safety and Jesus helped me.”
I switched off the TV, came to the balcony and started thinking about the news. Words like “don’t think”, “acceptance”, “thanks to Jesus” started reverberating in my mind. I was amazed by the power of these words which helped these two ladies to overcome all challenges including fear of death in that night.
I started asking myself “Am I not driven by the negative thoughts of the random chattering of my mind?”
I started walking up and down on the patio and started thinking how I can master strength to overcome the depressing and negative thoughts. I used to build confidence and courage by strengthening positive thoughts.
Once I started accepting my situations and surroundings, my circumstances improved. It took me almost two years to transform myself. Doctors reduced the dosages of my medicines. My blood pressure became normal and started sleeping well without any medicine.
The clue for my transformation was forming new habits.
Five Habits To Manage Stress At Work And Stop Damaging Your Career & Life
1. Stress a great motivator
I realized whenever I blame my luck it’s nothing but my unfulfilled wish or expectation mismatch. I came to Africa for exciting and challenging work. And, personally, I wanted to experience wild Africa. It was my decision. I started owning my decision instead of blaming others. Once I gave permission to myself to be stressed, the rush of Adrenaline improved my efficiency level.
The key here is to remember life is a marathon, not a sprint. It took me six months to have the paradigm shift of my mind. You can refer to the Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) by Kazimierz Dąbrowski to understand more about personality development which I often consulted during my transition.
2. Become a morning person
“A man paints with his brains and not with his hands” - Michelangelo
I inspired by Robin Sharma’s “holy hour” concept. I start my day with a cold shower after getting up early morning. Next, I use visualization technique to make my day a perfect day in my mind. I identify possible stressors of the day and visualize how I manage those stressful situations.
Next, I identify my top 3 tasks for that day. I visualize all the activities for that day and see the proper closure of each activity. Following these principles of laws of attraction, I found my daily life become less chaotic. I complete these rituals everyday morning because the consistency on fundamentals gives success. This process helped me to find a new mantra of a happy life - celebrate now! Tomorrow is Mystery and Yesterday are Histories”.
3. Practice a habit of gratitude and acceptance
Rising demands at office required longer working hours in a very competitive environment. It took a toll on my emotional health. I fought and complained the same but didn’t help.
I finally decided just to come and do the work the best I can do. I started to focus only things which give positive feelings. I started accepting what is required to concentrate on resolving the current job at hand.
I taught myself to take the harsh words of my seniors and clients not literally.
After few months, I found that this habit of the conscious practice of understanding and empathy improved my relationships with co-workers, and I am much less stressed. Over time, I learned to focus only good things at work and started sharing good events of life among ourselves.
All these practices resulted in a more expansive mind which is not narrowly focused on its little story of how things should be, but can see those small incidences as a part of a bigger picture.
I recommend you to have a feeling of the attitude of gratitude. You should feel everybody important with a genuine smile, show warmth by gentle tap above the elbow and direct eye contact for 100% attention the person. And always be an optimist.
4. Declutter your work area and life
I influenced by Henry David Thoreau statement “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” I create a motive to remove all unnecessary things from my life so that necessary can enter my work and I can give full attention to those small details of necessary things. I make a habit of cleaning my desk, drawers of the table. I started keeping minimum necessary things. I deleted the useless contents from my computer also. I removed all digital garbage from the hard disk. Now, I clean my work space once a week and often decorate my office room with the personal touch.
The information is the biggest clutter in today’s life. I put a block on information flow which reduces chattering of my mind, and also it increased my personal productivity.
5. Adapt to changes
This one was difficult for me. Any change used to trigger panic button within me. After several months self-introduction, I started accepting changes proactively. I used to remind myself that the change is the architect of future.
I recommend you to evaluate your coping strategy for any change. You should eliminate the idea of avoidance of any change. I followed Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman’s approach as documented in "Transactional Model of Stress and Coping".
Whenever you feel an internal resistance in accepting a change, go for a small walk, and play with some apps on the smartphone to divert your mind.
Learn to have a fica moment daily in office - pause for some time and relax in the company of colleagues
6. Be a good communicator and be more social
I used to feel uncomfortable in meeting and social gatherings. I consulted life coach Dolly Manghat on how should I be more assertive in social groups and meeting. After few sessions, she advised me to try to become more influential rather that get mired in tactics. I took few lessons on how to have small talks, be a good listener and use nonverbal body languages from her to improve personal effectiveness.
Almost after one-year active practice, I became more socially active and assertive in my behavior. My individual and professional contacts increased many times. My confidence grew, and I worked in a more relaxed way.
In summary, stress is a response to challenges in life. A life without challenges is too tedious to contemplate. You need to learn to use stress as your friend. It can’t be accomplished overnight — I’ve been eliminating stressors in my life for a while now, and I’m still not done. But I think it’s a worthwhile goal.
These habits helped me to have a happy life. I have more fun in life as I always try to be happy at that particular moment and space.
What is the secret?
We live in two dimensions i.e. mind and body. We need to start living in three dimension where the third dimension is our intelligence. Using knowledge without ego is the key to having a Zen-like life in today’s life.
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. “- Aldous Huxley