Stress and mindfulness in the workplace are areas of growing importance to today’s leaders and those who report to them. Author and coach Mary Schiller discusses where stress and mindfulness meet, and how we can approach stress from a different perspective to conquer the feelings we associate with it.
What I’m about to say is going to strike you as odd at first, and that’s OK. When I first heard it, it took me a while to understand it fully. But as you keep reading, please also keep an open mind.
We’ll begin with where stress does not come from.
- Stress does not come from divorce.
- Stress does not come from a change in your finances.
- Stress does not come from a loved one dying.
- Stress does not come from a mortgage.
And so on.
Not only that …
- There is no such thing as a stressful job.
- There is no such thing as a stressful situation.
- There is no such thing as a stressful relationship.
- There is no such thing as a stressful event.
And so on.
Stress does not come at us, nor does it come from anything or anyone.
There is no mechanism that carries stress from something or someone, and toward and into us. For example, stress is not like a germ; we cannot “catch” stress from a conversation, a relationship, a situation, an environment or a person. It can look that way, but just because something looks a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true. The Earth may look flat from certain angles, but does that mean it is?
Let’s consider it logically for a moment. Where would stress actually be if, for example, it came from a job? How would stress “live” in a job? Would it live in the job description? In the building? And would it come to us via the papers we’re pushing? Could other people somehow magically transmit stress to us?
You might say, “Well, if someone else is stressed, it rubs off on me.” It might look that way, but again, just because something looks true doesn’t mean that it is.
Test it: Do you know people who don’t get stressed out by angry bosses who yell, and instead they brush it off and go about their business? Does your boss ever get angry and for whatever reason that particular day, it doesn’t bother you? That’s because the boss who yells isn’t creating the feeling of stress.
Stress only ever comes from one place: inside our own minds.
We do not absorb stress. We do not get stressed out by things, people, events and so forth “out there.” Nothing has the ability to trigger or create stress in us – except our own thinking.
What’s really happening is this: we have some thinking, we react to it as stressful, and then we have a feeling that we call “stress.” On top of that, we often worry and get fearful when we have the feeling we’ve labeled “stress,” so we go even further down that stressful road.
Every message we receive about stress says we must do something about it, and everyone has a suggestion for what to do. But all the suggestions are coming at stress from the wrong direction because most people don’t know that …
- Stress is coming from our thinking, not from anything or anyone on the “outside”;
- We don’t have to judge our thinking or see it as bad in some way, because everyone has this kind of thinking from time to time; and
- Stress moves out of the way quickly when we don’t fear the feeling and allow thoughts to come and go, as they’re designed to do.
Don’t just believe me. Experiment with it. The moment you see that it’s just thought and you don’t need to pay attention to it is the moment stress starts to fade away.
Adapted from Mind Yoga: The Simple Solution to Stress That You’ve Never Heard Before (No Stretchy Pants Required) by Mary Schiller.
Mindfulness is an increasingly important aspect of our work lives, as well as our personal lives. We can change outcomes by changing our inner approach to stressful situations. AMA has a host of resources to help you conquer these challenges.