Workplace stress has never been higher.
Blame it on ever shorter deadlines, the pace of a digitally enabled world, or the growing complexity of most industries. Whatever the reason, it’s never been tougher to stay calm at work and still excel.
Yet as the stress levels of executives continue to increase, so does the research on how to combat stress.
I’ve been studying workplace high performance for over 25 years, and as a business coach I mentor numerous executives and entrepreneurs in this area. I’ve found there are three very effective techniques you can use to remain calm at work, no matter how agitating your environment is.
1. Develop a clear vision of your ideal version of you
Write down the type of person you wish to be. Not your career goals, just the kind of human being you aspire to become. Few people have ever done this, yet it can be incredibly inspiring and clarifying to do so. Be sure to include a sentence or two about remaining calm under pressure, being unattached, or perhaps staying optimistic in all circumstances.
Becoming this person should become your primary aim. Read the summary of the Ideal You every morning, think about it throughout the day, make it a constant part of you. The more you do this, the more you will begin to exhibit the same excellent character traits of this person. As the great Hollywood icon, Cary Grant once wrote, “I acted like Cary Grant for so long I became him.”
2. Develop an unbreakable solution focus
Discipline yourself to remain totally solution oriented, no matter how tough your circumstances may be. In my experience training many top business performers, one of the most important characteristics truly exemplary executives share is their intent on finding a solution, no matter what. When you examine workplace stress closely, you see that someone’s stress often rises the moment they switch from a solution focus to a problem focus.
To remain solution focused is hard work. To do so you need to make it a central part of your core self image. Once again, the more you choose to see yourself as a totally solution focused person, the more you will develop that quality. It should appear in your Ideal You vision and be addressed daily.
Now, once you have developed a clear vision of your ideal version of you (performing at a high level no matter how stressful your work becomes) then add to that a dedication to remaining solution focused at all times, you will find that your stress levels plummet. A strong sense of calmness and confidence will pervade your day.
But there’s one further strategy that used in unison with these will radically lift your well-being at work to an even higher level.
3. Systematically eliminate stressful thoughts
I’ve noticed a curious aspect of stress: generally we lose our feeling of calm not because of one single event or situation that upsets us, but rather lots of little ones that over time build and develop into an overall feeling of overwhelm.
If that is the case with you, then there’s a very simple yet powerful solution. Eliminate the stressful thoughts before they have a chance to build up.
The best technique I know for doing this is what I call The Breath Release. Whenever you experience a stressful event – an irritating phone call, rude email or a meeting that doesn’t go your way, try doing the following exercise.
Think about that stressful situation. Take a slow, deep breath in and hold it. Then expel the air as you envision all that stress leaving you. Do this three times in a row and you’ll be stunned at how much your stress has been reduced.
You can (and should) do this technique several times during your work day, whenever you feel like you’ve lost your calm. It’s extraordinarily effective.
Each of those three techniques is a potent method of helping you stay calm at the office. But used together they will create in you a mental state that will remain serene, positive and productive no matter how many people around you are pulling their hair out in frustration.
You will be an island of calm in a sea of corporate angst. And you will also be the most effective person in the room.