15 Jun Work Stress: How To Handle It? The Three-Legs Strategy
It’s still an open question when I was more stressed – now, while running a relatively small machine learning startup with just 10 techies and over 30 international sales partners, or in the past – when I was holding a senior management position and leading a research and innovation group at the largest entertainment company in the world.
However, both jobs have one thing in common – it’s the stress related to professional activities: either at its peak, or in several high-damaging waves, or persisting as constant background noise when you’re not really sure if the stress is actually a new norm for you or if it’ll end one day.
There is one ingenious and simple strategy on how to make yourself absolutely robust and resistant to work-related stress. It’s a solid top-down approach and works no matter how high or how low you are.
I call it the three-legged strategy and it’s best to use together with several bottom-up crafty tactics that have worked for me in the past and are still working as we speak.
To be resistant and robust against any external stress and anxiety attacks, work-related stress included, you – as a human being – should aim at standing on three “legs”. These legs are your professional life, your private affairs, and your hobbies.
- Your professional life is your whole work ecosystem. Not only your company, employer, co-workers, bosses, subordinates, vendors, and clients, but also your teachers, mentors, coaches, and anyone else whom you happen to interact with the minute you enter the work mood or your office space. It’s also the service itself that you provide on a daily basis to the company or to your clients, whatever you happen to be currently doing.
- By your private life or family, I’m referring to all the humans that are present in your life outside of work and with whom you interact the most. In other words, your closest family members: children, parents, spouse, or your close friends – if any. If you feel perfectly fine without any strong ties to your family or friends it’s also fine, as long as you’ve found your balance and you’re not subconsciously or consciously seeking to change it.
- When it comes to your hobbies, I’m talking about something that inspires you and motivates you personally to take action or learn. As in the case of family and work, your hobby might also change from time to time, but it should not be directly related to either your professional endeavors or to your family members. It’s something that you truly do for yourself. For me, at different times it has been: photography (2008-2009), meditation and seeking a life purpose (2010-2012), skiing (2014-2017), horse-riding (in 2016-2017), and obsessive reading (throughout my childhood, I didn’t have many friends so I read thousands of books). I also learned a few languages – I used to study the English language in the 2000s, meticulously spending up to 6-8 hours a day on grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, with coaches or by myself. I also spent time learning Spanish in 2008, Italian in 2009, French in 2014, and German in 2015-2016. All these hobbies would keep me very busy, entertained, and focused.
With two well-shaped “legs” – hobby and work, or family and work, or hobby and family – you are also stable but not as much as you are with three, not to mention standing on just one leg for too long.
In my opinion, using just one leg for longer than a year can swiftly lead to a long-lasting depression. In challenging times, having all three legs well-functioning and cross-supporting each other will make you invulnerable and unstoppable against your foes and to the great surprise of any of your opponents.
Tactics are something that’s best put to use when you’ve already taken care of all your three legs strategically. For instance, once you’ve found your dream job or are already working on something that most of the time doesn’t feel like work.
When you have a well-balanced private life – whether it be with a spouse, children, self-contained, or on your own, and when you’ve got a hobby that makes you look forward to the next time you will be doing it, and it makes you feel so good.
You might come up with different tactics but here are mine:
Tactic #1 – Tomorrow is another day
It really is. You might not believe it, but at least try and you’ll see it works. What bothers you or makes you mad today might change, just because of some external factors you have no idea about nor influence on today. This worked for me too many times to be ignored by you.
Tactic #2 – Gym
Or any other heavy physical activity that makes you seriously sweat. You’ll be surprised to know that within the first 20 mins of your workout the current problem will appear differently in your head. After an hour, you might envision a possible solution or even have a master plan on how to perfectly tackle it.
Tactic #3 – Write an email
An email in response to your challenge that stresses you now. Do not send it to anyone, especially not to the person the email might’ve been intended for. Read the email the next morning and correct it based on the new findings, events, and on your own feelings about it. Again, expect a surprise: the annoyance might disappear or be partially gone by then!
Tactic #4 – Call someone
It has to be someone you trust and who’s not involved in this particular case, this person shouldn’t have any stake in it. Sometimes, a view from a complete outsider evokes new ideas on how to deal with the issue. I have such a person in my circle, someone whom I can call and ask for an opinion on pretty much anything. These are special people that you ought to nurture contact with regularly with distinct care as you go through life.
If you follow these principles and carry out your overall anti-stress scheme based on this very simple three-leg steady balance and a few of the aforementioned tactics, no stress can seriously shake you, I promise.