The challenge of creating a healthy balance between our personal and professional life takes its toll on us, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning feels like a heroic task.
Particularly in our high-speed and achievement-oriented workplace, it's very easy to lose contact with ourselves - our sense of purpose, play, and passion. When this happens, we tend to live more like human doings than human beings; and consequently, we become less satisfied and productive at work.
Of the many factors that affect our ability to bring who we are to what we do, the way we deal with stress - or don't - is one of the most important. Stress and stress-related illnesses cost U.S. business and industry approximately 200 billion dollars each year in absenteeism, increased insurance claims, on-site accidents, burn-out, decreased employee morale, and lowered productivity. Clearly, our cultural psyche has some serious health problems. But this sobering statistic is only a financial measurement of the problem; the impact of stress on our spirit is far more costly. What can we do about this?
Let's look first at what stress is, then consider some solutions. Simply speaking, stress is what happens when life doesn't give us what we want, or gives us something that we don't. Whether we're a pilot, plumber, or programmer, the workplace reveals this fact abundantly. We're given endless opportunities to respond to the curve balls that life loves to throw at us: We never know when the landing gear will jam, the water main will break, or the hard drive will crash. And although we each have our own style of dealing with such anxieties, there are certain practices and principles of stress management that are universally helpful.
Fundamentally, stress is about our addiction to speed and our obsession with activity. Designing our lives with so much to do and so little time, we live and work in a state of chronic catch-up, never stopping to examine the engine that keeps us in perpetual motion. Effective stress management, then, starts with taking our foot off the gas and learning to slow down - not just on a beach in Maui, but right here in the madness of the marketplace.