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Many illnesses are related to stress. The advice is often to ‘de-stress’ or avoid stress altogether. But, this is simply impossible. Because stress is the engine behind our actions. Stress indicates that you are doing something exciting, something new. That you are learning and discovering. No progress without stress.

To view things differently in order to change your attitude is called 'reframing'. This can be life changing. These 3 perspectives help you to go to work enthusiastically – even if you feel pressure to perform well or if you are stressed.

1. Stress won’t harm you

You have to give a presentation to get your project approved by the management team. Or you have so much on your plate that you rush to get everything done. You feel stressed. Sometimes all day long. Or even every day. Your heart rate goes up and you breathe faster.

Courage feels the same as joy

Research shows that not the physical stress itself, but your response to stress determines whether it has harmful consequences. If you choose to experience stress as helpful - for example, "because I breathe faster my brain gets more oxygen and I can think better" - you create courage, which physically feels the same as joy. With positive stress, your blood vessels remain flexible and wide. With negative stress, your blood vessels narrow, which in the long run affects your health. Therefore, how you think and act during stress makes all the difference.

Oxytocin for resilience and recovery

And this is not all. In addition to the well-known hormone adrenaline, another stress hormone is released, called oxytocin. This hormone stimulates social behaviour: you automatically seek help from others or you help others. It is a survival mechanism. This hormone also ensures that the heart tissue recovers. When you choose to connect with others during a stress reaction, the production of oxytocin is stimulated. This creates physical resilience and recovery. And at the same time you create social interactions.

2. Take some distance and choose again

Today’s society is very fast paced. As a result people often forget what they find meaningful in their existence, both private and at work. Do we still know what really affects us? What gives us fulfilment? Our own opinion on this often obscures the opinion of our environment, family, friends and colleagues. We tend to stray from our passion or inspiration. Because we try to show socially desirable behaviour. But also because we all have a desire for status and a certain level of prosperity.

Find out what really makes you happy 

To find out what is good for you and what really inspires you in your work, you have to invest time to find out what really makes you happy. Is that working on your own or rather in a group? Does that involve themes like technical inventions or connecting groups of people? That is different for everyone.

Find out what values are important to you

That could be harmony or identity. Try to determine this from your heart instead of your mind. The value that touches you most, is the most important to you. When you have determined this, you can discover how you can incorporate this in your work. Often much more is possible than you would think. You just have to be the one to take that first step.

Find out your meaning in life …

To make the right work choice, searching for meaning is healthier than avoiding discomfort. It does not matter whether you choose a more stressful job or an easier job. Are you able to find out your meaning in life? Then you can trust that you can handle the stress that comes with it.

There is, however, one pitfall

Often the most devoted and enthusiastic employees, who do their work with passion and pleasure, eventually risk a burn out. Those who work with passion, live in a positive state of satisfaction. This is characterized by vitality, dedication, great mental resilience and great perseverance. But with this also comes the risk of boundlessness: to fully immerse yourself in work without sufficiently recovering. Is enthusiasm not accompanied by awareness about how you are doing? And the discipline to make sure you have enough recovery time? Then it can result in a work addiction.

Always find that balance

Therefore, always make sure that you create a balance between (hard) work and (big) rest. Between productivity and fiddling. Between doing and being. Top athletes master this art. Rest and recovery are just as important to success as long, exhausting hours of training. So make room for breaks (big or small) during a working day. Not as a luxury, not optional. But as a very important part of work.

3. Mildness and gratitude are the right medicine

This topic may be somewhat 'soft', but it gives you 'hard' benefits. It does not mean that you should avoid conflicts. Or that you should not stand your grounds. You can still be annoyed or angry sometimes. Mildness is about the ability to take a step back and look at the situation, until things calm down. Try not to respond straight away. That enables you to act wisely and maintain a good relationship on the long term. Often this means you might react more mildly, but sometimes strong actions are needed at the same time.

Think of 5 things you are grateful for

You probably won’t always be able to respond well to stress and to feel inspired. There are always difficult jobs to be done. Tight deadlines to be made. Do you feel discouraged? Take a break and think of 5 things you are grateful for, and try to really féél that gratitude. For example, you are grateful for having a comfortable office and having enough food. Or you are grateful for the fact that we live in a safe society. That puts your situation in perspective. Which makes you feel a lot calmer.

De Baak is dedicated to the human side of enterprise. Our aim is to enable leaders and entrepreneurs to make a positive, long-term impact on the lives of individuals, society, planet and profit.

We offer tailor-made training courses and an open program, Transparent International Leadership, for leaders in intercultural (international) organizations. Please contact us for more information: +31(0)343-556369 or advice@debaak.com.

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