If you selected option one, you are not alone. A 2017 Gallup Poll reports that 79% of adults say they feel stressed during the day.
For many (if not most) of us, the workplace can be one of the biggest sources of that stress. Even if we love our jobs as a whole, there are a myriad of little factors that can add stress to the work day. We are stuck in a physical environment over which we have little physical control, often surrounded by people whose company we don’t necessarily enjoy and frequently engage in activities we may dislike.
According to the American Psychological Association, most of us will spend 25% of our adult lives in the workplace. That’s a quarter of our lives spent in a stressful situation. Since a life of leisure is not a realistic option for most of us, that’s a problem.
The physical, mental and emotional effects of workday stress can carry over into non-working hours. Fatigue, weight gain, poor sleep, and anxiety are just some of the negative side effects we can bring home with us.
Fortunately, there are several “do’s and don’ts” we can practice to reduce or even prevent some of the work-related stress
If we’re lucky, we have jobs we love. Enjoying what we do and/or the people we work with can mitigate some of the more stressful aspects of the workday.
But, while “doing what you love for a living” is great in theory, the reality is that for many adults, what we actually love about our jobs is getting a paycheck.
Whether we love or hate our jobs, there is one simple but highly effective tactic we can take to dramatically lower work-related stress: construct a “no-complaint” zone around our workday.
Venting, having a group gripe and complaining are all typical forms of workplace complaining that increase stress levels.
“I’m getting mad all over again just talking about it!”
According to researcher Jeffery Lohr, that’s exactly what happens when we decide to vent about a situation that made us angry. We might think we are releasing the anger by verbally blowing off steam but this really just sustains or even magnifies our feelings of anger.
In repeated studies, employees who engaged in ventings about their employers did not feel less stress, in fact, they “showed more resentment than those who had not vented.” While an angry vent feels good in the moment, Lohr suggests that a healthier alternative is taking action to dispel or diffuse that anger.
Resist the urge to go on a good rant. Instead try a controlled breathing exercise, repeating a calming mantra, or briefly stepping away and taking a break.
You’re not suppressing your anger, you’re actively taking steps to relieve it so you can later approach the problem with a clear head and calm attitude.
THE MUTUAL GRIPE SESSION
“Don’t you just hate dealing with that department?”
Not only does griping about negative feelings increase your own sense of dissatisfaction and stress – it increases everyone else’s!
Have you ever started laughing along with someone telling a funny story – even before they got to the punchline? Experienced second-hand embarrassment when a complete stranger commits a social gaffe? Cried when a friend related a sad experience? That’s because emotions, positive and negative, are contagious.
when you encounter a co-worker on a bad day, you may unknowingly pick up your colleague's nonverbal behaviors and begin to morph into an unhappy state -Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr., associate professor of psychology at Monmouth University
Chances are there is one outside department, shared task, system or client that is mutually disliked by the majority of your co-workers.
It’s hard not to initiate, or participate in a shared gripe session because, according to research, we actually bond over shared negative feelings about others. While that’s probably useful for athletes about to take the field against a rival team, it’s not so great for fostering positive office relationships.
Instead of participating in a group gripe, try subtly changing the conversation, injecting humor or excusing yourself when possible. You probably already know who the biggest office complainers are – don’t let their negativity become your source of stress!
“I already know this day is going to suck…man, this day just sucks…this day really sucked!”
Complaining is highly satisfying and we all do it to some degree. It feels good to verbalize our dissatisfaction. But that momentary feeling of relief is ultimately destructive.
In fact, the co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 says that
Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Travis Bradberry
It’s a scary trap. Frequent complaining nurtures negative thoughts. When we nurture our negative thoughts we reinforce a habit of engaging in negative thinking. Negative thinking reinforces a negative perception of events. See how that goes round and round?
You may think you are just “expressing your feelings”, but you are really training your brain to think negatively. So, the more often you complain about the bad day you’re having – the more reinforcement you’re giving your brain to tell you what a bad day you are having.
Okay, hopefully by now you’re realizing that angry venting, participating in the group gripe session and frequently complaining, are a group of behaviors that increase, rather than relieve, your workday stress levels.
Does this mean that you should ignore or repress your feelings? Not at all. It means there are more productive, satisfying, less stressful replacements to deal with work-related stressor!
- Conflict resolution replaces complaining about a co-worker.
- Time management replaces complaining about deadlines.
- Taking a short brisk walk at lunch replaces a mutual gripe session.
- Practicing problem-solving techniques replace …well you get the point!
So, what happens when you stop complaining about the things that stress you out about your job and start taking action?
Simple – instead of verbalizing the things that stress you out, you get to start doing things that will prevent or reduce that stress. And the less stressed out you are during the workday, the more energy and positivity you can bring to your non-working life.
Working is a big part of every adult’s life. But remember, it’s just one part of a great big wonderful whole and, love it or hate it, you can keep it from stressing you out!