The Zen of Work: How To Stay Calm in a Stressful Job

Overwhelm. It seems to come with the territory these days. No matter what kind of work you do, there’s the propensity to feel beyond stressed about it.

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Here are 3 examples I’ve heard recently:

  • My boss is a control freak. She’s micro-managing everything. It’s stressing me out.
  • I get more emails a day than I can handle, and I have to spend most of my time in meetings. I don’t feel like I’m getting to my real work and it’s driving me crazy.
  • I’ve hit a brick wall in my small business, and am not making the money I want to make. I’ve no idea what to do to turn the situation around and I’m drowning in panic and despair.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Chances are you hit on this headline looking for a quick fix. Some reframes and clever “how to’s” to get you back on track.

Instead, I’m going to invite you to step back and consider how your experience of life is created. Because it’s having this level of understanding that’s going to make the lasting difference.

Inside Out

Until now, pretty much everyone, including me, has worked on the assumption that the world works outside-in:

You affect me. If you’re nice and treat me well, I’m happy. If you’re nasty and behave badly, I’m not. Our circumstances dictate our moods. When everything is fine on the outside, we feel good. When things are difficult, we feel bad.

But what if it didn’t actually work that way?

What if instead our ability to experience anything started inside-out?

There’s some new thinking afoot in Psychology that suggests this is exactly how it is. Everything in our environment is neutral, it suggests. It’s in our minds and thanks to the fundamental principle of human thought, that we make meaning of what goes on around us.

Our feelings come from our thinking, says the theory. If we’re stressed or anxious, it’s because we’re having stressed or anxious thoughts. So, while it looks like your overwhelm is coming from your circumstances, it isn’t.

It’s coming from whatever you are making of them. Strip away all the negative chatter and its associated emotions and things simplify themselves.

Your boss is just your boss.

The emails you receive are just emails.

The current situation in your business is just the current situation.

Allow these things to be exactly as they are. And you can start feeling a whole lot calmer about your busy day.

So, what’s stressing you out? And, how can you use this new way of thinking to get a bit more calm in the mix?

Christine Livingston

Coach, Catalyst, Change Artist

Writer, coach, inspiration junkie, partner, friend, coffee-drinker, paleo eater, world traveler and more.


Go to the profile of Suzy Walker
over 7 years ago
This is so true. The world is neutral but it's how we choose to see it that makes the difference between a happy life and a miserable one!
Go to the profile of Christine Livingston
over 7 years ago
Exactly, Suzy. So often we forget that we have that choice and are not in fact just victims of our circumstances!