The key to making your work stress-free

Work stress has become an all pervasive symptom of our modern, over-connected and over-stimulated world. How can we make work stress-free?

Illustration of stress at work | concept for making work stress-free

Last week, in a conversation with my sister about work and stress, I realised that the two have become inseparable. That work comes bundled with stress is an accepted norm, a package deal, if you will. These days, if you’re not stressed at work, the perception is that you’re probably not working hard or may be you’re not working sincerely, or worse still, you’re not working at all—just whiling away your time.

Psychologists say that stress can be good and bad. At the workplace, good stress is that which is productive because it helps us perform better. Bad stress, on the other hand, is counter-productive because it impedes our performance.

It disturbs me that the latter variety is now accepted as part and parcel of work. In the last two decades, the number of people reporting negative effects of stress at work has gone up more than four times. But, since everyone “suffers” from it, no one seems to be doing anything about it.

The link between stress and health

We ought to understand the link between stress and our health. Bad stress makes us susceptible to all kinds of illnesses—from the less serious common cold to the more severe heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. It also leads to alcoholism, over-eating, drug addiction, smoking, depression, and other harmful behaviours.

In spite of these adverse outcomes of stress, most of us accept it as a price we must pay for survival and/or success. Is stress inevitable? Can’t we have a stress-free working environment? Can’t we enjoy our work, and experience no bad stress at all? I believe we can.

The key to making work stress-free

De-linking our work from stress is vital for our health and happiness. For work to be genuinely stress-free, it is first important that we enjoy it. When we spend our time doing what we don’t particularly enjoy for most part of day, it’s bound to cause stress.

According to Elizabeth Scott, who coaches people on effective stress management, “It’s important that you’re spending your days doing something where you feel challenged [but not overwhelmed], appreciated [but not desperately needed to the point that you can’t take a day off], and where your strengths are being utilised, among other things. Without these and other key factors, you can be at risk for burnout.”

So if you feel stressed at work often, it’s time to reflect and ask if you’re enjoying your work. If the answer is no, acknowledge the need for a change. You may change your working style or manage your days better. Or you may want to switch jobs—or even fields! One way or the other, what’s important is that you enjoy your work.

This is an updated version of an article that was originally published in the May 2008 issue of Complete Wellbeing print magazine

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


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