Stress on the Job

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“I’ve hardly slept all week. I operate heavy equipment and I’m afraid I’ll hurt somebody.”
“I know I need to take better care of myself but I can’t stand my own company. So I keep pushing myself to stay busy. I’m scared though. The last time I got in this cycle, I ended up out of work on disability for a long time. I don’t want to go back there.”
“I’m in a job where I need to be calm and I’m losing it all the time. Everything seems to irritate me.”
These people are dealing with personal problems: break-ups, low self-esteem, cravings, marital turmoil. Issues unrelated to work, right?
We have a myth in our culture that work is in one compartment and personal life is in a separate, hermetically sealed compartment. It’s just not true. The person we are shows up both at work and at home and whichever arena is more compelling can easily dominate the other.
We’ve all lain in bed thinking about work. We’ve probably all tuned out a loved one who was talking because we were solving a work problem. It works the other way as well. Our bodies show up at work but our minds are tagging along after our hearts that are back at home.
So much of the angst we experience in our personal lives is preventable—if only we had basic skills. It makes sense to invest in those skills, if only to avoid problems that prevent us from focusing on work. But obviously, having skills that allow us to create more happiness in our personal lives are a good investment all on their own.
Here’s one simple exercise that you can practice that may help diffuse some of the relationship conflict that inevitably arises. Have you ever experienced someone you love as being controlling? Or, heaven forbid, been accused of that yourself?! Of course you have, on both accounts. It’s human nature.
This exercise is to help you control your inner—or maybe your out-in-front—controller. First, make a list of what you spend your day focusing on. Where is your energy going? How much did you spend today worrying about whether your daughter would make friends in school or whether your son would dump that girlfriend or whether your boss would appreciate your work? Make as complete a list as you can. Arbitrarily assign a percentage to each item. If you get 100 watts of energy/day to run your life, how many watts are you using on each area of concern? Is there any left over to run your physical body? If not, you’re an accident or illness waiting to happen!
Next, make a diagram on paper of a desk with two drawers. On the first drawer, write “Things I can control.” On the second, “Things I can’t control.” Then start making a list. What belongs in each drawer?
Here’s one big clue. If it involves someone else, it belongs in Drawer #2! Even with yourself, there are limits to your area of control. For example, you can’t control if you sleep, but you can control what you do to prepare for sleep. You can’t control your weight, but you can control what you eat. You can’t control what you feel, or even the thoughts that come to mind, but you have some control over whether you sit around focusing on thoughts that make you feel bad or make yourself get up and do something constructive.
Once you have a better idea of what you can control, begin reminding yourself to mind your own business with matters that belong in Drawer #2. Imagine how your relationships might shift if you scrapped all the home improvement projects you have going for the people you live with! If you just let them be as they are and loved them, maybe your home would be a nicer place to live. Then when you went to work, maybe you’d have an easier time focusing on the job at hand.
Jane Meyers with The Life Center is a counselor and hypnotherapist in private practice in Bend since 1993. She teaches classes on relationships with self and others. She can be reached at 541/388-2929.

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