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For most of us, work stress is an inevitability. It could be that you’re overwhelmed with tasks and unable to catch up. Maybe you have team members that you just can’t seem to get along with. Perhaps your boss is putting too much pressure on you.

No matter the reason, we often have little to no control over the outside forces that cause us to feel work stress. There’s no shortage of resources on how to unwind after work, but what about when you’re still on the clock? In these moments, how you choose to react to work stress makes all the difference.

GLOBIS faculty member and resident mindfulness expert Tadahiro Wakasugi discusses how we can alter our response to work stress. Determining how much is in our control (and how much isn’t) can help us come to see stress as a beneficial experience that ultimately helps us to grow in both our personal and professional lives.


“Stress is actually beneficial. Because we experience stress, we grow. Because we feel stress, we learn something new.”

Tadahiro Wakasugi

Transcript:

How can we lessen the effects of work stress?

Tadahiro Wakasugi:

First, accept the fact that you’re feeling stress. There is a saying: “Suffering equals pain times resistance.” So we can actually increase the levels of pain by resisting it. By accepting it, actually, pain is just pain. Just feel it, accept it. Give yourself permission to feel the pain that you already have.

Imagine one of your close friends are going through a difficult time, struggling. Maybe she failed in a big project, something like that. What kind of words do you give to her? You will give some kind of compassionate words to her, right? “I’ve got your back.” “You did your best.” Something like that. Give these compassionate words to yourself.

Should stress be avoided?

Tadahiro Wakasugi:

Stress is actually beneficial. Because we experience stress, we grow. Because we feel stress, we learn something new. We grow into a better leader. So stress in itself is not bad, actually. The problem is that you don’t take a break. You don’t have the time to recover. That becomes really painful. So when you need a break, take a break, okay? That is very important.

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Tadahiro Wakasugi:

What you can do is to actually distinguish what you can change and what you cannot change. What you cannot change is their personality and also your personality. So if there are personality conflicts, you can’t change them, right? But what we can change is our behaviors. Your behavior—and also your team members’ behaviors—can be changed.

So think about your behavior. Can you change? Can you improve? Maybe your instruction to your team members wasn’t that clear. Focus on the behaviors, not the personality. Great leaders know the difference.

What to do if you don’t get along with your boss

Tadahiro Wakasugi:

It is also possible to deal with difficult superiors. Compassion for others, compassion for your superior, and compassion for yourself.

Think about your boss. Think about your superior. Maybe she is in a difficult situation. She’s also getting a lot of pressure from the top management. Is there anything you can help her with? Maybe then if you help her, you’ll be able to improve your relationship. Giving yourself compassion means also saying no to your boss, to your superior. Maybe you need to stand up, to say no. That is also self compassion.

Now, if these two things don’t work, maybe it’s time to get away from your boss.

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