Stress and burnout plague everyone in every sector. Nonprofit employees, however, seem to suffer especially. If we all spent five minutes jotting down the causes of our stress, we’d probably have fairly similar lists: emotionally draining work, constant urgency of needs, limited resources to do the work, low pay, not enough time in the day, etc. And, surprisingly, we’d all miss the only true cause of stress: rumination.
In his article, “Pressure Doesn’t Have to Turn into Stress,” published in the Harvard Business Review on March 16, 2017, Nicholas Petrie explains that the “causes” we would put on our list are actually not stresses but, rather, pressures. We create stress when we choose to react to pressures with rumination – the act of rethinking past or future events while attaching negative emotion to those thoughts.
Wake up and be present. Most rumination occurs when we are daydreaming or not focused on our current actions. Try some physical tricks like sitting up, clapping your hands or moving your body to bring you into the present. Get busy and re-engage with tasks at hand.
Focus on taking useful action. Petrie suggests the following exercise: Draw a circle on a page, and write down all of the things you can control or influence inside it and all of things you cannot outside if it. Remind yourself that you can care about externalities — your work, your team, your family — without worrying about them.
Put things in perspective. Petrie suggest three strategies for gaining a healthy perspective of your situation. One is a questioning exercise in which you ask yourself: “How much will this matter in three years’ time?” and “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “How would I survive it?”.
Let go. Petrie admits that this is the hardest step to take. It has three required components: accept the situation, learn from the experience, and take appropriate action to move through and out of your situation.
Read Petrie’s entire article here and start a stress-free Spring tomorrow!