Time & Stress

Stress is caused by you being "here", although you actually want to be "there", by you being in the present though wishing for the future.

- Eckhart Tolle

Stress - Omnipresent

Stress is a key term of the 21st century. The phenomenon of stress has become a staple part of our culture. In business jargon it has become something natural, a "must-have", it seems. Stress, performance, pressure and time are the determining variables. Performance pressure connected with a lack of time can lead to immense stress. The danger of burn-out is enormous.

Typical time management tools for planning work time <<4 steps for effective time planning by defining concrete action lists and prioritizing according to urgency and importance>> are too limited. Work time planning tools no longer suffice because stress is not a "real" problem of time but constructed by our brains. Stress is born in the head.

Stress - Physical Reaction

Because of evolution, our brain stem knows three automatic reactions when survival is at stake - being attacked, fight or flight. If our brain stem classifies a situation as dangerous it will react at once, leading to a physical stress reaction. Blood pressure, pulse and heartbeat will rise, muscles tense up and the flow of energy is blocked. The brain cannot always differentiate between harmless and dangerous situations. This leads to everyday situations (such as too much work, not knowing where your head is, the feeling of losing time, a full email account, moving up of a deadline, taking over an additional project, report meeting, and much more) being classified as a danger, and the body reacts with more or less drastic stress reactions.

Interaction Stress Time

So fear causes stress. A workload that's too heavy in combination with the feeling that everything needs to be done at once and a tight workload - one you can barely see past - leads to a state of fear and the brain instantly switches to stress.

In this process the factor of time plays a central role. During the stress process we are under the assumption that we have "no" time or "not enough" time. Thus, time is the greatest stress factor of professional life.

It all depends on the personal attitude towards stress and time, but even the best time plan will ultimately fail if one does not understand the pattern of time and the connection between time and stress.

Time - A Stress Factor

The assumption that time is linear is very deceptive. Hunting time according to the motto: "If I had more time, then I could accomplish everything. When all emails are answered, then... Once this project is launched, then..." proves to be a deception. These are projections into the future and have nothing in common with the real, present reality. Projections into the future create fear and will inevitably lead to stress. The timelessness of consciousness is the key of this Sisyphus work.

With regard to time, we need to change our attitude - arrive back in the present from the future; come into the here and now. We are in such a hurry to reach the future while letting the present go to waste - from the means back to purpose, from the path back to the goal. It is a most insane feeling of stress to have to be here, while actually wanting to have already arrived there. This notion will tear you apart internally, leading to inner separation, tension, a cause for fear and will hence, without fail, result in stress.


Changing basic assumptions

We therefore not only need to reconsider our attitude towards time, but also our basic assumption about stress per se. The word stress has a very negative connotation. Whatever you think about stress will influence the stress response. We need to release the thought that stress will inevitably lead to illness and that it is extremely unhealthy. We could also view the stress reaction as something useful. After all, since ancient times the internal reptile brain has guaranteed the survival of humans - including yours.

Positive Aspect of Stress

Viewed from a neutral point of view, stress is an indicator of intensive phases in your life, in which more respect, presence and consciousness are asked for, but basically is nothing bad. In situations of stress you can discover your own resilience and get to know your own limits well.

Stress may even be seen as something positive. Stress reactions may be perceived as helpful. One may face stress with an appreciative mind. Stress is helpful in dealing with the challenges of life. Stress can also bring us closer to our fellow human beings - cooperation and teamwork in stressful and work-intensive times. One may support and help each other in the office. You do not need to deal with stress alone. Stress speaks a clear language, making itself known with an increased pumping of the heart. In this process the heart is reminding us about the seat of our compassion - feeling compassion for ourselves and others.

If we are able to look at stress in this fashion it will help us to better cope with our job. How you think and act will alter your perception of stress and your sense of time.

Process Input

Among other things, we will look at the following questions on the topic of stress, coping with stress and time:
How much stress have I had in the past? How much stress do I have right now? How do I define stress? How do I think about stress? What are my personal stress factors? How do I handle stress? Where are the limits of my resilience? How does stress show up in my body? When does my stress pattern kick in?
How do I define time? What do I think about time? Am I constantly in the future or the past? Do I suffer from a lack of time? How do I handle time pressure? Does time pressure come from outside or do I create it myself? Am I allowed to change my basic assumptions? Can I ask for help? Is there a feeling of shame with regard to stress? Is it possible to have less stress in my job? Am I allowed to have less stress? What do I wish for with regard to handling time and stress? How can I relax? How can I create short relaxation oases for myself during the day?