Six Steps to Coping Better

So much of what people talk to me about in my office ends up being about coping: just making it through life, day-to-day. Things can get pretty scary out there (have you watched the news lately?) and sometimes people can get overwhelmed by it all. So, based on my experience, I’ve come up with six very basic things you can do to help take off at least some of the pressure.

1) Don’t answer your phone if you don’t want to! Few things are more annoying than somebody who answers their phone but is too busy to talk. It’s irritating for you AND the caller. If you value a person enough to answer (most everybody has caller ID), then you should value him or her enough to speak. If you don’t (or if it’s just not a good time), then don’t answer. That’s why we have voicemail. The same applies to other kinds of technological interruptions such as texts, IMs, emails or whatever. Modern technology has made access to one another incredibly easy. Though this can be very convenient, it also brings with it the responsibility to grant others only as much access as you’re willing to give them. It’s stressful for everybody concerned when you try to ‘be nice’ by giving somebody time you don’t have (or don’t want to give to them). Nobody benefits, and it’s certainly not ‘nice.’

2) If possible, choose work that you can be passionate about. If you really want a dynamic, successful occupation or career, ‘good enough’ won’t do. Experiment with different jobs or activities until you find one that really makes you happy. Of course, you probably have to make a living in the meantime, but the time it takes to find your passion will be worth the effort. In other words, don’t settle.

By the way, if you’re retired, don’t assume that you no longer need a purpose in your life. Retiring mean slowing down, but it doesn’t mean brain-dead. If you feel depressed, anxious or emotionally malaised, think about volunteering, or otherwise finding a passion. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about money. The key is to keep using your mind by doing something you find meaningful and productive.

3) If you’re still working, focus on the job, not the personalities around you. People often focus on office/corporate politics rather than their individual competence. Relationships with others are not necessarily irrelevant, but in spite of all the cute posters hanging on the office wall, ‘teamwork’ is not nearly as important as individual proficiency. Individuals, more than groups, are the dynamic of human progress. You’ll never attain excellence by following others. Excellence is achieved by taking risks and trusting in your own judgment. People respect individuals, not followers, and you can certainly be a leader and still get along with others. Of course, there will always be somebody who’ll be threatened by your accomplishments, but you have the power to pick and choose who you want to get along with. If you move forward and do your very best, the ‘team’ will certainly follow and everybody will benefit.

4) Allow yourself to take ‘time-outs.’ If you love what you do, you probably don’t mind working long hours. But your body and psyche need an occasional break; a walk, a chat or maybe even a little time alone. Don’t overlook the psychological benefit of music, movies, plays and other forms of entertainment, and make sure your mental ‘refueling’ is uplifting and positive. There’s so much from which to choose when it comes to relaxation and entertainment. Remember the old saying, ‘You are what you eat’? Well, it’s equally true that you are what you read, watch and think. This ’emotional nutrition’ is just as important as your physical nutrition.

5) If your work is mental or sedentary, as so much computer-based businesses are today, find time to exercise, jog, swim, work out — whatever you prefer that gets the blood flowing. The running shoe people are right: ‘Just do it!’ It’s more than just a slogan or a worn-out platitude: Your mind and body have to be ‘in sync,’ and the psychological sense of well-being that you get from exercise cannot be overemphasized. The ancient Greeks advised ‘a sound mind in a healthy body,’ and it’s just as true today as it was in the time of Plato and Aristotle.

6) If you want to marry or become otherwise coupled, try to develop a relationship with somebody who respects and understands your desire to work. This might mean a partner who is willing to stay home and run the household, or it could be a spouse who shares your desire to find your passion through work. Either way, this individual must understand and respect what you do. If he or she does not, then you’re setting yourself up for one marital battle after another, where life becomes a frustrating compromise instead of pleasurable achievement.