Courtesy – Tim-gouw @unsplash

The American Psychology Association claims that workplace stress is one of the biggest causes of illness today. The competitive nature of modern business doesn’t often foster human error, nor does it foster forgiveness of human error. People can become quite stressed in such a static and uncompassionate environment. Here are two science-supported methods to reduce stress and achieve excellence:

  1. Compete with yourself
    Competition undertaken in an atmosphere of high pressure, negativity—even viciousness—in the workplace is one of the major causes of stress. Often such competitiveness becomes the pervasive attitude, even in everyday activities. That pervading spirit leads to stress. Endlessly trying to get ahead of others doesn’t help anyone; rather, focusing on our strengths and creating our niche will. How to shift the focus from others to yourself? We can relish the real flavor of competition when we compete with ourselves. Start by developing your skill-sets so that you become more comfortable and confident. Barbara L. Fredrickson, Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina stresses the importance of the “broaden and build” theory. She says when you recognize more possibilities, then you develop more skills. For example, setting goals for yourself, measuring your work against your last performance, reviewing your competency, etc. Competing that way with yourself helps you learn to
    • take the initiative
    • communicate effectively
    • develop your creativity
    • collaborate with others, and
    • achieve technical excellence.
    Your greatest task is to discover and abolish all the barriers to success in your mind. Your success is built upon capitalizing on your strengths and converting failures into opportunities to advance your career. If today you don’t deal with your shortcomings, they will rise as obstacles in the future. So, compete with yourself first. Personality psychologist Gordon Allport says, “The key to harnessing your strength lies in competing only with yourself and not getting affected by others’ performance.” He also says that worrying about a competitor’s ability and possible superiority can be self-defeating.
    Be your own competitor! Your determination to win against yourself is the real WIN.
    Along with competitiveness, being compassionate is also very important at work; let us see why.
  2. Be Compassionate
    Competition with yourself or competition with others might motivate you to leave no stone unturned to excel. Sometimes competition might be too hard on your body and mind. How can you deal with competition? Having self-compassion and compassion for others both can provide you with a cushion and a sense of balance, which will keep your relationship with yourself and others harmonious and productive.
    Compassion is the emotion that encourages a desire to help. We know that stress is often pervasive in the workplace. According to the Grief Recovery Institute, a non-profit educational foundation, firms lose more than $75 billion annually due to employees dealing with grief. Their research suggests that interpersonal compassion has the potential to affect sufferers as well as their organizations. Compassion communicates the dignity and worth of one person to another. This sense of value helps in elevating confidence, promoting self-esteem, and breeding trust. Compassionate encounters yield collective benefits in the work itself, just as team building, collaboration, and collegiality do. For example, if somebody is grieving, then his colleagues can help by taking him to lunch and making him feel comfortable or help her meet a deadline.
    Researchers have found that practicing compassion makes the person exercising it more resilient under stress; it lowers stress hormones in the blood; and strengthens the immune response. Psychologists Diener and Seligma suggest that connecting with others can bring about a healthy physical and mental state. Given that so much of our lives are spent at the workplace, then why not practice compassion with our own team first? The more compassionately we connect, the deeper our satisfaction, according to an article by Hallowell, a child, and adult psychiatrist in the New York Times. You can become a better manager by strengthening your ability to express compassion.
    By including the two science-supported perspectives, you can achieve professional and personal goals. You can move from a stressful state of mind to a peaceful one. A peaceful and happy mind ensures that you will be a star at work.


  • Pooja Shrivastava, Ph.D.

    Executive Coach, Organizational Behavioral Psychologist, and Adjunct Faculty

    University of Oklahoma

    Pooja Shrivastava, Ph.D. is a certified Executive Coach for Leadership Development and an Adjunct Professor of Organizational Behavioral Psychology at The University of Oklahoma. Her custom-tailored approach emphasizes leadership development, diversity and inclusion, and stress resilience to enhance the quality of the global work environment. Her 15 years of experience involves industry training, consulting, teaching, and coaching leaders from corporate, NGOs, military, non-profits, and healthcare organizations.