Workplace stress? 3 practical steps to find relief and fulfilment


WORKPLACE STRESS IS a well-known phenomenon around the world, but few people really do something about it. When clients write me about their stress in the workplace and burnout, the real cause seems to be that they have allowed life to happen to them.

They studied, then found a job. Got married, had children, changed employer. After many years they are stuck in their familiair but boring job, because their whole life depends on the monthly pay check. They are convinced that they can’t change, because of the mortgage or the rent, the body corporate or the city rates, the school and sport club fees of their children. And on and on the list of impracticalities and impossibilities goes.

My experiences with workplace stress

If you struggle with stress in the workplace and feel emotionally drained, I know exactly how you feel. For many years I suffered from immense workplace stress. But I managed to turn it around.

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Eager to keep workplace stress levels low and enjoy life without worrying and fretting? Download my free e-book and discover how my no-nonsense mindfulness approach can help you end stress in the workplace. I promise that you’ll feel more balanced and resilient within just a week.

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Hi, my name is Marisa Garau and my international bestsellers, e-courses, articles and blog posts are helping thousands of people in Europe, US, Australia and New Zealand to reduce their workplace stress and lack of fulfilment. Not just for a few months, but for the rest of their lives.

Before mindfulness, my journey was ridden with failures, stress and depression.

I thought I could allow life to just happen

I went to college, because it was what everyone did and what my parents expected me to do. While still studying, I was offered a job at an advertising agency, wow! After a year of building up my work experience and developing award winning ad campaigns, my boss started his own agency and happily took me and my art-director with him. 

After yet another year we became bored and decided we wanted to work for a large agency with a lot more colleagues, a variety of views on creativity, and more career possibilities. We found a job at JWT, wow! But once there I started to sleepwalk, thinking I had ‘made it’ and could simply sit back and relax when it came to my life’s design.

Life had happened to me, my jobs opportunities had happened to me, the collaboration with my art director had happened to me. Easily. Automatically. I thought it was normal and that I would automatically be happy and content.

Taking my life in my own hands

But only after a year at JWT I was shaken up in a most unpleasant way. My boss refused to give me a pay raise… despite our campaigns having been sent in for international advertising awards. Being an angry young woman, I naturally felt deeply insulted: ‘Hey, this was not how I wanted to be treated, come on!’ Came to think of it… I didn’t wanted to be bossed around at all anymore. I had enough of it. It was high time for rebellion and career emancipation.

So I quit my job, divorced my art-director who didn’t support my revolution, and boldly started my own agency. Suddenly I had taken my fate in my own hands… and boy, did it feel good!

A serious lapse into old behaviour

After nearly a decade of successfully running my own company, my once beautiful career started to fade and turned stale and predictable. I again found myself thrown back into work stress. But this time it had serious consequences. Between working on ad campaigns I spent my time in hospital theatres and on the psychologist’s couch. I suffered from both physical and mental disorders. Workplace stress had evolved into burnout, and I was paying the price for my unforgiving work attitude which left no room for relaxation and consciously recharging of my battery.

I had life happen to me because I had forgotten that life needs to be actively designed to match our desires. 

Tip: also read my in-depth work stress article where I delve into the root causes of work related stress issues and where professionals share their practical advice

Luckily, mindfulness then crossed my path and my life changed dramatically. I again, instinctively, took my life’s design into my own hands, and started working on visualising my ideal life. Now I’m an internationally published author and I contribute countless articles and posts on the power of mindfulness for my own website and websites around the world.

I’d like to share with you the exact steps I took towards a more balanced and more fulfilling life, so that you feel encouraged and inspired to do the same when you’re ready for it.

Step 1 - calm down

The first step to reduce workplace stress and open your mind to new possibilities is to calm down. When suffering from stress in the workplace, it’s difficult to keep an open mind and think sensibly. Stress has a major impact on your emotional wellbeing, and it causes you to develop tunnel vision. With tunnel vision, you can’t see a way out. You simply can’t see opportunities or a different path, even if these are right before you.

Do mindfulness today: stop listening to the chatterbox in your head

Acknowledge that you can’t get any sensible results from a stressed out mind, and accept that you suffer from stress and are not in the best frame of mind. Take a deep breath and decide that you’ll stop complaining about everything and everyone that causes you stress. Take a conscious break from this exhausting habit. Just accept that you don’t like your job, that you don’t like the workplace stress you're experiencing, and that you don’t like your life the way it is right now.

Stop overthinking everything that is happening, and stop overthinking everything that is not happening but should be happening. For once in your life, accept life as it is. Acceptance creates peace of mind, and in this quietness your busy mind has a chance to calm down. Tell yourself: ‘It’s just the way it is right now. I won’t look for complaints nor solutions, I’ll just keep quiet for a while and allow my stressed mind to calm down and heal.’

Step 2 - identify your dislikes

If you find it hard to visualise exactly how your ideal life looks like, rest assured that you’re not the only one. Ninety percent of people don’t know exactly what they want.

So if you’re quite a normal person, you probably don’t know exactly what kind of life you’d like to live. And that’s okay :-)

However, it’s not okay to allow this to become an excuse not to look for a better, more fulfilling life for yourself.

Do mindfulness today: stop ignoring your workplace stress

If you don’t have a clear picture in your mind of your ideal life, start with what you don’t want.
  • You don’t want to work for someone else? Okay, that’s clear.
  • You don’t want to spend hours in public transport to get to work? Cool, that’s good to know.
  • You don’t want to live in the anonymity of a big city where it’s hard to meet new people? Copy that.
  • You want to spend more time with your children or elderly parents? That's a clear wish.

  • While calmly identifying all the things that don’t suit you any longer, you can get a glimpse of what you might want your life to look like.
  • It might be freelancing.
  • It might be starting your own business with a good friend.
  • It might be working from home, not having to travel to commute anymore.
  • It might be moving to a small town where the pace is slower and the vibe more community-focussed.
  • It might be moving to a cheaper area and working parttime to have more time for your loved ones.

  • Knowing what you don’t want anymore is a great way to get you started on designing your ideal life.
    One thing that doesn’t work, and you know that by now, is ignoring your feelings of restlessness and discontentment. So stop fooling yourself and slowly, calmly, register all the stuff you can do without. There is no shame in examining your own wishes and desires. Moreover, it’s the best way to start working towards an emotionally rich life.

    Step 3 - take small steps

    Changing and re-designing your life can be overwhelming. So don’t sabotage your courage by thinking you should change everything all at once. That would set you up for failure and bitter disappointment. Instead, take little steps.

    Do mindfulness today: stop sabotaging your efforts

    If you want to incorporate major changes into your life, start small.
    • You want to be a better parent? Today, make sure to turn off the tv and phones when you’re having dinner together.
    • You want a new career? Today, have a look at your CV and see what updating or rewriting it needs.
    • You want better health? Today, walk to the stores to do your groceries instead of taking the car.
    • You want to get a better grip on your finances? Today, make a list of your monthly expenses and see where you could save money.
    • You want a warmer marriage? Today, really listen to your partner and pay attention rather than talking about yourself.
    • You want to feel more connected to others? Today, have a little chat with the lady behind the supermarket counter, showing interest in her work rather than saying nothing.
    • You want to do good? Today, pick up the rubbish in your street and local park, knowing that tidy surroundings will have a positive impact on your fellow citizens.

    • As you can see, there is so much you can do on a small scale to improve your wellbeing today. Even if the little steps you take today seem to have nothing to do with your big life change later on, they nurture your soul and point you to the right direction.

    Final thoughts

    Experiencing workplace stress and discontentment is often only partly related to your actual work or other circumstances. Much of the stress we experience, is not caused in the world around us, but in the world within us — our minds. By making little improvements and becoming a better person, you’ll create clearness about who you’d like to be, and what lifestyle would support your improved personality. 

    Marisa x

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    Download my new ebook for free and learn how to reduce workplace stress, so that you can start to unlearn automatic stress reactions and become more resilient and emotionally balanced. 

    Marisa Garau