Reduce Stress At Work

The following is an email Adam received and his reply.

Hi Adam,

Got quite a few things to say today some of which may be a bit silly. I will begin with my new job as that causes me a lot of unnecessary stress and misery that is predominantly self-induced. Not sure how to start but here goes. Basically in recent weeks I have had extremely low self-esteem. I'll give you a couple of examples of my thoughts about work as that is probably the best way to explain.

(1) I work in a team of 5 people and am more academically qualified than most and feel a constant pressure that I should know more than them and have the answers. I often feel that they are more competent than I am.

(2) I am quite soft in nature at times and think that has lead to people not taking me seriously — I blame myself for this.

(3) I think my boss does not have much respect for me as he does not speak with me as much as some of the others (I could approach him I know).

These things along with others mean that I am not functioning as well as I know that I am able to do. I feel low in confidence and so am not able to use time constructively. If I could get these things out of my head then I would work a lot better. All right I am not the smartest person in the world (I know this) but at least I could work with a clear head. I could list more examples but I think that you get the general idea. I am making my working life very hard for myself. Like at this moment I am feeling a little worried about work tomorrow. I feel threatened by others.

During the weekends I often do not see so many people that much as I don't have that many friends here yet. You can imagine that that gives me time to think and further doubt myself. I do actually keep active but need more conversation. I don't want to appear desperate to people so sometimes I don't call people. I told you that I am a silly!!!

This weekend just gone I had a friend of mine visit me from Germany — a lovely girl who I met in Sweden. We get along really well and it was the nicest week that I have had in quite a while. We are so comfortable together and I can really be myself with her. We laugh a lot together and even had a bit of romance. I remember thinking at certain times that I was living in that moment rather than thinking ahead or back (something Dale Carnegie says one should do in his book, "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living"). Then when she left I felt quite empty and alone. If I was the same with other people then I would be so much happier.

You know how I told you how I feel at work, well that often translates to other areas of my life. I will endeavor to explain what I mean. For example, when I was with my German friend I sometimes felt that she would not like me if she saw how I was at work. I even feel that my parents may be disappointed if they could see me at work. Feel as though I am not being strong enough or a real man. Does that make sense?

These thoughts are wearing me down and I want them out. Any suggestions?

- Alex

Hi Alex,

Your troubles are more common than you think they are. People who have overactive adrenal glands are afraid of what people might think, so they don't share that stuff very often, giving all the rest of us the impression we're the only ones who feel so anxious about things.

Your body is producing extra stress hormones. Bodies vary. Some are tall. Some are short. Some produce lots of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, etc.) and some don't produce as much. There is also a byproduct of adrenaline called lactate that specifically produces anxiety symptoms and thoughts of worry.

You said twice in your letter you wanted to get rid of your thoughts. You probably already know that isn't possible. You can think whatever you like, but you cannot just get rid of thoughts, and any attempt to make it happen will only cause you to think those thoughts more persistently.

But your problem is not your thoughts. Your problem is your body producing so many stress hormones. When you physically lower your stress hormone level, your thoughts will be less anxious.

How can you lower your stress hormone level? That's the million-dollar question, isn't it? First off, stop drinking coffee and alcohol, and quit smoking cigarettes (if you do). Those all stimulate your adrenals to produce extra stress hormones, which you don't need.

Also, eat fewer carbohydrates, especially sugars. And make sure you get plenty of calcium. Lactate is incompletely burned sugar, a by-product of stress. But lactate bonds with calcium, so make sure you get a steady supply.

Also, take 3 grams of vitamin C per day (3000 milligrams). Work up to it. Increase it gradually until two weeks from now you are taking three grams. And take it throughout the day — one one-gram tablet with every meal. Vitamin C is water-soluble and isn't stored by the body. You want to keep a constant vitamin C presence in your blood. Vitamin C has been shown to directly lower the level of stress hormones in the blood.

Train yourself in a relaxation technique and practice it every day for twenty minutes or so. Ideally twice a day. My recommendations for relaxation techniques that work are:
Progressive Relaxation
Autogenic Training
Mantra Meditation
Silva Mind Control
Hatha Yoga

Just find one of these you like, and do it. The best way, I think, is to get a tape or CD that talks you through the exercise. Your anxious thoughts are being driven by the physical presence of stress hormones. Just starting a new job probably raised your base level of stress hormones. Lower them, and your thoughts will calm down. You're a reasonable man. But if I gave you a shot of lactate, your thoughts would turn anxious, no matter how reasonable you are. Stress hormones not only effect the body, they effect the brain, stepping it up to a higher activity, and stimulating certain brain centers. Your brain stimulates you to be on the lookout for danger, and it starts interpreting situations as dangerous that are not, in fact, dangerous or threatening at all.

Let me know how this goes, okay?


Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Direct Your Mind, and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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