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The FUPs and Ways to Deal with Stress

There was this one late Friday afternoon when I was just leaving my office, backpack slung over my shoulder and eager to play football, when I caught sight of three female colleagues standing across the hall looking hopefully at me. From experience, I immediately knew from the look on each lady’s face alone that there was some kind of trouble in the workplace. You know, the stressed sort of face and round begging eyes not unlike those of a shaggy dog begging for food.

I was still in executive management at the time; and although it did not come easy, over the years I eventually learned how not to bring home the problems of the workplace. I was, therefore, damned if I would allow a Friday afternoon problem ruin my weekend.

“Sir...” one of the ladies called to me hopefully. My response was immediate, merciless and scathing, “Ang papangit n’yo!” I meant every word. Each looked stressed and haggard, as can only be expected at the end of the week. That was why, whatever it was and unless it was a matter of life and death, I thought it could wait until Monday.

I cannot recall what the problem was so I am sure it was insignificant. What I do recall is that come Monday, when I thought we could all look at the so-called problem with fresh minds and a better perspective, one of the ladies happily told me that the problem turned out not to be a problem, after all.

See what I mean? I did ask before I walked away if the problem was pressing; and all of the ladies said it was not. Why dwell on it, then? Since it was not, I had every intention of enjoying my late Friday afternoon football along with the rest of the weekend. And bade the ladies to do exactly the same.

This is the first way to deal with stress: determine if the source of it is worth the stress in the first place. If it is not urgent and can wait till the next day – or, in the case of my anecdote, until after the weekend – then do not even want to know what the problem is all about. Why spoil the night or even your weekend? The problem will still be a problem the next morning; and you will have a better take on anything after you have had a good night’s rest.

To be fair, taking this stance will not be easy, particularly for younger employees. To a certain extent, personality comes into how a person deals with the stress brought on by a workplace problem. When I was a lot younger, I would toss and turn in bed – sometimes over several nights – if the problem was particularly niggly and if the problem was brought on by the FUPs.

These will be the Forever Unhappy People; and every workplace has these. These are employees who watch other employees’ every move and are rabid faultfinders as well as chronic complainers.

This brings us to the second way to deal with stress: determine if the problem has been brought on by the FUPs. If it has, do not even let your mind dwell on the problem. A FUP is a FUP is a FUP. Even before you have attended to one FUP-induced problem, they are already cooking the next one. Problems are a hobby to them, so you will have to discipline your mind to look at the problem from the point of view of the institution rather than from the point of view of the FUP. In other words, think of the significance of the problem to the whole institution rather than as the few FUPs say it; and they will never be happy, anyway.

The discipline of the mind is the third way to deal with stress. This is easier said than done; and frequently, a problem that one perceives has a personal attack angle to it can be particularly gnawing. The ego is a bitchy little thing and will nag all night long. It takes discipline to tell the bitch to stop whispering into your ear. Younger employees will find this difficult since instinct will tell the employee to fight back. When I was younger, I tossed and turned in bed killing FUPs inside my head in countless sadistic ways. Recognizing a FUP for what he or she is helps the mind to not dwell on the problem too much. Of course, age and experience eventually teaches most employees how to discipline their minds.

Sometimes, no matter how disciplined one’s mind is, stress just simply and mysteriously invades the body. In my case, since I have always been – let us say – intuitive, it sometimes felt as though my mind had something of an antenna that could pick up the negative vibes of the entire workplace; and particularly if the FUPs were cooking up something nasty.

Even when I had no reason whatsoever to think of the workplace, I would for no apparent reason suddenly feel almost a physical weight on my shoulders along with a tightening of my neck muscles. That was almost always an advanced warning signal that there was trouble brewing in the workplace; and these warning signals were almost always accurate.

When I finally came face to face with what was causing the mysterious stress, I always found it helpful to not immediately jump into an opinion. Stepping back from the problem always helped to release the stress; and experience has taught me that solutions brought along by a clear mind ultimately turned out better ones than those brought along by a stressed mind. Sometimes, the latter would turn out not to be solutions at all.

If a person is really caught up in stress, there are two further ways to deal with it. The first is to find somebody to talk to about the problem. I would be careful about doing this, though. Unloading the negativity onto somebody sympathetic can be therapeutic; but there will be friends and colleagues who will only fuel the negativity one feels even more. In the end, one will only feel that the negativity has increased and, naturally, will even be more stressed.

In my case, I always preferred to surround myself with happy people. I felt that I was ever so fortunate that I had my football teams. Not only was robust scrimmage with the boys always therapeutic against stress; the laughter of a whole team of high school boys never failed to put the problems of this world in the right perspective.

When nothing seems to be working, and you are feeling a right sorry wreck, pick up the Holy Rosary – or whatever its equivalent is if you are not Catholic. Even when I was particularly feeling angry or bothered when I started praying, and even if the ego continued to bitch, the sheer repetitiveness of the Hail Marys never failed to make me calm down before the five decades were over. Of course, in attempting to communicate with the Lord through prayer, all the problems that were causing my stress were simply rendered petty in comparison to all the sufferings He had to undergo for the likes of you and I.

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