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Workload: Ease the stress!

By Rolf Leicher, Heidelberg

Do you know this? Stable work, office work, pressure to meet deadlines, low bank balances, constant availability - all this can get us down. "I'm under stress," you hear in unison. Too much pressure, too much hectic, too much strain - due to our fast-paced, modern lifestyle, topics such as stress management and burn-out are gaining in importance. Nowadays, it is not only whiners and sensitive people who feel exhausted and burnt out; stress has long since become a widespread disease. Farmers are also increasingly affected by it.

Stress is generally not a bad thing

Stress is commonly associated with something negative. Far from it! Stress is vital for us. It awakens performance reserves - you run up to peak performance, like an athlete in a competition. But the problem is: even when it is not a matter of life and death, one stress wave after another is often triggered today. Stress is no longer linked to a short episode followed by exhaustion or relaxation, but has become a permanent condition.

The stress inventory

The most important rule is therefore: to recognise stress early and prevent it with prevention. Stress reduction is easier if stress has not already reached boiling point.

Effective stress management first requires an inventory in which you differentiate and evaluate the individual stress triggers. All stressors that could be burdening you are noted and evaluated. This creates clarity about the causes, which you can address individually. This is a prerequisite for developing patterns of action.

Tempoholics and perfectionists

To get the work done on time, the pace is increased and with it the risk of mistakes. Younger farmers in particular think this is the right thing to do and develop into "pace-holics" in the process. They want to prove that they can cope with a fast pace and accept the stress. Yet a high work pace is not always synonymous with high efficiency. "The grass doesn't grow faster if you pull on it," says an African proverb. If you want to do more and more, better and better, faster and faster, you lose the ability to feel serenity. You get further and further into the performance spiral, which can lead to psychological problems.

The perfectionist also belongs to the stress types. They think in black and white categories: What is not super is automatically bad. With this view, one's attention is not drawn to one's strengths, but to one's weaknesses. As a result, fear of failure arises. The perfectionist also does not like to admit that something is too much for him. Most of the time, this can turn into workaholism and be the cause of burn-out.


Possible stressors: What is perceived as stress?

  • Deadline pressure due to unplanned additional work
  • Changes in the work routine
  • High pace of work due to own specifications
  • Backlogged work, limited time windows (deadline costs)
  • Work interruptions due to external influences or other priorities 
  • Worries about the future
  • Permanent stress, like in a hamster wheel

What is the best way to cope with stress?

There is no perfect strategy. Some people find it helpful to be more mindful in their daily lives, others to relax with yoga, and others to exercise more. The important thing is: learn to relax, allow yourself a little peace of mind and recharge your batteries. Draw boundaries by making it clear to others: "I can't do that now". When was the last time you indulged in a nice meal, a game of chess or a walk? Pleasure drives away annoyance and recharges your battery.

Just breathe away stress?

With increasing performance thinking and prolonged stress, you can find inner serenity through targeted breathing. Because when you are under tension, your natural breathing habits change. Especially exhalation, the removal of used oxygen, is then neglected. During stress, breathing unconsciously becomes shallow, pressed, short and the brain is insufficiently supplied with oxygen in the long run. Breathing in and out is an unconscious process that must come into consciousness in order to regulate it. Breath is like a "renewable energy" that is available without limits. It costs nothing and brings a lot. Correct breathing is the basis for more stress stability and a good way to release inner tensions.

Improving inner resilience

There are people who happily work 60-hour weeks, master large and small crises with flying colours and seem to be immune to stress and hectic situations. Others, on the other hand, get under a lot of pressure just by saying the wrong thing and ruminate about it for days. Researchers suspect that this is due to the varying degrees of resilience, or psychological resistance. This is influenced not only by personality and a positive attitude to life, but also by environmental experiences and genes.

So it's not about reducing stress itself, but how to quickly regain balance after stress. Strengthening one's own resilience requires two basic attitudes: acceptance of the situation and optimism despite the stresses. Resilience is not a skill that is learned once, but changes flexibly in the course of life. Everyone can learn to strengthen their own resilience.

Coping with stress

  1. It can be helpful to talk to someone about the stressful situation. The "talking it out" method opens the valve, which brings relief. If you talk about stress, you can exaggerate the facts a little - the main thing is that you have found a listener who is sympathetic and understanding. After all, it's not about getting tips on how to cope.
  2. If you know that the current stress will have little meaning in a week's time, is it even worth noticing it? Why get angry today if it will be meaningless later? - In the case of low stress without long-term effects, the "outlook" method is favourable. Then you just click on "delete", like on a computer.
  3. With the "comparison" method, you look back: Has there been a similar stressful situation before and how did it go? In doing so, you realise that it rarely turned out as bad as you suspected. In other words: Become more relaxed. Because if you don't get upset or anxious so quickly in challenging situations, you will be more resilient.

Stay positive!

Your own attitude towards certain situations is incredibly important for the level of stress. Be aware: stress is first and foremost created in the mind. You have already taken the first step towards more relaxation if you trust that you can manage your workload even if you put your feet up in between. Just switching off for a moment helps you to be more relaxed and reduces stress.

Focus on the fun component of completing your tasks. Reward yourself in between by doing things you enjoy. And very important: smile at yourself in front of the mirror in the morning. Then the day will start off much more relaxed.