Stress, whether at work or in our personal life, is a natural feeling that everyone encounters once in a while. While it is no longer a new topic, people still seem to struggle to find a way out of stress when it presents itself .
Viet Make It. teamed up with Radio 95z, a radio program run by two Vietnamese professionals living in the Netherlands, in a recent podcast episode. We talked about stress management and how important it is for a healthy career and life. For this topic, we invited guest speakers, My and Truc, two young working professionals who studied and are now progressing their careers in the Netherlands, to give their personal opinions on this pressing subject.
What is stress? How do you manage stress? and in the end, is a stress-free life worth striving for? We get into the nitty gritty of it all. Scroll down to read the podcast highlights, or check out the full conversation by clicking on the thought-provoking podcast in Vietnamese in Spotify or Youtube.
What is stress? Is all stress bad?
In general, stress often comes off as negative; but actually, not all stress is bad for us. Stress might actually be a positive feeling. For instance, when we have a deadline or a challenge coming up, stress can act as an motivator to push us forward and accomplish the task.
We can consider this as ‘positive stress’ (which is often called “eustress”). This is when we have confidence in ourselves that we are capable of overcoming the challenge, and considering such challenge as a positive learning opportunity to grow.
However, stress can be problematic when it starts to impact our life negatively, causing anxiety or fear. Negative stress (which is often referred to as “distress”), usually comes when there is quite a big element of “uncertainty” involved. In other words, when there are things that are not under our control.
Common examples of negative stress can be seen when we are looking for a job, or when we are unsure of the outcome of the layoff decision in our companies. Stress in these situations is even worsened during economic turmoil, such as in 2020. This type of stress affects our daily life and well-being, including our sleeping or eating pattern, and emotional stability. During the episode, we all recalled overthinking during the day, having nightmares, or becoming a lot more emotional when we are under immense stress.
Stress happens not only because of external factors, but also because of internal ones. This is when we put too high, and sometimes, unrealistic expectations on ourselves. One example that was shared in the podcast is when we first start our job after graduation. During this transition period, when we first enter a new company, we might put immense pressure on ourselves to learn and know as much as our colleagues do in a short time. This could be counterproductive for our well-being and confidence. Because, it is simply not reasonable to expect ourselves to be as knowledgeable about the job in the beginning as someone who has been with the company for five, ten, or even twenty years.
Another example of internal stress can be when we compare ourselves to others’ achievements and expect that we too should have the same results. For instance, when we see that our friends have already found a good job after graduating, while we are still struggling to secure a position.
How do we deal with stress?
Talk to supportive people. People here could be our friends, family, or colleagues. We often think during stressful times that we are the only ones who can get ourselves out of the situation; or that we should not trouble others with our negative feelings. However, as often is the case, there are always people who are willing to help us and take the time to listen to us.
Sharing can also lead to positive outcomes that we may have not expected. For example, by sharing our difficulty in looking for a new job, our friends and acquaintances can happen to know of an opening position, or can introduce us to someone that can help.
Even though people can’t always solve our problems, sharing about what is causing stress can help us to formulate and see our problems more clearly. Moreover, the feeling of knowing that we have people who love and support us no matter what, can also help to increase our self-esteem and security during stressful times.
Normalize stress. We should always remind ourselves that stress is a normal feeling that we all face, and we are not alone in this journey. Yes, even the friends that we are comparing our lives to face stress, just as we do. Instead of adopting a victim mentality (“Why me?”), we should try to rationalize that this is something we cannot avoid every time, and we can then focus on finding a more productive way to get out of it. Acknowledging the stress, trying to understand where it comes from, and what are the possible solutions that we can do within our control, are more proactive ways of dealing with stress, rather than letting it take control of us.
Take a break and relax. Instead of spending endless time agonizing about the past or worrying about the uncertainty of the future, doing something else to take our mind off the problems could be a good strategy. Doing our hobbies or exercising can help us relax and feel that we are, in some aspects, still in control of our lives. Reading books, meditating, or listening to motivational songs; these healthy activities are generally helpful for us. The Climb by Miley Cyrus must be the to-go song for a lot of our readers, just as for our guest speakers in the podcast.
So, is a stress-free life desirable?
We wrapped up the podcast with a question: Should we all aim for a stress-free life? Even though we often think of stress as negative, we agree that a stress-free life would not necessarily be a good thing. Because, as discussed above, not all stress is bad. Some positive stress pushes us out of our comfort zone and helps us feel engaged and motivated in the things we do. A new job, a new challenge at work, or a life change; these can all cause stress; but at the same time, propose opportunities for us to improve ourselves and gain a deep sense of satisfaction.
Moreover, overcoming stress is a learning opportunity. During the all-consuming heat of a stressful time, we might not be able to rationalize this, but each challenge and hardship will shape us into who we are and bolster ourselves towards becoming a more competent and resilient person. As the old saying goes “No pain, no gain”, a life without stress also might mean a life where you are not learning and growing. Knowing how to avoid and deal effectively with negative stress, while being open to positive ones, will help us in our life-long journey of self-development.
Radio95z is an outlet where two Vietnamese formulate their thoughts, share their stories as well as others’ and ponder on their adult lives. The podcast is a kaleidoscope for them to look into the beauty of life. Meet Quynh Ngo, a daydreamer who believes all extraordinary starts with “ordinary” and is still learning how to “land”. Meet Thao Lam, a byelingual going trylingual hoping one day she will dream in all three.
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About our guest speakers
My Le (also known as Miley Le) is currently a Global Category Buyer at Heineken Global Procurement, based in the Netherlands. Previously, she graduated from her master study of Supply Chain Management from Rotterdam School of Management in 2019. Besides her professional life, she enjoys spending her time on recreating the Vietnamese dishes and practicing yoga.
Truc is a finance professional who has bravely stepped out of her comfort zone to realize her ambition. Moving from FMCG to fintech and moving from Vietnam to the Netherlands is a journey full of stress, anxiety, and sometimes even tears. Truc is here today to share her story, not necessarily for you to learn something, but mainly for you to know that you are not alone if you are in the same journey.