Work stress

A young professional woman with anxiety came to see me. Jane had recently changed jobs leaving a company that she had worked at for eight years. She was content and satisfied in that job. She had a couple of hard years at first but after learning the ropes, settled in to the role and made quick advancement up the ladder to become a producer.

One day, while wondering if she was becoming too comfortable in the job, a head-hunter called. Would she be “interested in moving to a promising start-up in the same industry?” The next day her boss announced cut-backs and job losses. “Will I make the cut?” she wondered. Jane couldn’t ignore the coincidence, agreed to an interview and was offered the job. It wasn’t long however before things got tough and regrets set in.

The job was much more demanding than she was led to believe. Although she had been promised a “good work-life balance” Jane found herself working 10-hour days as well as all her weekends. And just when she thought the stress was too getting too much, her boss gave her more work with impossible deadlines.

“Have I made the wrong move?” Jane thought. Her doubt added to her stress and she felt increasingly trapped by a choice of her own making.

“I feel like leaving. I’m not fitting in. I have a hard time relating with the company culture of drinking and parties. I like yoga and adventure sports. I am not inspired. What should I do?”

We agreed to work together using the Dharma model as a guide, and Jane booked a block of sessions with me. We talked about her situation and agreed that the job was indeed a good professional fit for her. She thought the company would be a big success and that she could play an important part.

We then talked about the Respect principle.

“Why not talk with your boss. Be honest with him and give him some feedback. Tell him you like the job, that you are committed to making the company a success and suggest ways in which the communication and expectations could be more realistic” I said.

“I can’t do that!”


“Two reasons. I doubt whether he is open to hear it. And I honestly don’t feel fully committed to the job.”

“Both are problems” I said.

“Try taking a risk and give him the benefit of the doubt. Tell him what you think. You may be surprised to find he is open to your ideas. The real issue though is your commitment. Let’s start with that, Jane. If you are committed, you’ll take that risk.”

We talked about the Dharma principle of Effort and how it points to the need for commitment, discipline and patience.

“The essence of effort is passion. If we have a passion for what we are doing, then the rest is easier.”

“I think that’s the problem. I haven’t honestly put my heart in it. For some reason I don’t feel passionate about the job.”

“Let’s work on that then. If we can, let’s find a way to stimulate that passion” I said.

“You are anxious because you feel out of control. The first step would be to take ownership of your choice to take the job. This will free you up, give you a sense of control and response—ability. Even if the demands of the job don’t change, you will feel stronger in your ability to meet the challenges. Holding back will make you weak. Mustering up the determination to meet the demands head-on, with personal passion, will help you push through obstacles and energise you.”

We agreed a plan of action. Jane said she would muster up a passion, not just for the job, but more importantly for herself. “What is the point of being lukewarm about what I am doing? It’s my life after all” she gamely offered.

We set a milestone in the calendar. Jane would give it her best for three months. She would test herself and test the job. After all, she could always move on. But meanwhile, she decided to apply the principle of Effort and exercise patience and take the risk to talk openly with her boss about a good work-life balance.

“How do you feel” I asked.

“Less anxious, but a bit nervous. I think it’s a symptom that I am ready for the challenge,” she said.


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  1. BV Vaikhanas Swami

    Having gone through similar situations in my earlier life, I am really impressed with how you successfully identified the key issues through the use of the Dharma model.

    I am curious to hear how this lady’s situation evolves.

    • Michael Geary

      Nice to hear from you. The report so far is that she has been able to clear her head and take some emotional distance from the day-to-day challenges. She is more open with her boss and that has brought about some improvements. (There is always room for more). As she is moving ahead, she is more clear about her own values and what works for her. For the time being she is being patient, doing her best (she is now more committed the job) and she is waiting to see how things shape up, while staying open to other opportunities that might come her way. In a nutshell, she is less stressed and anxious, so that part is working well.

  2. Rasangi

    I love how you are using the Dharma Principles to help solve life’s problems with people in individual coaching sessions!

    • Michael Geary

      Thank you for your appreciation. The principles work at many levels and in all cases. It’s exciting how they reveal deeper layers of meaning and solution in different cases.


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