A Little Fun and Games

A Little Fun and Games

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress

 

A Little Fun and Games

Work had gone beyond being a source of stress. In fact, it seemed to be nothing but stress. Everything connected to it also produced its own stress, and thinking about it when I was away from work piled even more stress onto that. I felt like I was being pressed from all sides.

I could tell I was irritable on the job. Usually my disposition is a sunny one, but the stress of trying to keep up with a flood of paperwork, trying to please my bosses, and worrying about the security and future of my job didn’t lead to smiles. I was so wrapped up in the stress of trying to handle all of this that I found myself walking around in a fog most of the time, mumbling incoherent things to myself, miserable and feeling my hold on things slipping.

Home wasn’t much better. The stress of work did not go away when I stepped through the front door. My wife smiled and hugged me, as encouraging and supportive as ever, and I’m ashamed to say I did little to justify her faith in me. I moped around a lot, lost in endless worries about work. I didn’t feel like talking about the day or taking a walk or going to a movie or anything. What I really wanted to do was slide into bed, pull the covers over my head and tell everyone I was too sick to go to work.

But of course, that wasn’t any kind of solution for my problems, or to the stress and pressure I was feeling. There had to be a way to handle all of this, to turn the negative feelings around and make things work better. I had to find an answer, and fast.

One day, I found myself swamped again. Dozens of people needed dozens of things, each at the same time. I had a report to present to my peers, and I knew I’d never be ready in time. So as I plowed into the paperwork, I gave half my attention to the work I needed for the meeting. I dashed off a page and literally slid it across my desk into the folder it needed to go into. It settled neatly into place.

I thought that was kind of cool, so the next time I had a page done I slid it across the desk, and watched in amazement as it slid perfectly in place on top of the first paper. This went on, with me sliding each page I completed, until I slid the very last one. I held my breath, and when it settled onto the top of the pile in the folder, I actually cheered. I closed the folder and let out a breath. I looked at the clock on my desk. I had finished both the report and the pile of paperwork with fifteen minutes to spare. I was ahead of the game.

It occurred to me that I had not felt any stress at all, caught up as I was in playing my made-up game. I’d done all the work I’d needed to do, but without the mountain of stress I’d normally feel. Could the fact that I was enjoying the game account for that?

I decided to find out. The rest of that week, whenever I had a particularly stressful assignment to tackle, I created a game or activity while I did it. When I was writing up my reports I made up songs about the various subjects and hummed them to myself. While I was processing an avalanche of files, I used color-coded folders and bet myself which color would end up making the highest stack. In short, I managed to fit some fun into the serious work I was doing.

After a week of such playful activity I began to stress about wasting time. Then I got to the end of the week and noticed that I had finished not a little of my work, not half of it, but all of the mind-numbing work that had been driving me crazy with stress. Adding a little harmless play had so freed me from the usual stress that haunted me that I could focus on the task at hand and get the job done. Not only that, but I began to notice that I was actually enjoying the work, something I hadn’t felt in years.

So I continued to add a little fun to my workload. After a while my proficiency went up so much that my boss asked what was going on. I decided to come clean and tell him my secret. He stood and listened and frowned a lot, but he didn’t say anything. However, later that afternoon he confided that he’d made anagrams out of the names of all the clients he’d talked to on the phone, had finished his business and had some genuine fun in the process.

So the fun continues, mixed in with a lot of serious work, and the stress that I thought I’d never be free of is a thing of the past. The thing I’d forgotten is that life is supposed to be filled with joy as much as drudgery. As long as I balanced the two, I got more done in a job that I was suddenly feeling very good about, all on account of a little fun and games.

~ John P. Buentello ~

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