Everyone experiences feeling stressed at work. Moreover, the fact is, some stress is good. It keeps us on our toes, helps us hit deadlines, encourages creative thinking, and allows people and projects to move forward.
However, too much stress is detrimental. The most productive and capable people have strategies for dealing with that excess stress that makes them appear calm and collected to the outside world — even when they are juggling a dozen projects and deadlines.
How do they do it? Use a combination of the following tactics:
When feeling stressed — Make a list of healthy responses
Instead of trying to drown your stress with food or alcohol, letting your stress boil over into an angry response, or numbing your feelings when you get home with mindless TV or Internet, instead try making a list of healthy things you can do when you feel stressed.
Exercise might be top of your list, like going for a walk or jog or doing some yoga. Other ideas might include a long shower, a call to a friend, writing in a journal, working on a favourite hobby, or working towards a goal like planning a vacation or even looking for a new (less stressful) job.
When feeling stressed — Create and keep some boundaries
It is easy to be connected 24/7 in today’s world, but doing so can add to feelings of stress. Start by setting limits on when you check work emails. If your coworkers or clients are used to you responding at all hours, you will need to give them notice of your new schedule.
When feeling stressed — Switch off
To truly relax, you need time when you are neither working nor thinking about work. Start creating some space in your calendar that is just for you, and not coloured by working or worrying about work. Take your vacation days and make them a real vacation away from work. Alternatively, if you cannot take time off, when you are not at work, engage in activities that require your attention and can take your mind off work.
When feeling stressed — Practice relaxing
If you are “on” all the time, you may have trouble relaxing. Practicing meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or another relaxation technique can help you remember how to unclench a bit and truly relax when you are not at work. As a bonus, many of these techniques can be used in small bursts while you are at work, helping you relax when you feel the stress starting to build.
Find what you can and cannot control.
If something is entirely outside your control, like a client’s response to a situation or when a vendor will deliver something, there is no use stressing about it. Instead, please focus on the things you can control and give them your undivided attention.
When feeling stressed — Eliminate interruptions
Start by turning off all the dings and beeps on your smartphone. Next, turn off the alert on your email and try only checking once an hour or — heaven forbid — once every few hours. You might try putting a “do not disturb” sign on your office door or the back of your chair and turning the ringer off your phone for an hour when you need to concentrate. When you can focus more thoroughly, you will feel more productive and less stressed.
When feeling stressed — Schedule your day more realistically
Get in the habit of not only putting items onto your daily schedule but estimating how much time each one will take. If you know you have four things to address that will take two hours each, it’s easy to see that the fifth project that just landed on your desk won’t get done in an eight-hour workday, and you can adjust accordingly instead of feeling behind the eight ball all day.
When feeling stressed — Take care of your body
Stress has a physical impact on your body, and you can help mitigate it by making sure that you are eating healthily and getting enough sleep. Do not rely on fast food or the office vending machine during stressful times, and make sure you are going to bed at a reasonable hour — even if you stayed late at work.
When feeling stressed — Prioritize
The most effective and productive individuals know how to prioritize their time to work on the most critical projects. Even if a manager assigns you projects, you can clarify your priorities with them by saying something like, “I got the new project you sent this morning, but I thought the project you gave me yesterday was our top priority. Can you clarify what you want me to focus on?”
Take one decisive action when feeling stressed
When you are feeling completely stressed out, try identifying and then taking one decisive action. It might be making a list of tasks that you can prioritize, asking for more resources, or even just finding the humour in the situation. If you can find one decisive action to take, everything else will seem more doable.
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