Stress can be a real bummer, and a lot of negative effects come with it. In fact, it’s estimated that stress costs the US economy $300 billion every year and shortens the average lifespan by 2.8 years. So stress hurts businesses too, and companies are starting to realize this.
Many companies, such as Google, are recognizing the value in providing tools to assist with stress management and coping. The value of reduce workplace stress comes in the form of increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and lower turnover.
Even if your company is not actively providing resources to help you manage stress, you can still take charge and develop your own stress management tools.
What is Stress?
Stress is your body’s natural reaction to an external threat or challenge. This could be triggered by an argument, a tight deadline, or even watching sports.
It’s important to recognize that stress isn’t always bad. In short doses, it causes your brain to release hormones that increase alertness and muscle tension. This is helpful if you’re trying to get out of a sticky situation, such as a bear attack
Prolonged, or chronic, stress is bad for you though. This is where people start to develop problems with anxiety and other stress-related disorders. Over time, this can wreak havoc on your mental well-being and physical health.
If anxiety or other stress related disorders have caused you a lot of heartache lately, you may want to see a mental health professional. They will help you unravel the tangled web and be a confidential resource for easing your burden.
However, if you just want some ideas to help you through the day, there are some techniques to consider.
Recognize the Stress Triggers
To manage the effects of stress, it is important to recognize the parts of your job that trigger stress reactions. This may include any of the following:
- Rude co-workers
- Demanding Boss
- Overwhelming Workload
- Lack of job security
Any of these factors can affect you on a day to day basis and lead to long-term or chronic stress. So, it’s important to take a look at how you can manage these situations.
On a side note, this may be a good time to determine whether you’re in a toxic environment. If you are, it may be time to update your resume and start looking for a new job.
To put it plainly, rude co-workers suck. And what is their deal anyway? Truth be told, you may be inclined to not make waves, but you really don’t have to tolerate their bs. There is also no value in letting them drag you down.
There are a few ways you can handle a rude co-worker. Your best bet is to avoid them as much as possible. If this isn’t doable, then a professional confrontation or a conversation with your manager or HR may be necessary.
If you would rather handle this directly, it’s important that you not stoop to the level of your co-worker. So, try to be the better person. This means avoiding gossip, insults, and emotional outbursts.
If a co-worker is being rude, you should be direct and professional with your response. For example, if a co-worker makes an unfair and disrespectful remark about you, then respond with something like, “I don’t agree with your assessment, and I feel that your conduct is unprofessional. If you’d like to discuss this further with management, I would be happy to do so. Otherwise, I expect you to treat me with respect from now on.”
It’s important to cut the conversation off at this point by leaving or continuing your work. You should also not unload any of your other grievances you carry against this person. Your focus should be placed squarely on the incident.
A cooling off period will do you well, and this co-worker may treat you differently going forward. Also, be sure to document this conversation in case this co-worker decides to make a complaint against you.
Often times, rude co-workers will be very insecure and lacking in social skills. They may not process their frustrations and insecure feelings in a productive way, so they instead take it out on others. This is why you shouldn’t take their behavior personally.
If you have a demanding boss, then you probably don’t look forward to going to your job every day. A demanding boss can be lacking in empathy, unreasonable with demands, and may remind you of an emotional toddler. So again, don’t take this behavior personally.
It’s important that you don’t give in to the whims and demands of this type of boss. Instead, you should seek to establish clear expectations on tasks and performance by way of conversation. This will hope both parties understand the deliverable and develop a consensus on the schedule. This also gives the manager an opportunity to shift priorities.
Additionally, the more you can maintain consistent quality and timeliness, the more your boss will start to trust you. And you may find that over time, their behavior toward you will change.
If they continue to put an undue amount of stress on you, it may be worth having a candid conversation. Perhaps they are unaware of the stress they are putting on you, and they may also be suffering. Who knows, maybe the conversation will be a bonding experience and help you establish some camaraderie.
If your boss is just a plain bully, then that is a different scenario altogether. This is something that should be brought up with HR. If nothing changes, then it is time to update your resume or seek a transfer to a different team.
If you are staring at an insurmountable pile of urgent tasks that will seemingly never go away, then it’s time to get organized.
Even though you may be experiencing a massive deadline crunch, it’s worth taking the time to create a list of all your current tasks, task deadlines, and approximate time for task completion.
Once you have this list in order, it will be easier to quantify what you are up against. If you find that there is no way possible to finish everything on time, then you should look at passing off some work or possible deadline extensions.
With your list in hand, have conversations with all interested parties to see if any deadlines can be pushed back. Sometimes, deadlines are not on the critical path and can be delayed slightly without negatively affecting the project schedule. This will give you some breathing room, but be sure you deliver on this new date or people will be less inclined to extend deadlines for you in the future.
At this point, delegate tasks if possible, but be sure you aren’t too hasty with passing off these tasks. Doing so without enough direction or information may create more work down the road in the form of corrections or redos.
A task list will also help your boss decide whether it is possible to pull additional resources or move the projects to someone else who has more capacity. Their involvement will keep them from being surprised if you fall short on a deadline.
Sometimes, all you can really do is try your best and try and keep your stress levels in check. Just remember, your career is pretty long, and any short-term setbacks will not matter in the long run. If you fall behind a bit, it’s not the end of the world. Eventually you’ll find time to catch your breath.
Lack of Job Security
Many of us work in industries where the threat of outsourcing, downsizing, or job elimination is a constant threat. Lack of certainty can be very stressful, and there is little you can do to affect the company’s decision if your position is not part of the long-term plan.
Staving off stress in this situation is difficult, but there are measures you can take to give yourself some self-assurance. So, start by taking a look at what you can control.
Assess your skill set and consider where you need to catch up or any certifications you need to go after. Staying relevant in your industry will give you value. This will also help you stay .
To further increase your value, keep your work priorities in order and find opportunities to go the extra mile. This will leave a positive impression upon your colleagues and superiors. The value here is an increase in your opportunities for employment later on when these people venture to other companies.
You should also tap into your company’s internal network for this same reason. This will provide insight on the company’s activities and maybe a head start if you get the early word on an impending layoff.
Be sure to save up some money and keep your LinkedIn profile and resume up to date. You may also want to look at branching off from your current career path if the market for your job is diminishing.
Being let go is very stressful, but taking initiative in the areas you can control will help prepare you mentally.
Recognizing the things that may cause you stress will reduce their effects so long as you are taking action. It’s also important to have some coping mechanisms and make healthy lifestyle choices to fight off the effects of stress.
Take a Break and a Deep Breath
After a stressful incident, you are likely feeling the effects of an adrenaline surge and are a bit fired up. So, it would be a good time for a walk, hitting the breakroom, or a coffee run.
Don’t forget to take a deep breath and relax your shoulders. It may sound cheesy, but complimenting yourself and thinking about the people you care about can ground you a bit. So don’t be afraid to give it a try.
Chat with a Co-worker
If you’re on friendly terms with a co-worker, swinging by for a chat or going on a coffee run together is a great stress reliever. Just keep the gossip to a minimum and try to have a laugh or two.
Write out a Gratitude List
This is a pretty simple exercise; write down the things in life that keep you going and give you motivation. This can be the names of your spouse, kids, pets, family, etc… Perhaps there are things about your life that you appreciate, such as hobbies or material possessions. Anything you are grateful for can go on this list and keep writing and rereading it until you start to feel better.
Sleep, Exercise, and Diet
Most everyone knows the importance of adequate sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet. This is instilled in us from a young age by our educational systems, yet we tend to dismiss this or tell ourselves that we’ll worry about it later.
Healthy lifestyle choices are key to maintaining a positive attitude. So take time to consider your health habits and make some changes if necessary. Change doesn’t have to be drastic, and even small changes will go a long way.
Alcohol and caffeine affect your stress levels, so consider cutting back if you are consuming an excessive amount of either.
The CDC considers excessive alcohol consumption to be more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 per day for men. As far as caffeine is concerned, 400 mg (about 4 cups of coffee) is considered a safe amount. It should be noted that caffeine takes about 5 or 6 hours to leave your system. So an afternoon cup could affect your sleep.
Reflect on the Stress
If your stress levels are in check and nerves are calmed, finish the day strong and try to keep your mind free of distraction. It’s okay if you save the personal reflection for the drive-home or during some evening relaxation.
Depending on what transpired, it’ll be important to set your mind at ease about the stressful experience. So try to look at it as a learning experience, and not a failure. Also, allow yourself to be okay with your own actions, even if you could have handled things better.
If it’s helpful, you can imagine yourself talking to a friend who just had a similar experience. What advice would you give this person? What would you tell them to get them to relax? Turn this advice toward yourself, and consider that the situation was probably not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
If there were other people involved, try to consider what they may have been feeling. Perhaps they are having their own struggles and their behavior was a reflection of this. The point of this isn’t to excuse bad behavior, but to understand it.
The goal is to accept the situation for what it was and let it go. It does not do any good to dwell on these experiences, especially as you’re going to bed. So if you can’t reconcile the situation in your mind, give yourself permission to think about it more later.
Stress is unavoidable, and you will probably encounter stressful situations on a daily basis. This is just how life goes. You don’t have to let stress run your life though, so don’t be afraid to tackle the challenge of managing it.
If you have any tips or methods for handling stress, please leave a comment below!