Stress has become a common thing in the work place and, while many are aware they are reaching a breaking point, they have no idea what to do about it. Even in cases where you enjoy what you do, there are still some stressful element you may face eventually — the unavoidable effect of working.
From the short term stressors of meeting deadlines to long term stressors that can soon become hazardous to your emotional and physical wellbeing, a stress management technique has to be implemented.
Common work-related stressors include low salaries, excessive work load, job insecurity, unengaging jobs, unclear performance expectations and few growth opportunities, among others. The outcome of stress could range from something relatively benign, like a cold or flu, to something more serious like a heart attack.
Research has revealed that the average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate. And modern workers are interrupted seven times an hour and distracted up to 2.1 hours a day. This, coupled with work-related stressors, are some of the reasons why some people stay up at night and are unable to sleep for fear of the unknown.
Stress, however, is not all bad; there are certain amounts of stress that actually contribute to productivity. There are healthy (euress) and unhealthy (distress) types of stress. Euress keeps you motivated to achieve more but, when that builds up, it becomes distress. Therefore, the goal is to sustain the euress level and to manage work-related stressors that could lead to distress, the unhealthy form of stress.
Here are a few ways you can successfully manage work-related stress according to Sharon Melnick, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of just released Success Under Stress.
1. Act rather than react
“We experience stress when we feel that situations are out of our control,” says Melnick. She advises that you need to identify the aspects of the situation you can control and aspects you can’t. Rather than spike up your stress hormones, take time to decipher what part of the situation you can control, and do so. Looking back, you’d realise how well the situation was managed.
2. Take a deep breath
There’s a huge role that taking a deep and long breath can take in calming your nerves. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or are coming out of a tense meeting and need to clear your head, a few minutes of deep breathing will restore balance. According to Melnick, “It’s like getting the calm and focus of a 90-minute yoga class in three minutes or less at your desk.”
3. Eliminate interruptions
This is unavoidable as interruptions from all corners seem to get attracted to you, especially when you’re trying to concentrate on a task. “Most of us are bombarded during the day,” says Melnick. She advises responding in one of three ways: accept the interruption, cut it off, or diagnose its importance and make a plan. Many interruptions are recurring and can be anticipated. “You want to have preset criteria for which response you want to make,” she says.
4. Schedule your day for energy and focus
“Most of us go through the day using a “push, push, push” approach, thinking if we work the full eight to 10 hours, we’ll get more done. Instead, productivity goes down, stress levels go up and you have very little energy left over for your family,” Melnick says. She advises scheduling breaks throughout the day to walk, stretch at your desk or do a breathing exercise.
5. Eat right and sleep well
“Eating badly will stress your system,” says Melnick, who advises eating a low-sugar, high-protein diet. “And when you’re not sleeping well, you’re not getting the rejuvenating effects.” If you find sleeping difficult and can’t seem to forget all the things you need to do, then you can practise a technique Melnick suggests. Close your right nostril and breathe through your left nostril for three to five minutes.
6. Cool down quickly
“When you feel frustrated or angry, it’s a heated feeling in your body that can cause you to react,” says Melnick. Instead of immediately reacting, she suggests trying a “cooling breath” technique. Breathe in deeply yet slowly through your mouth, as if you are sipping through a straw, then breathe out normally through your nose. Done right, you’ll feel a cooling, drying sensation over the top of your tongue. It’s like hitting the “pause” button, giving you time to think about your response. She says, “It’s so powerful, it will even calm the other person down.”
7. Identify self-imposed stress
“Learn to stop self imposing stress by building your own self-confidence rather than seeking others’ approval,” says Melnick. This would only delay you from doing what is expected of you. Believe in yourself more than in what others think of you.
With so much to do, it might seem like all your tasks are all relevant and urgent when in actual fact you can quickly prioritise and get more done when you have a plan. Decide which tasks are more urgent and important than others and focus on them first.
9. Reset your panic button
If you have a tendency to panic before a meeting or a presentation, for instance, Melnick says you can quickly reduce your anxiety with the right acupressure point. Positioning your thumb on the side of your middle finger and applying pressure instantly helps regulate your blood pressure.
10. Influence others
Even though you are responsible for your behavior and outlook, you’re still left dealing with other people’s stressful behaviour, Melnick notes. She advises confronting a problematic coworker or employee by stating their bad behaviour in a respectful tone, describing its impact on both the team and the individual, and requesting a change.
11. Be your own best critic
“Some 60,000 thoughts stream through your mind each day, and internal negativity is just as likely to stress you out as an external event. The fix? Instead of being harsh and critical of yourself, try pumping yourself up. Encouraging thoughts will help motivate you to achieve and ultimately train you to inspire others.” Says Melnick.
We hope this was helpful. Remember to click the share button, and most importantly, don’t be distressed. Take a deep breath and follow the aforementioned steps. You’ll be fine.