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Managing your Stress in the Workplace

During these times with the economy in difficulty it may seem harder than ever to cope with the demands and challenges in the workplace.  The stress we take with us from home, the commute to and from work and the stress that awaits us when we get to the job are on the rise – and employers, managers and workers, regardless of the industry, are all feeling this added pressure.  While some stress is a normal part of life, excessive stress and distress interferes with productivity, working relationships and physical & emotional health.

So it’s important to find ways to keep stress levels under control.  Fortunately, there are ways to reduce stress at work.

Coping with stress in today’s uncertain work climate

Workers everywhere are feeling the emotional roller coaster ride of the troubled economy with ‘redundancy’, ‘layoffs’ and ‘cut-backs’ having become common words heard in the workplace.  The result is increased fear, higher levels of stress and constant uncertainty about job security. Since workplace stress increases during times of economic crises it’s important to learn new and better ways of coping with the pressure.  Certainly the ability to manage stress in the workplace can make a big difference between success or failure on the job, and the better you manage your stress the more you’ll positively affect those around you, likewise the negative stress of others will affect you less.

Learn to manage your job stress

There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce your overall personal stress levels and the stresses from your job and workplace.  These can include –

  • Taking responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being, why not attend a stress management workshop or seminar if you have the opportunity (or follow  some of the tips on this post).
  • Avoiding pitfalls by identifying negative attitudes and reactions that add to the stress you experience at work or with work colleagues.
  • Learn better communication skills and improve your relationships with management and co-workers.  Take a moment to think before responding if you are feeling highly stressed, sometimes harsh words are spoken in haste which can damage colleague relationships, sometimes for good.

Some of the warning signs of excessive stress at work

When people feel overwhelmed and distressed they lose confidence, focus and very often become withdrawn and irritable, which in turn affects productive and effectiveness at work.  If the warning signs of work stress go unattended they often lead to much bigger problems.

Signs and symptoms of Stress

  • Feeling anxious, irritable and/or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Fatigue, sleeping problems
  • Trouble to focus and concentrate
  • Muscle tension/headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Social withdrawal
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs to cope

Take care of yourself and reduce work stress

When stress in the workplace interferes with your ability to work, care for yourself, spend time with family or friends or manage a personal life then its time to take action.  Start by paying attention to your health, both physically and emotionally.  When you take the time to care for yourself you become stronger and more resilient to stress, thus becoming better equipped to manage stress at work.

Even making small changes today can lift your mood and increase your energy & determination.  Take things one step at a time and as you make more positive choices in your life, you’ll soon notice a difference in your stress levels, both at home and at work.

Learn to relax– take some time out every day and do something you enjoy, take a walk outside in the fresh air, read a book, learn some simple breathing exercises or meditation, and/or take up a ‘movement’ sport such as yoga.

Get your sleep – I cannot stress enough how vital it is to get your 7-8 hours sleep per night, by doing so you will have more energy the next day, have better concentration & focus and be less irritable.

Treat your body well – have a healthy diet (introduce fruit and vegetables into your daily meals and increase the amount of water you drink to about 8 glasses per day).  Cut back on the soft drinks, alcohol and smoking.

Move your body – take up a physical exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga, jogging, hitting the gym etc.  By exercising at least 3 to 4 times per week you increase your fitness levels, muscle tone, reduce stress and improve heart and lung function.

Take up a hobby– do something you really enjoy every week, it doesn’t matter what you do, from stamp collecting to train spotting.  Having our own hobby can do wonders for well-being and we all deserve a little ‘me’ time every week.

Reduce Stress by prioritizing and organizing –

When workplace stress is all around you, it cannot be ignored, but there are simple steps that can be taken to regain control.

Time Management Tips

Create a balanced schedule – analyse your schedule, responsibilities and daily tasks.  All work and no play is a one way ticket for burnout.  Try to find a balance between work and life outside the workplace, family, friends, social activities and relaxation.

Don’t over-commit yourself – don’t try to fit too much into one day.  Have a realistic idea of the length of time a task is likely to take, very often the term ‘it only takes 5 minutes’ isn’t the reality.  If you’ve got too much on your ‘to do’ list learn to distinguish between the “should” and the “musts” and don’t be afraid to drop those tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list.

Try to leave earlier in the morning – especially if you are the type of person that’s found rushing to his/her desk in the morning out of breath, by leaving a little earlier you ease into your day, rushing will only add to your stress levels.

Plan regular breaks – make sure to take some short breaks throughout the day to sit back and clear your mind.  Try to get away from the desk for lunch, go outside and take a short walk.  Stepping away from work to briefly relax will help you to be more (and not less) productive.  We do not need to chain ourselves to the desk.

Task Management tips-

Prioritize tasks – make a ‘to do’ list everyday and tackle them in order of importance.  Do the high-priority items first, likewise if you have a task you don’t particularly like to do then do this first, the rest of you day will be more pleasant as a result.

Break projects into small bites – if a project seems overwhelming, try making it a step by step plan.  Focus on one step at a time, ticking it off the list as you go, this will give you the energy to tackle the rest of the project.

Delegate responsibility – you really don’t have to do everything yourself, either at home or on the job.  If other people can do a task then why not let them?  Let go of the need to control every step and by doing so you will let go of some unnecessary stress also.

As you learn to manage your job stress and improve work relationships, you’ll have more control over your ability to think clearly and act appropriately.  You will be able to break habits that add to your stress at work.  Stress is here to stay, that’s a fact, but with proper management we can all benefit with a richer and more stress free life.

Did you find this post helpful? Are there other areas of Stress Management you would like to read on Bloggertone? Why not leave a comment for me…

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This post is part of the SugarTone: Sweet Business Blogging Contest.

I am a Stress Management Coach (also a Holistic & Natural therapist and teacher). I am dedicated to managing stress, resilience and well-being, my training courses and consultancy are designed to help create a working (or home) environment where resilience is enhanced and well-being is protected, allowing people to respond positively to challenges and perform at their best. I provide in-house training courses, consultancy and workshops to private and public sector organisations (also one-on-one sessions). I specialise in providing practical training for managers and employees aimed at minimising the risk of stress and enhancing well-being within the organisation.

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  • Anonymous

    Great Post Catherine,

    Great symptoms list. These are super questions to ask ourself regularly and to make sure that our busy lives are not creating high amounts of stress. The one thing I found about the human race as we are better at diagnosing others than ourselves. We very live in a world of denial. How do you deal with these people Catherine?

  • Hi Catherine, wonderful and very important reminder to us all. I have to admit I was guilty of very bad work/life management prior to Xmas and it was starting to take a toll. I am glad to report that it is something I now have under control and am feeling all the better (& more effective) for it. Thanks so much for the great tips. UP TIPP! Cheers, Niall

  • Thank you for your comment Greg. Denial is something that anyone and everyone is susceptible to, and it depends from person to person. Everyone is different & complex and ability to cope with certain situations vary from person to person. In order to stop living in denial, a person must be willing to face painful truths and this is not an easy thing to do regardless of who you are. These truths or issues can range from health problems, illness within the family, financial woes, relationship problems or any life-altering situation. Most people know that there is ‘something not quite right’ or are ‘feeling out of sorts’ but often there is a fear factor that comes with taking the first step, the fear of the unknown, of opening ‘a can of worms’ and the uncertain conclusion.

    Accepting there is a problem you have to face and overcome is the first step. Then the problem must be examined honestly and in full detail. Enlist the help of a qualified counselor/therapist/consultant/coach to help you with this process; a good professional will guide you through the process of recovery one step at a time. Work with your professional, be open and honest, don’t worry there is nothing that shocks us. Create a plan of action with your professional, whether it’s a new budget with an accountant or overcoming bullying in the workplace. And finally acting on your plan boldly and with purpose, the faster you overcome denial the better your life will become.

    I hope this helps to answer your question Greg, please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this topic more.

  • Hi Niall, thank you for the comment and I’m glad to hear that life is more balanced for you now, having a more balanced life and one that you feel in control of does make you feel better and you actually become more productive and effective as a result. Well done you…. Catherine

  • Wonderful post, Catherine. The toughest challenge is to reach a balance between work and leisure. I must admit the work loads are overwhelming at times, therefore I ‘force’ myself to rest more during weekends. Otherwise, take a couple of hours off daily to go for a walk, play my guitar or do some casual writing. Yup, let off some steams, that ought to do it. 🙂

    Thanks for the handy tips, we could all use them.

    Social/Blogging Tracker

  • Your first three bullet point “Learn to manage your job stress” seem to have a big link to the home life, and a lot of people forget that our home lives have a huge impact on work related stress.

    Great post.

  • As a home based business, I notice that I fail to do some of the basics, like, oh, eating, during the day. This is a great article reminding us to notice what we need to take care of (ourselves) in order to keep our stress in check, and our selves more productive. Thanks for this!

  • Frédéric

    We naturaly forget what is fundamental and basic in stress management. This article is a very good guide line in life, in work.
    I made many abuses to face a reality in work that was no longer acceptable, altering every aspects of my life.
    These tips are great value to keep an eye on what is essential in work/life. Thanks Catherine for your guidance.

  • Thank you everyone for your comments, as most of you have mentioned it’s about balance. Stress is a part of life but stress overload in one area of your life will cause the balance to tilt and therefore affect all the other areas of your life. No one makes it through life completely stress free and let’s be honest you wouldn’t want too. We all need good stress, we need to be challenged mentally, physically and emotionally, and this gives spice to our lives, its how we learn and evolve.

    Finding the right amount of stress in your life is like finding the right tension in a guitar string, too much tension and the string breaks, too little tension and there is no music. The goal is to be able to play and hear the music without breaking the strings.

  • Thank you very much for the kind words and I’m glad this post was helpful to you.

  • Catherine, thanks for sharing these fantastic tips and resources, it is really a packed post!

    What I like the most about it is that you said in your opening paragraph that “stress is a normal part of life”. I like that as, once we accept that, then we can learn how to reduce and manage it.

    It is the same with change management, once you get people to accept change and resistance (lol!), then, it gets easier because you can plan your approach.

    And, I like that about your post, thank you!

  • Char

    Very informative, clear and concise. Well written Catherine. I feel that as we age, stress becomes part of all of our lives. It takes some people longer to figure it out than others, often causing damages to health, or relationships. Your article is very transferrable as I am a homemaker and when I’m stressed the whold family dynamic changes. Grumpy stressed mom equals grumpy husband and grumpy kids, compounding the stress. Thank you for your guidance.

  • This is very true, stress at home will have an impact on work, in the same way that stress at work impacts family life. The trick is to find the right balance. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Thank you for your kind words Colleen and I’m glad you found the post helpful.

  • Thank you for your kind words Frederique

  • Thank you very much Char, its very true when you say stress becomes part of all our lives. Stress is a normal part of life, its when we suffer from too much stress or stress overload that we really have to step back and try to find a solution to manage it. I’m pleased you found the post useful.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the post Catherine. Lots of great tips there to take on board.

  • Business owners have to go through a lot of stress while starting their
    own business. One needs to manage the stress level otherwise it can have
    negative impact on the health and as well as on the business too.

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