Coping With Stress at Work

Stress in the workforce is a growing phenomenon. In one U.S. study as many as 40% of workers described their jobs as very to extremely tense. At this time of economic crisis, just holding onto a job is stress enough.

The need to succeed, to make ends meet, and to provide for family weigh heavily on everyone. Workforce stress affects brain function, hinders work performance, decreases short term memory retention, lowers concentration, and stunts learning. Over 13 million working days a year are lost to stress related illnesses. Excessive stress leads to anxiety which contributes to 70% of all doctor visits.Stress is caused by various factors; not all of course are work related. The origin of stress called stressors, are external and internal in nature.

Common Causes of Stress

External stressors are physical conditions such as heat or cold, trauma, loss of loved ones, catastrophic events beyond one's control, the loss of employment, illness, divorce, and debilitation. The external stressor is one that is out of the person's control.Examples of internal stressors are excessive worry, obsessive behavior, anxiety, and worrying over what cannot be changed. How one deals with external stressors is in direct correlation to the internal stressor.

Stress Effects on Health and Performance

Stress is quickly becoming the number one reason for physical instability. Anxiety and stress can contribute to hypertension, weight gain and loss, impaired immunity systems, sleep deprivation, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, muscle and joint pain, depression, and migraines.The most common causes of irritability, anxiety and depression at work are bullying or harassment by management or contemporaries, a sense of powerlessness in determining one’s own responsibilities, unreasonable time and performance demands on a continuing basis, lack of job security, and feelings of extreme boredom and lack of fulfillment

Coping with Work Stressors

Rethink the job environment. Is this occupation the best situation for the time being? Does this job feed the mind, body and soul as well as the check book? Under current economic debilitations is it best to look outside the company for a renewed sense of purpose and pay?

If the current job situation questions feelings of self importance, productivity, creative stimulation and self worth; it may be time to explore elsewhere. If the work stressors are temporary, make it tolerable. Always be looking for something better while holding a position. Growth is always encouraged. If education is necessary for advancement or a new position, look to extended hour classes or online certification. Do not leave the present position until a new one is secured.

Lack of Job Security

As unemployment continues to rise, most work related stress is due to not having a job at all. While there is no guarantee that the current position will exist, there are ways to help secure the job while it is operational.Always be prompt, limit sick leave, have a good attitude even when the situation doesn't warrant it, work calmly, be efficient, extend a helping hand, resist temptation to gossip, and follow the company's mission statement.

Make it work! While employed always look for ways to improve the environment, work on self improvement, always look to advance. While seeking employment; attack it as a job. Continue personal routines as if heading to an office. Wake up at the usual hour, shower, dress for an interview, and work for eight hours perusing the paper, internet, job workforce services, etc. Approach unemployment as a job to the next career. This attitude conditions physical and mental patterns and can deter depression, fatigue and boredom.

Dealing With Stress at Work

You are late for a meeting and your boss is mad at you. You have missed a deadline or you have just been told you have to work late. Stress can kill you if you don't manage it. So turn off your computer or PDA and stop and smell the roses.

Take a break and breathe

Take a break! Get up and away from your desk. Go get some water or walk around the office or better yet, walk around the building. You need to unplug, even if only for a few minutes.

Taking deep and regular breaths helps calm your mind. Do this while you walk. It really works! Try counting how many deep, fulfilling breaths you take. Try and make it to ten before you get distracted and forget to count. You will come back to your desk refreshed and re-energized.

Stop stressing about things beyond your control

You can only do what you can do. Worrying about what someone else has to do or not do helps no one. Trust other people to do their roles as they trust you to do yours. Sometimes you have to let go of the things you cannot control.

Sometimes it's only a job

Finding a good work/life balance can be tough. We all need to work and we all need a paycheque at the end of the day. But having a firm separation between your work and your life is very important. Companies love mobile communications because they get more work out of you, even when you are at home. If you can, turn off the PDA when you're not at work unless it is an absolute job requirement.

Remember why you go to work and what the really important things in your life are. It can be ok to say no sometimes. For most of us, realizing we really are replaceable is important so acting like the world rests on our shoulders can be unnecessarily stressful.

Eating and sleeping tips

Get a good night's sleep. It is a lifesaver. Being well rested helps ease stress and makes you more productive. Your thinking is clearer and you are easier to work with. If you make a deliberate effort to get that solid sleep, you will notice a difference in your energy, attitude and performance.

Eat breakfast. It's important. Substituting coffee for food exacerbates the problem of stress. Try to reduce the coffee levels (or get rid of it completely!). You will see a huge positive difference in a few weeks without it.

Multitasking is an urban myth

Multitasking has been proven in a few studies to be one: less productive overall and two: poorly named. There really is no such thing as multitasking. You have to do one thing at a time, every time, no matter how many things are coming at you. You have to deal with them one by one. Because you are not concentrating fully on any one task, you are less effective at those tasks. Better to give something your undivided attention and complete things in order.

Good work planning can alleviate task panic. Use your calendar effectively and say no when you have to. When there is a panic to complete tasks, try and separate them out as best you can and pick them off one by one instead of trying to do a little bit on each.

Some stress isn't bad

A little stress can make you sharper, more competetive and more effective. The trick is to see things as challenges instead of problems. If you can make your stressor into a positive challenge, you'll be happier and healthier because of it.

Do what is best for you

Ultimately you need to look after yourself first. You cannot support yourself or your family if you run yourself into the ground. Make decisions about where and what you want to do for a living and compare that to what you must have. Sometimes we have fewer choices available, but just remember that you do no favours to anyone if you work yourself sick.

These are just a few things that have helped me through various stressful situations. I hope they help you too.

Other Easy Ways to Reduce Stress at Work

One of the most effective ways to reduce stress, both at work and in our personal lives, is to make things simpler. A lot has been written in recent years about simplifying our personal lives, but much less information is as readily available when it comes to making life simpler at work.

Even if you can't change your supervisor's work style or reduce the number of projects that you're required to work on simultaneously, there are some simple things you can do.

Organizational strategies for making things simpler at work

Consolidate your to do lists into one master list. There's nothing simple (or effective) about a desktop full of post-it notes or tiny pieces of paper with notes written on them. First, it's easy to misplace or accidentally toss them. Second, it's impossible to prioritize your items if they're scattered all over the place. Whether you use a pad, a notebook, a planner, or a simple software package, pick something that works for you and use it. Put all of your action items there. Be sure to update it often.

Use a tickler system. Trying to remember everything that we need to remember is very stressful. It's also unnecessary. Unlike a to do list that captures specific action items that involve a relatively short timetable (such as today or this week), a tickler system is used to collect and retrieve information that is needed on a future date. I use 12 file folders, one for each month. That's where I place appointment cards for the doctor and dentist, information concerning a follow-up phone call I need to make next month, a reminder of when my estimated quarterly taxes or my license plate renewal are due, and just about everything else that's more than a few weeks away. The point is simply to be able to open the file and have at your fingertips the information you need to remind you of what needs to be done during that time period. Once it's in a file folder, you can forget about it until the time comes.

Emotional techniques for reducing stress at work

Go with your flow. I'm a morning person. I do my best work first thing in the morning when my mind is clear and my energy level is at its peak. On the other hand, I know people who don't start turning over until after noon, and they can work well into the night. Neither is right or wrong, but they are very different. To the extent that your work environment permits it, try to perform your most complex and/or exhausting tasks at the time of day when you function at your best. When you do, you'll find the task easier, less time-consuming, and less stressful.

Close the circle. Sometimes referred to as "clearing the plate", this term refers to finishing projects before moving on to the next thing. Of course, this isn't always possible, but when it is, it really makes a difference. Jumping from one task to another is mentally taxing and it also increases the likelihood of mistakes. It almost always requires less time and energy to develop the momentum and get the task finished, rather than stopping and starting over and over again.

Lose the watch. For some people this is easy, and for others it may seem like the hardest tip on this list. Intuitively, most of us know that times seem to drag on when we're watching the clock. If you want a sure way to make your workday feel twice as long, focus on what time it is every few minutes during the day.

Focus on the moment. A lot of stress is manufactured in our heads. Most stress is caused by a preoccupation with the past or the future. When we focus on the past, we expend energy on doubts, regrets, guilt, what-ifs, comparisons, and second-guesses. The past is gone, and reliving it in our minds isn't going to change that. When we think about the future, we often expend energy on worry, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. And often, the things that we stress about don't happen anyway. The only time period we can really influence is right now. Focusing on what we're doing at the moment allows us to be more productive and less stressed.

Take some deep breaths. A few long, slow, deep breaths are at the center of all meditation, relaxation, and stress relief techniques. It's amazing what a major difference such a simple thing can make. It's free, it's easy, and you can do it anywhere and any time.

Learning to Relax

For most successful entrepreneurs, relaxing is something that doesn't come naturally. They are always busy and always thinking about what they have to do next. However, to manage stress, they will have to learn relaxation techniques that help them become healthier and happier.

There are many ways to reduce stress. Some are very simple things that the business owner can easily do while on the go. Others require money, equipment, and/or a big block of time. Tools that work for one person may not be very effective for another person, so the stressed out individual will need to experiment a bit before discovering a stress relief regimen that works for him or her.

To relax without spending cash on equipment, business owners can try:

- Doing simple exercises in the office chair, such as doing arm curls using water bottles filled with pebbles as hand weights.
- Trying a few deep breathing sessions throughout the day. Although it may seem like deep breathing is something that people should be able to do naturally, many individuals actually need to learn how to breathe correctly.
- Reading a chapter of a novel, reciting some poetry, scribbling in a journal or working on a piece of art.
- Bringing a pet to work and spending time caring for the pet when they start to feel tense and worried.

For people who don't mind spending a bit of cash on relaxation aids, a stress management CD, a white noise machine, or a massage chair can really help with stress reduction.

Once entrepreneurs pinpoint the cause of excess stress, take steps to reduce stress and take time to relax, they should become healthier and more productive. After all, a stressed out person usually isn't as clear headed and creative as someone who is only dealing with normal stress.

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