19 Battlefield Tips to Survive Stress at Work
“Stress is the trash of modern life – we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.”
- Danzae Pace
We’ve all fallen victim to workplace stress at one time or another. And some of us probably even called in sick because of a stress-related illness. Turns out that anxiety, stress and neurotic disorder cases are involved in the highest amount of long-term work loss, according to the Center for Disease Control.
More than half of workers report working under stress, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey. This comes as no surprise, we are all too familiar with growing job dissatisfaction, heavy workloads, poor work/life balance and no mandatory vacation time.
So arm yourself with these stress-busters and survive stress at work.
1. Throw your head back and shout loudly.
Shout and screaming is a great way to let go of all that pent-up tension that causes stress. Rather than risk being carted off to the asylum by shouting in the streets, let off some steam cheering on your local sport team, or heading to a sports bar. The added social contact will help you unwind even quicker.
2. Shake off jitters.
Speakers tense up in front of audiences because they fixate on how their limbs are moving. Their knees would shake, their voices would tremble, their thoughts would become jumbled… you know the rest. Warm up the link between the brain and body, however, and you’ll stay more fluid. Shake out your arms and legs and make a motorboat sound (in private) with your mouth.
3. Recognize what you can and cannot change.
If you work in the stock market, you’re going to be stressed — that won’t change. But if you make yourself crazy rushing for that 6:35 PM bus, simply get the next bus and save yourself some grief.
4. Break it down.
You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman — so don’t act like one. Setting unrealistic goals only dooms you to failure, which fuels your stress levels. Try splitting a larger, seemingly insurmountable goal into smaller, more reachable targets. It’s far less stressful to aim to write three paragraphs before lunch than it is to complete a whole report by the end of the day.
Make to-do lists and tick of your accomplishments. This will make you feel less stressed as you will see how much you have already achieved and make you realize that no task is insurmountable.
5. Don’t micromanage, delegate.
Again, don’t try to be the hero. Effective managers delegate and don’t micromanage. Prioritize your tasks to focus on the important ones. If you have subordinates, delegate responsibilities to them as much as possible. At home, hire someone to help with household chores or get your spouse and children to pitch in.
6. Play with your balls.
Stress balls that is. The act of squeezing a stress ball or a hand exerciser tenses the muscles in both your hand and your arm. Holding the ball for a second or two and then releasing it relaxes the muscle, causing the tension to leave your arm and hand, thereby relieving stress.
7. Keep cool under fire.
High-stress situations force us to bounce our attention between our inner thoughts – “Oops, I’m screwed” and the task at hand. That rapid shifting makes everything feel like it’s speeding up. Force yourself to focus by taking the time to jot down your plan — what’s wrong, and how will I fix it? – before you act.
8. Keep a golf ball or empty bottle.
Keep them for quick massages to relieve arch strain or foot cramps. This can be extremely soothing whether you work on your feet or at a desk. Foot massages are known to relieve tension, mental and physical stress, fatigue and headaches.
9. Brush it off.
If you can, paint your work space with calming colours such as soft blue. Research shows that exposure to shades of blue can lower blood pressure, improve sleep and reduce pain perception. In contrast, exposure to red light has the opposite effect, raising blood pressure and feelings of stress as it triggers release of adrenalin.
10. Reduce your distractions.
Your workspace should keep you motivated, not provide hot spots for daydreaming. Dress up your desk with items that keep you focused and place photos out of your direct and peripheral lines of sight. The effective use of space can not only increase your concentration but also reduce insomnia and stress.
11. Leave your work at work.
While we all want to appear the model employee, there is more chance of appearing so if you are not a sleep-deprived wreck, muttering in the corner. Aim to create a calm atmosphere at home by leaving your work worries behind, and try not to bring home any extra work, even if that means having to get to the office a bit earlier the next morning.
12. Be realistic.
Much of stress is self-induced from setting yourself ridiculously tight deadlines or by procrastinating. That work report will always take you twice as long as you had time-budgeted for once you factor in proof-reading, tea breaks, and the other ‘little things’ like eating and sleeping. Take one thing at a time. Learn to prioritize urgent tasks and allot yourself enough time to complete your tasks, therefore reducing stress before it even starts.
13. Smiling is good, laughing is even better.
Nat King Cole had it right when he sang: “Smile though your heart is aching.” The brain cannot easily hold contrary emotional states simultaneously — so if you want to feel more smiley, then smile more. But if smiling is good, laughing is even better. A good belly laugh exercises your abdominal muscles and gets fresh air into your lungs. Think of it an internal workout.
It can be hard to do, but next time you have an issue with someone get it off your chest. Let your colleagues or manager know about it. They are human too, and don’t always see themselves for who they really are in the workplace. A friendly conversation expressing your emotions can do a world of good and can make things a whole lot better around the office. It won’t stop the overtime, it won’t increase the paycheck, and it won’t completely stop the griping. It can, however, make a job more enjoyable, build self-esteem, and engender a more positive attitude.
15. Take a break and walk away.
Or try to distance yourself from what is making you stressed. Counting to 10 will help you to move away from the situation mentally as well as giving you 10 valuable seconds to re-think the screaming-fit you were about to unleash on your unsuspecting co-workers.
16. Get organized.
You got up late and now have five minutes to leave the house. One of your shoes is in a tangle of bedclothes, the other in the cupboard under the stairs, and your brief case is no-where to be seen. Sound like you? Being organized will cut morning stress in half. Get into the habit of leaving your shoes, jacket and brief case by the front door and picking out what you want to wear the night before.
Make a list of everything you need to remember in the morning and set your alarm five minutes earlier, even if this means you just spend those five minutes in bed contemplating the day ahead.
17. Eat Nemo.
Australian researchers have discovered that eating oily fish such as salmon and sardines can help lower stress levels. This is because oily fish are jam-packed full of omega-3 fatty acids which help your nervous system to function properly and reduce the affects of hostility and aggression.
Most fish are also filled with stress-fighting vitamin B12 which plays a role in the production of serotonin; nature’s Prozac.
18. Don’t be afraid to take vacations.
Too much to do at work? Add another task to your list: take a vacation and relax. People can’t operate at full throttle on the job day after day. When you do get away, leave your work cell phone and BlackBerry at home. You need to recharge so you can be at your peak when you get back to work.
19. Ask for help.
Look for signs that you’re getting burned out. If you routinely zone out on the job, think that none of your work matters, or consistently dread going to work, it’s time to get some help. So consider seeing a therapist or a career coach for guidance tailored to your own needs.
These tips for managing stress will help you change your actions and your outlook. Best wishes as you implement these ideas. Live a great stress-free life.
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