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While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with our productivity and impact our physical and emotional health. And your ability to deal with it can mean the difference between success or failure. You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless—even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Finding ways to manage workplace stress isn’t about making huge changes or rethinking career ambitions, but rather about focusing on the one thing that’s always within your control: you.
Coping with work stress in today’s uncertain world
For workers everywhere, the troubled economy may feel like an emotional roller coaster. “Layoffs” and “budget cuts” have become bywords in the workplace, and the result is increased fear, uncertainty, and higher levels of stress. Since job and workplace stress increase in times of economic crisis, it’s important to learn new and better ways of coping with the pressure.
Your emotions are contagious, and stress has an impact on the quality of your interactions with others. The better you are at managing your own stress, the more you’ll positively affect those around you, and the less other people’s stress will negatively affect you
There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce both your overall stress levels and the stress you find on the job and in the workplace. These include:
- Taking responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being.
- Avoiding pitfalls by identifying knee jerk habits and negative attitudes that add to the stress you experience at work.
- Learning better communication skills to ease and improve your relationships with management and coworkers.
Tip 1: Recognize warning signs of excessive stress at work
When you feel overwhelmed at work, you lose confidence and may become irritable or withdrawn. This can make you less productive and less effective in your job, and make the work seem less rewarding. If you ignore the warning signs of work stress, they can lead to bigger problems. Beyond interfering with job performance and satisfaction, chronic or intense stress can also lead to physical and emotional health problems.
Signs and symptoms of excessive job and work place stress
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
- Apathy, loss of interest in work
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Stomach problems
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of sex drive
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope
Common cause of excessive stress at work
- Fear of being laid off
- More overtime due to staff cutbacks
- Pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction
- Pressure to work at optimum levels—all the time!
Tip 2: Reduce job stress by taking care of yourself
When stress at work interferes with your ability to perform in your job, manage your personal life, or adversely impacts your health, it’s time to take action. Start by paying attention to your physical and emotional health. When your own needs are taken care of, you’re stronger and more resilient to stress. The better you feel, the better equipped you’ll be to manage work stress without becoming overwhelmed.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a total lifestyle overhaul. Even small things can lift your mood, increase your energy, and make you feel like you’re back in the driver’s seat. Take things one step at a time, and as you make more positive lifestyle choices, you’ll soon notice a reduction in your stress levels, both at home and at work.
Regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever—even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing. Aerobic exercise—activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat—is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body.For maximum stress relief, try to get at least 30 minutes of heart-pounding activity on most days. If it’s easier to fit into your schedule, break up the activity into two or three shorter segments.
Make food choice that’s gets you going
Low blood sugar can make you feel anxious and irritable, while eating too much can make you lethargic. Healthy eating can help you get through stressful work days. By eating small but frequent meals, you can help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar, keep your energy up, stay focused, and avoid mood swings.
Drink alcohol in moderate and avoid nicotine
Alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but too much can cause anxiety as it wears off. Drinking to relieve job stress may also eventually lead to alcohol abuse and dependence. Similarly, smoking when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant – leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.
Get enough sleep
Not only can stress and worry can cause insomnia, but a lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you’re well-rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress. Try to improve the quality of your sleep by keeping a sleep schedule and aiming for 8 hours a night.
Close relationships are vital to helping you through times of stress so reach out to family and friends. Simply sharing your feelings face to face with another person can help relieve some of the stress. The other person doesn’t have to ret to “fix” your problems; he or she just has to be a good listener. Accepting support is not a sign of weakness and it won’t mean you’re a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your bond.
Tip 3: Reduce job stress by prioritizing and organizing
When job and workplace stress threatens to overwhelm you, there are simple steps you can take to regain control over yourself and the situation. Your newfound ability to maintain a sense of self-control in stressful situations will often be well-received by coworkers, managers, and subordinates alike, which can lead to better relationships at work. Here are some suggestions for reducing job stress by prioritizing and organizing your responsibilities.
Time management tips for reducing job stress
- Create a balanced schedule. Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.
- Don’t over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
- Try to leave earlier in the morning. Even 10-15 minutes can make the difference between frantically rushing to your desk and having time to ease into your day. Don’t add to your stress levels by running late.
- Plan regular breaks. Make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to take a walk or sit back and clear your mind. Also try to get away from your desk or work station for lunch. Stepping away from work to briefly relax and recharge will help you be more, not less, productive.
Task management to reduce job stress
- Prioritize tasks. Make a list of tasks you have to do, and tackle them in order of importance. Do the high-priority items first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
- Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
- Delegate responsibility. You don’t have to do it all yourself. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
- Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to contribute differently to a task, revise a deadline, or change their behavior at work, be willing to do the same. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone.
Tip 4: Reduce job stress by improving emotional intelligence
Even if you’re in a job where the environment has grown increasingly stressful, you can retain a large measure of self-control and self-confidence by understanding and practicing emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage and use your emotions in positive and constructive ways. When it comes to satisfaction and success at work, emotional intelligence matters just as much as intellectual ability. Emotional intelligence is about communicating with others inways that draw people to you, overcome differences, repair wounded feelings, and defuse tension and stress.
Emotional intelligence in work place
Emotional intelligence in the workplace has four major components:
- Self-awareness – The ability to recognize your emotions and their impact while using gut feelings to guide your decisions.
- Self-management – The ability to control your emotions and behavior and adapt to changing circumstances.
- Social awareness – The ability to sense, understand, and react to other’s emotions and feel comfortable socially.
- Relationship management – The ability to inspire, influence, and connect to others and manage conflict.
Tip 5: Reduce job stress by breaking bad habits
Many of us make job stress worse with negative thoughts and behavior. If you can turn around these self-defeating habits, you’ll find employer-imposed stress easier to handle.
- Resist perfectionism. No project, situation, or decision is ever perfect, so trying to attain perfection on everything will simply add unnecessary stress to your day. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself or try to do too much, you’re setting yourself up to fall short. Aim to do your best, no one can ask for more than that.
- Clean up your act. If you’re always running late, set your clocks and watches fast and give yourself extra time. If your desk is a mess, file and throw away the clutter; just knowing where everything is saves time and cuts stress. Make to-do lists and cross off items as you accomplish them. Plan your day and stick to the schedule—you’ll feel less overwhelmed.
- Flip your negative thinking. If you see the downside of every situation and interaction, you’ll find yourself drained of energy and motivation. Try to think positively about your work, avoid negative-thinking co-workers, and pat yourself on the back about small accomplishments, even if no one else does.
- Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things at work are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
Four ways to dispel stress
- Take time away. When stress is mounting at work, try to take a quick break and move away from the stressful situation. Take a stroll outside the workplace if possible, or spend a few minutes meditating in the break room. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress.
- Talk it over with someone. In some situations, simply sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust can help reduce stress. Talking over a problem with someone who is both supportive and empathetic can be a great way to let off steam and relieve stress.
- Connect with others at work. Developing friendships with some of your co-workers can help buffer you from the negative effects of stress. Remember to listen to them and offer support when they are in need as well.
- Look for humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress in the workplace. When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or funny story.
Yoga asana for optimal benefits at work
To the surprise of many, yoga can be done just about anywhere, by anyone of any size and mobility. While it’s wonderful to have a traditional yoga practice on the mat, it’s also beneficial to sprinkle yoga off the mat throughout your day. Since we spend so much time at work here are some ways to practice yoga in the office. AT YOUR DESK:
Deep Belly Breathing: This three-part breath starts by softening the diaphragm, breathing deeply while sending the breath down to the belly, then out to the rib cage and up to the collarbone. The exhale releases from top, middle to bottom. Deep Belly Breathing will expand your lung capacity and improve your cardiovascular exchange as well as revitalize your cells and systems. Neck Rolls: These are great to do if you feel a headache coming on! Seated tall, with your back away from the back of the chair, ground yourself with both feet to the floor. Hold each position for several breaths.
- Drop your chin to chest to stretch the back of the neck
- Roll right ear to right shoulder, bring your left arm out, turn palm up turning it down and around to get a gentle twist of your arm from fingertips to shoulder, keep your shoulders soft and down
- Bring your hand back to your leg, roll your chin back to the chest
- Repeat other side
- Roll chin back to your chest
- Inhale your head up to center or go into Neck Twists
Neck Twist: This is like drawing a big smile on your chest if you had a crayon on your chin. It’s a gentle pivoting of the face from side to side.
- Drop your chin to chest
- Bring chin towards right shoulder
- Roll back down to center and move towards left shoulder
- This movement should create a squeeze at the base of the neck in the back where the shoulder and neck muscles meet
- Repeat several times, each upsweep going a little higher to improve your range of mobility
- Bring your chin back to the chest and lift your head up
- Interlace your fingertips, placing your hands behind your head to support the weight of the head, lift your chin to the ceiling to stretch out your throat for several breaths
- Exhale and release
Foot Stretch: Seated tall with your back away from the back of the chair, ground yourself with one foot then stretch and lift the other leg. Point, demi-point and flex your foot (ballet slipper, high heel and earth shoe). Warm up your ankles by rotating the foot–making O’s with your toes–in both directions. Repeat other foot.
Seated Twist: Sit tall in the middle of the chair with your feet grounded.
- Exhale, take your right hand to your left knee and twist gently to the left
- Your left hand goes behind you to the back leg or edge of the chair
- Use the hand to the knee to deepen the twist
- The hand on the chair supports the spine and helps lift the heart center and crown of the head
- Look into the right corners of your eyes as you twist
- Inhale back to center, repeat other side
Side Stretch: Sit tall in the middle of the seat with your feet wide.
- Right hand reaches down to the right side of the chair to keep the left hip from lifting
- Inhale the left arm out to the side, up and over
- Stretch out from hip with the arm overhead by the ear; the palm faces down
- Feel the stretch from the waist to the fingertips
- Inhale back to center, repeat other side
Seated Dog/Cat Stretch: Sit tall in the middle of the seat with your feet grounded.
- Bring hands together in front, interlace fingertips
- Exhale as you stretch your hands forward, rotate your palms out as you arch your back toward the back of the chair, drop your chin to chest
- Inhale as you rotate the palms up towards the ceiling; press your heart center forward, creating a small backbend arch
- Exhale the hands down as the palms lower, rotate palms forward repeating in a circular motion
Hip Opener: Sit tall in the middle of the seat with your feet grounded.
- Place right ankle on left thigh
- Hold the right knee with the right hand
- Hold right foot with the left hand
- Exhale with a flat back as you hinge your torso forward
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