Stressed at Work? Tips to Handle the Strain BEFORE You Explode
Save yourself and your colleagues!
6.5 minute reading time
Seven years ago we wrote an article about handling stress in the work place. After an entire year of COVID-19 living, it’s amusing to think how innocent we were in 2013 and how the need to handle business stress is more important than ever.
When we spend our day putting out fire after fire and hopping from one project to the next, it doesn’t feel like we're actually accomplishing any task successfully from start to finish. If every day has a workplace crisis, it’s time to re-evaluate. Here are some tips to help you tweak, adjust, cut out, or do things differently in order to turn hours of work chaos into meaningful effort that doesn't leave you wiped.
Evaluate what projects you're working on and prioritize them.
You may have 16 projects due at the end of this month, but perhaps only 5 are due this week. Worry only about what needs to be worried about in this moment and postpone the rest. If you need to be preparing for projects with later due dates, then by all means prepare them, but put off worrying about those projects while you’re knee-deep in your current ones.
Once you've prioritized your list, decide if you need help.
Although you might look great in blue spandex, you're not Superman. Hang up that red cape and ask for help. When you feel like you're drowning, all you may need is just one hand to reach down and pull you up a couple of inches. Is hiring out of the question? Try calling in a favor, phoning a friend, or recruiting your neighbor to make some phone calls. Ask for help when you need it and then pay it back when you can.
Seriously. Inhale and then exhale. Make time when you are most stressed to just breathe for a minute. Look out the window and watch the bird and squirrels. Take a minute to regroup before moving forward.
Keep the lines of communication open.
There's nothing more frustrating than wasting precious time, effort, and mental capacity on a project with unclear instructions or poor documentation about who is responsible for what. Make sure you are communicating effectively with colleagues and management to be sure that you're spending your time in the best way possible.
Don’t forget to take care of you.
A good night's sleep cures most major ailments, including mind-crushing stress. Studies prove you are less creative and capable as you grow more exhausted. Get to bed, take a shower, and eat healthily so you can head into work refreshed and ready to jump back into battle.
Know your limits.
People Pleasers have to learn when to say no – nicely. When you are spread too thin, you can’t perform at your best. Instead of three projects that you totally nail, you will wind up with eight that please no one, including yourself. Learn how to communicate this concept and let people know when you've hit your limit.
Keep the negativity out.
Reminding yourself how much you hate certain tasks only makes it feel less likely that you will be able to complete them. Keep a positive mentality and use that negative energy to muscle through the tasks at hand. Later, re-evaluate and make the changes necessary to keep from repeating that scenario.
Lighten things up.
If you simply can't take the stress for another second, make the executive decision to take a time-out to regroup. Go for a walk or out to lunch. Listen to music or a comedy routine. A conscious pro-active choice is many times better than a bad re-active experience.
Organize your day.
Every morning, make a list of the things you plan to accomplish that day. Cross those tasks off as you finish them. It’s been proven that there is power in that action. If you don't finish all your tasks, save them for the next morning when you make your new list. Plan ahead for any fires you might need to put out. If no fire breaks out, great! You were prepared to head off a stressful situation and now you can get a jump start on tomorrow’s list.
Learn to let it go.
You're not going to cross every task off your list every day. Unexpected issues will always arise. It is a part of life and a part of business, but it's not the end of your world. Leave work at work. Stop stressing about what you cannot change. Remember that tomorrow brings another day – possibly your best day yet!
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This article is an update to “Handling Stress in the Workplace” dated 9/25/2013.
Image “White and Blue Crew-neck T-shirt” by Atul Choudhary, licensed under CC0 via Pexels.