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Job Stress: What Can You Do About It?

Posted on 16 August 2016 by cradmin

By Todd E. Linaman

Today’s workforce faces a multitude of pressures: deadlines, office politics, nonproductive meetings, conflict, job ambiguity, miscommunication, increased workload, inadequate resources, customer complaints and long hours. . . to name just a few. On-the-job stress can be quite costly, too, because it often results in increased absenteeism, reduced efficiency, low morale, reduced effectiveness and high staff turnover.

Researchers have discovered that since 1965, the overall stress levels in the U.S. have increased nearly 50 percent, and it is estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all office visits to healthcare professionals are for stress-related symptoms and disorders.

We know that a certain level of stress can be good. Stress actually improves performance by sharpening concentration, focusing attention and increasing motivation; however, when the threshold of optimum stress is crossed, it can trigger a very negative domino effect. High levels of stress not only compromise your work performance, productivity and efficiency, but more importantly, they can seriously impact your health.

Common physical symptoms of stress include headaches, migraines, insomnia, back and neck aches, nausea, twitching, appetite changes and sweating. The long-term effects of stress can include heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, gastrointestinal problems and more.

In addition to the physical symptoms, stress can also cause serious psychological and emotional problems, such as mood swings, poor concentration, anxiety, irritability, anger, depression, forgetfulness, pessimism, confusion and self-doubt.

No doubt we all agree that it is important to manage our stress effectively, but how can we do it? Here are a few tips that will help you to keep your stress low and your performance level high.

Control your time. When you are over-committed, something has to give. Take time to identify your most important responsibilities or tasks and focus on them first. Avoid taking on assignments just to please others or to look good. Successful time management involves your ability to control the activities in your life – and the better you are at it, the less stress you will experience.

Minimize procrastination. Putting off important responsibilities breeds stress. Procrastination typically occurs for three reasons: You aren’t sure how to do the task, you can’t decide how to approach it, and/or you don’t particularly enjoy doing what you have to do. Avoid waiting until the last minute to complete jobs by breaking down a large project into as many small, manageable, “instant” tasks as possible. Write these mini-projects on a piece of paper and then include several of them on your daily to-do List. When you complete one of the tasks, treat yourself to a nice reward. Before you know it, the project will be done and you will feel energized as a result.

Take time out for yourself. The busy-ness of work life and constant interaction with others can create a very legitimate need for alone time. Making time in your schedule for solitude can be a big challenge, but make it a priority to set aside “down” or “quiet” time just like you schedule business meetings and lunch appointments. During this time, give yourself permission to take a mini vacation. Find a quiet place to relax where you won’t be interrupted and then mentally transfer yourself to a quiet and beautiful setting. Imagine taking a leisurely walk on the beach or dangling your feet in the cool waters of a lazy mountain stream. As you sense the warm sun on your face and the cool breeze in the air, you will feel the stress and worries of the day slowly drift away.

Practice healthy self-talk. You feel what you think. Negative, critical and hopeless thinking produces fear, anger, worry and stress. Practice maintaining a positive mental attitude about yourself, your work and those around you. Remember, you do have choices in life and you can change and control many of the things that you are dissatisfied with if you are willing to set your mind to it.

Reconsider all meetings. Unproductive meetings are among the worse time wasters in businesses today. Meetings should only be held when interaction is required, and only those directly involved or affected should be required to attend. Productive meetings serve an essential purpose – to share important information and/or to solve critical problems. But unnecessary meetings just delay the completion of important objectives, which ultimately results in more pressure and stress. A study quoted in The Wall Street Journal reported that if American managers started and ended their meetings on time and followed an agenda, they could save 80 percent of the time they currently waste in meetings!

Control your diet. If you put low-octane fuel in your car, your engine will still run but not at top-performance level. The same principle is true for your mind and body. If you regularly consume junk food or skip meals, you can still function but with much less efficiency. A healthy diet is key to maintaining good concentration, a high level of energy and a healthy outlook on life.

Get your heart pumping. Physical activity is one of the best stress busters around. A brisk walk, game of tennis or aerobics class helps you let off steam and distracts you from your source of stress. Exercise can also boost your immune system and help you to fight off illnesses that stress can cause.

Stop mulling it over – take action. If you’re overloaded with worries, sit down with a pen and paper and spend 15 minutes writing down your concerns and potential solutions to the problems. By the time you finish, you will realize that you don’t feel as worried because you are now better prepared to take action.

Recommended Daily Habits

  • Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.
  • Do something nice for someone.
  • Share a laugh or a word of encouragement with someone you like.
  • Make a list of things you are most grateful for.
  • Take a leisurely bath or hot shower.
  • Rest your eyes for 15 to 30 minutes without interruption.
  • Relax outdoors, enjoying nature.
  • Revisit your accomplishments – even the smallest ones.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Get up 15 minutes early to avoid having to rush.
  • Watch a funny movie or television program.
  • Spend 30 minutes reading a good book.
  • Take a walk around the building.

As an Employer

If you are an employer, be aware of what your company or organization can do to help your employees minimize stress in the workplace. Here are just a few items to consider:

  • Provide a safe and comfortable environment in which to work.
  • Provide a workplace free from all forms of harassment.
  • Make sure adequate resources are provided to complete assignments.
  • Discourage excessive work hours over an extended period of time.
  • Develop management practices based on equality of treatment.
  • Provide reasonable workload allocation and feedback on performance.
  • Encourage staff to maintain and improve their physical and psychological health.
  • Strive to ensure good communication throughout the organization.
  • Provide information and training to enable staff to develop their skills and maximize their contribution to the business.

Managing stress in the workplace – or anywhere else in life, for that matter – is really a question of balance. If your work is very busy, hectic or noisy, balance it with quiet times and relaxing activities. If your job is mentally demanding or requires long periods of concentration, balance it with play and physical activity. Eat enough but not too much. Enjoy time with family and friends, offset with periods of solitude and reflection. The key is recognizing the value of activities that aren’t related to your work and giving them adequate priority in your daily calendar.

About the Author

Dr. Todd E. Linaman is a licensed psychologist and the President of Relational Advantage, Inc. Dr. Linaman is also a conference speaker, published author and expert in the area of personal, professional and organizational development. RAI provides quality coaching, consulting and training for family-owned businesses, executives, managers and other business professionals. Copyright© 2016, Todd Linaman, Ph.D. All rights reserved. For information, contact Frog Pond at [email protected].

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