Although organizations can develop systems and offer programs that support stress management objectives, you must ultimately take the initiative in managing stress in your workplace.
Here are 18 techniques that have worked for many of my clients:
#1 — Understand that stress is based on your perception of threat — and that you have the power to change that perception.
Step back and ask yourself what makes the situation feel threatening and how you can see it differently. One way to do this is to find something in the situation that you can “control”, and do it.
#2 — Take care of yourself.
A healthier person is better able to cope with stress both physically and psychologically. Get adequate exercise, sleep, and regular, balanced meals. Exercise helps burn off anxiety that stress can produce, and improve mood. Sleep helps us tackle problems in a refreshed state. Good nutrition provides “fuel” for the body and the mind. Since stress is a natural part of life, the mind and body are continuously adapting to it, so both must have a periodic rest to decompress and readjust to normal.
#3 — Develop a commitment toward your job.
Determine what it is about your job that makes a difference, and see it as a “mission." In this way, you will react to your own pressures.
#4 — Improve your performance.
Develop additional skills. Clarify role expectations. The more competent you feel, the more you will feel in control of your job and career.
#5 — Develop friendships.
Having someone to confide in is important on and off the job. Sharing feelings and ideas with people you trust can be a first step in resolving problems. Avoid relationships with negative people – they tend to reinforce negative feelings.
#6 — Gain some control in as many parts of your life as you can.
If the workplace is out of hand, concentrate on some things in your private life that you can redirect and improve. Strive for balance.
#7 — Take time off.
Take a vacation or a long weekend. During the workday take short breaks to stretch, walk, do some deep/slow breathing, socialize, or just relax. Learn some relaxation techniques. Occasionally change your daily routine.
#8 — Manage your activities.
Set realistic goals and deadlines. Plan projects according to time limits, and establish priorities with realistic expectations. Write things down to avoid overburdening your memory. Do one thing at a time. Schedule difficult tasks for the time of day when you are most productive, with the “must do” tasks first. Do the easier tasks when you feel low on energy.
#9 — Set limits.
When necessary, learn to say “no” in a friendly but firm manner. Saying “no” constructively means being able to appropriately refuse taking on too much work or spreading yourself thin.
#10 — Be assertive.
Learn how to express differences and make requests.
#11 — Avoid perfectionism.
Just strive to do the best you can with the circumstances you are given.
#12 — Choose battles wisely.
Don’t rush to argue every time someone disagrees with you. Keep a cool head and save your argument for things that really matter. Avoid pointless arguments altogether, but don’t let distressing problems fester. Allowing stress overload to continue is unhealthy – relieve stress by resolving the trigger situation. Identify and try to resolve conflicts. Be direct with coworkers about the need to work together to solve problems.
#13 — Use calming skills.
Don’t act on your first impulse. Give your anger time to subside. Anger sometimes needs to be expressed, but it is wise to “take a break” to compose yourself and respond to the anger in a more effective manner.
#14 — Avoid maladaptive reactions and self-medication.
At times we may seek an external resource as a response to stress – alcohol, drugs, food, spending, and other compulsive behaviors.
#15 — Try to have some private time every day.
Find time in which no demands are made on your time, money, body, emotions, etc.
#16 — Develop a wider variety of sources of gratification in your life.
This may include family, friends, hobbies, interests. A sense of personal satisfaction must come from more than one place.
#17 — Seek help.
If none of these suggestions help relieve your feelings of stress, ask a health-care professional for advice. Your employer may even cover the cost of consulting with an Employee Assistance Program like Mercy Concern.
#18 — If appropriate, look for less stressful job options after you have given yourself and your job a fair chance.