STRESS at WORK: Eleven tips for surviving and thriving.

Stress at workStress happens! To all of us. At home, at work, with friends, and with family. The many published articles, books, and research reports that discuss the causes of and fixes for workplace stress could probably fill a very large library– ample evidence that you’re not alone in feeling stressed.

Most of us are familiar with these stress-causing “shoulds” in life: You should feel lucky that you even have a job! You should just focus on getting your own work done – never mind those other annoying folks! And – one of my favorites – you should be able to get along with your colleagues, without getting angry or causing office problems! We should be able to do all that – right?

Well…. maybe not…. At least not so easily! Workplaces are rife with opportunities for stress to pop up at the least provocation. And when folks are stressed and can’t find relief, then anger and conflict are sure to follow. And you may feel as though there’s not much you can do about that – especially if you want to keep your job! 

All those “shoulds?” When you know how to reduce your stress and increase your job satisfaction, you might find that you are more able to focus on your own work, get along better with your colleagues, and (just possibly!) feel lucky that you have your job. But first, you’ll need to learn, practice, and use some essential tools that can help you feel better at work.

Here are 11 tips that can help you reduce your stress at work (and maybe elsewhere, too!):

1) Remind yourself (constantly) that you can’t change anyone else – much as you’d like to try. You can only change how you react to others. And sometimes, when you change your responses, you might just start seeing small changes in even some of the most annoying folks!

2) Purchase a spiral notebook, and start taking notes on your work life: what you do well, where you could improve or add to your skills, and what you’d like to change (or keep) about how you work and how you interact with others.

3) Start (in writing) brainstorming solutions to the challenges you’ve identified in #2 above. Keep this notebook current – it can function a bit as an office stress-relief journal. Just be sure you keep it in a secure place. (And actually using a pen and paper can relieve stress better than keeping an online notepad.)

4) Identify a mentor and confidant you can trust to give you a place to vent and get useful feedback. Then get in the habit of seeking out this person before reacting to office provocations.

5) Too much to do in too little time? Get help! From your mentor, a good friend, a colleague…. or by using your notebook (see #2 and #3 above) to structure more effectively. Or… see #11 below!

6) Take a meditation and/or yoga class. Practice deep breathing and relaxation exercises, and remember to use them when you feel stressed. (Bathroom breaks are great opportunities to get away for a minute, breathe, practice what you’ve learned about relaxing).

7) Research to find tips on how to deal with difficult people in the workplace (and browse my other posts on this blog, for some tips on effective communication). Then practice using what you learn!

8) Take frequent “walk, breathe, stretch” breaks. Even if all you do is stroll down the hall, visit the bathroom, leave the building for 3 minutes, or circle your office. Brief re-focusing helps.

9) Change the story you tell yourself about your co-workers. Sometimes, it really isn’t about you! Assuming they are going through a tough time might help you to be a bit more calm in the face of their disturbing behavior.

10) Be open to examining your own actions. Could it be that you are contributing, just a bit, to those office challenges? As I  mentioned in #1 above, one small change in your approach or behaviors might just yield a positive response from others.

11) Complain rarely, but effectively! Supervisors appreciate helpful feedback – a heads-up if someone or some situation is causing office stress. When this feedback is framed as useful information, paired with a suggested remedy, a chat with the boss could help. Just be careful not to be the office whiner!

If you’d like more information about anything I’ve written, have some questions, would like to give me some feedback or want to schedule an appointment, I invite you to contact me at 310 457-1759 or [email protected].