Manage Workplace Stress to Improve Productivity
You don’t need a scientist or statistician to tell you that job stress is the most common type of stress experienced by Americans, and that it’s gotten worse over the last few decades. The American Institute of Stress has reported that numerous studies have indicated just that.
Yet some people thrive in a high-stress environment – as long as they perceive that they’re in control. Some of these individuals actually suffer stress withdrawal when they try to take a vacation.
We know what contributes to it. Longer hours. Tenuous job security. Co-workers who try to undermine you, or whose work simply outshines yours. Unrealistic expectations from the boss.
And we know how it manifests itself. Headaches and stomachaches – or worse. Trouble sleeping, and fatigue during the day. Depression. Difficulty concentrating.
Work With It
If you’re one of the millions who are not at their best in the face of workplace stress, there are ways to, if not minimize it, deal with it when it hits. Here are some suggestions from the experts:
- Ignore your electronic devices when you’re not working, even if you’re having lunch with co-workers. And give yourself a break from your smartphone and tablet at least an hour before you go to bed.
- Check in with yourself several times a day. You may think you’re taking a break when you check Facebook or Twitter, or chat with a co-worker about the weekend football games. You’re not. Stressors lurk in those interactions, too. Lean back, look away from your work, and take some deep breaths. Reset your day, just like you reboot your computer to clear out the cobwebs.
- Don’t beat yourself up when you miss a deadline or say something stupid in a meeting or don’t get all of your to-do’s done. That just piles more stress on. Redouble your determination to do better tomorrow.
- Set realistic goals for yourself daily, and prioritize your work. You may not have total control over the former, but the latter is an absolute must.
- Get to work early enough that you have some time to prepare for your day.
- Don’t say Yes to everything. You want to please your superiors, but you end up doing work poorly or not completing it if you take on more than you know you can do. If you have little control over this, at least ask someone higher up the food chain for help determining what needs to be done first.
- Take at least some of your vacation days. Really.
- Connect with your co-workers. They’re probably stressed, too. Take advantage of the social benefits of working in an office.
If You Can’t Beat ‘em…
Medical professionals tell us that prolonged periods of stress can lead to full-blown anxiety. Anyone who has ever experienced can attest to its detrimental effect on work.
But does it have to be that way? Cognition and Emotion has conducted studies and experiments on, “…the tendency to use anxiety as a source of motivation.” In other words, anxiety can sometimes trigger positive outcomes. People who used anxiety as a source of energy were less emotionally exhausted after they completed a stressful task than those who were told to just focus on the chore or, “…do their best.”
Maybe a combination of those three approaches can serve you well.