By Kayla Bayens
What does stress do to you? Its an important question that needs to be addressed. Stress, especially stress that happens repeatedly or happens over long periods of time, greatly impacts you in a negative way. Being stressed out can interfere with your productivity in the workplace, it impacts the quality of interactions you have with others, and it impacts your physical and emotional health. In the short term stress can cause headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, a short temper, and difficulty concentrating. Even worse repeated, or chronic stress, can cause things like anxiety, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, depression, obesity, and heart disease. Often times people who deal with this kind of stress tend to try and cope with it in destructive and unhealthy ways. Through things like overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking, or abusing drugs and alcohol. There are however healthy and constructive ways to deal with the stress that occurs in both the workplace and at home.
How to identify and handle stress is something you need to learn in order to avoid the pitfalls of dealing with it in a destructive and unhealthy manner. The first step in this is learning some of the warning signs of excessive stress. Below is a list of things to keep your eyes out for in order to head off the problem before it overwhelms you:
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
- Apathy or loss of interest in work
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Stomach problems
- Social withdraw
- Loss of sex drive
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope
Also be aware of situations that may increase your stress level such as the fear of being laid off, more overtime due to lack of staff, or pressure to meet unrealistic expectations without an increase in job support or job satisfaction.
Identifying stress and potentially stressful situations is the biggest weapon you can have against keeping it at bay. But you can’t always avoid those situations so when you do have to deal with the stress you can handle it in a few ways. First is to take responsibility for managing the stress level of a task by doing things like pre-planning in order to avoid pitfalls before they happen. Communicating more effectively with others while working on a project or task together can lower stress levels by making sure everyone is on the same page. But most importantly make sure you are taking breaks. Get up from your work, walk to grab a coffee, or go to the break room and chat with a co-worker. Do something in order to give your mind a 5-10 minute break.
When you are in need of de-stressing its easy to get more frustrated then you were at work. However its important to take the time you need in order to wipe away the stress and keep it from compounding. Take the time to do something that you find relaxing, eliminating all possible interruptions. Making sure to take long deep breaths in order to calm yourself and bring you back into a productive and focused state. Above all else take care of yourself! Make sure you are paying attention to what your body is telling you.
But its best to avoid stress whenever possible. So to fight off stressful situation you should start by making sure you are organized. Not just the task you need to complete, but your work area and yourself as well. Do you have everything you need in order to complete the day? What needs might arise? While you are in this planning stage go ahead and prioritize your tasks for the day. Do this by putting things into one of three categories. High priority means it is urgent and absolutely must be done today or as soon as possible, medium priority means that it needs to get done soon but not immediately, and low priority is something that needs to get done in the next week or more. By taking the time to do this it will allow you to focus on what needs to happen now and avoid a chance where a task was over looked or pushed off too long.
Something alot of people don’t think about are the bad habits they have everyday. Things like slouching, making unrealistic goals, saying yes to everything, trying to control the uncontrollable, or being a perfectionist. Habits like these just increase your stress and aren’t good things to be in the habit of anyways. Work towards breaking these habits and you’ll be that much closer to working stress free.
Keep all this in mind and you should be well on your way to a much happier and productive you in the workplace.