Work and stress go hand in hand. With the warp-speed pace of business today, comes an increased amount of stress. Managing this stress has become an important topic for business managers to address.
Work stress can be bad not just for your health, but if you are “rushing around in a frenzy, this can actually infect your work team with second hand stress,” according to Robert S. Rubin of DePaul University.
How does an individual’s stress “infect” the team? The more an individual rushes to keep up with their team and clients, the less that individual can focus on and effectively complete specific tasks and produce a quality product. This in turn creates a heavier workload for the team, creating more stress for everyone.
This is not good for the employee or the business. According to Harris Interactive for Everest College, “83 percent of American workers say they often feel stressed at their jobs.” The Center for Disease Control and Prevention Center cites a survey by Northwestern National Life in which 40 percent of workers reported that their job is “very or extremely stressful”. A survey by The Families and Work Institute finds “26 percent of workers report that they are often or very often burned out or stressed out by their work.”
So we all seem to be stuck in a vicious cycle of being overworked and overstressed. Rather than accepting this as the status quo, there are many simple ways to help manage your stress at work and in your everyday life.
Recently a colleague introduced me to Brian Johnson’s Philosophers Notes. For those who have never heard of them, Philosopher’s Notes are condensed self-help notes written and narrated by philosopher and “student of life” Brian Johnson, whose goal is to “inspire and empower millions of people to live their greatest lives.”
The first Philosophers Note we listened to contained excerpts from Neil Fiore’s “Awaken Your Strongest Self.” The readings included tips on learning skills and exercises to manage stress, improving focus and proficiency, and managing the ever-growing daily workload.
My favorite section pertains to what stress is and why our body generates it. In “Signal the Body’s Relaxation Response”, Johnson discusses what part of the brain causes stress, the primitive brain’s flight-or-fight response, and how to take control of this natural response.
To take control of this fight-or-flight instinct, a person has to signal the body’s relaxation response in order to relax, redirect focus, and increase productivity. All you have to do is deeply inhale through your nose, and exhale out of your mouth with an “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh” (a sigh of relief). This almost sounds too good to be true, but I challenge you to take a few deep breaths and say that you don’t feel better, less stressed, and a little more focused.
Now if you want more action-oriented ideas to help you deal with work stress, besides taking a moment out of your day to simply breathe, consider the following:
Step outside of your “house” and admire its Silver Linings:
It is easy to look at the little things that annoy and stress you at your job. They can blind you and make you forget what you genuinely enjoy about your job. When you are starting to feel over-worked or stressed out, take the time to give your brain a break and write down the “silver linings” of your work place by identifying what gets you excited and energized. This will not only help simplify your work life, but rekindle your positive energy. This will help you and is contagious to the people you work with.
Avoid Workplace Drama like the Plague:
Sometimes the workplace entails the politics of West Wing or the drama of The Real World. In this case, make like Sean Connery in Hunt for Red October and dive under the drama radar and avoid detection by the work-disruptive “battleship”. According to a study by Robert Half International, “60 percent of workers felt like they had to play the game, and 47 percent of workers feel office politicking also hurts productivity.” Office politics not only hurt company moral and productivity, but drama and politics generate feelings of jealously and dislike rather than creating a positive, creative, and innovative work environment.
Get A Hobby!
If you feel like your life is just work, it probably is. If you find yourself thinking about work during your free time, your brain never gets a break from work. This increases your stress dramatically. In order to relax and de-stress you need to use and engage your brain in different ways. Do something you’ve never done before, or do something strictly for fun. You do remember what fun is, right? This activity doesn’t need to be complex or difficult, it just needs to be interesting and engaging to you and make you happy. Hobbies can vary from ordinary but enjoyable activities to exciting and exhilarating adventures. It is up to you. What is important is to focus and shift your mind from work-related to pleasure-related. After resting your mind, switch back to work mode. You will be surprised at the new, innovative ideas that emerge.
Stress and work will always go hand in hand. This does not mean that there are not healthy and productive ways to help manage it. Next time you feel the deadline crunch, or the pressure to do more when you are already at your workload limit, take a moment to step back and breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth with a soothing “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh” and everything will get better… at least for a moment.