According to a study by the American Psychological Association, work was the leading cause of stress for the American worker in 2005. Even more disturbing is the fact that this figure increased by 59% from the prior year. Stress has been linked to all major illnesses and a shortened life expectancy. For companies, stress means lost productivity and higher insurance premiums. Are our lives out of balance or do companies expect more than we can deliver? As a life coach, these are my suggestions on how to deal with stressful work situations:
- Try to determine what's causing the stress. Is it a temporary situation that you expect to get better or is it likely to get worse? If it is short term, implement strategies to deal with this. Knowing there is an end in sight makes it easier to cope. If it is long term, more evaluation is required. As a coach, I often ask my clients:
- Is this what you really want to do? Is it what you feel most passionate about or do you absolutely hate your work?
- If you hate the work, ask yourself why are you on this job? Can the reasons you are staying be duplicated with another company? What is it that you really want to do? Once you find your true calling, you are less likely to be stressed.
- If changing jobs is not an option, then explore other ways to handle the stress. Perhaps take a leave of absence, transfer to a different department, or consider coaching or counseling. Many companies offer these programs at no cost. It is OK to ask for help.
- Take frequent, short breaks throughout the day. Get up and leave your desk. Take a walk outside. On really bad days, take a long lunch. If you can't leave your desk, try to close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
- Try to maintain balance in your life. If you are working all the time, you have nothing left to give anyone else. Leave work at a reasonable hour. Make time for exercise. Don't let the job cause you to stress eat and put on unwanted pounds. No matter what, make time for your family. They can often provide support to you during this time but you have to make your needs known.
- Pray. Most people believe in some form of higher power. During difficult times you can turn to God. Just don't forget to thank him when your prayers are answered. If you do not believe in God, then try meditating. This can be challenging to do on the job but a few minutes a day, before or after work, could make a big difference.
- Be cautious in sharing your feelings with co-workers. A little venting is OK but major complaints should be reserved for those who can actually do something about your problem. Sometimes gossip and tension among co-workers increases your stress at work. It's better to find a neutral third party to talk with.
- Depending upon what your situation is, a support group might be beneficial. Women have long known that talking relieves stress. Just knowing that other people have some of the same problems as you can make you feel better. Sharing ideas can be beneficial. Someone in the group might know about resources that you are unaware of. If you don't want to talk, write it down. Do all you can to rid your body of negative thoughts and feelings.
- My last recommendation would be to watch your attitude. It is so easy to become negative when everyone else at work is that way. Constantly thinking about how much stress you have can draw more stress into your life. Try to put a positive spin on your situation. If you expect your work situation to get better, it just might happen.
In his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie recommends when you are facing a stressful situation to ask yourself "What is the worst thing that could happen?" Accept that and begin to move forward from there. Put a limit on how much time you will allow yourself to worry. So much time and energy is wasted at work stewing over things you can do nothing about or things that will never happen. Learn to turn your stress into positive energy.
Most people spend a large portion of their waking hours at work. Sometimes we even spend more time with our co-workers than with our families. We are living and working longer due to advances in medicine. Don't just settle for a job. Inquire, research, and try to determine what it is you really want to do. Don't be afraid to make changes. Change often leads to remarkable growth. You can give your best to your company but you must make taking care of yourself a priority. If you do that, your stress level will go down.