Sunday, July 31, 2016

Managing Work Stress

Hello blog readers.
Today I want to provide a few tips for dealing with stress at work.

Work related stress could have some bad outcomes.
Stress is an inevitable part of work life, but there are ways we can manage stress.
Sometimes workplace stress is so bad that it really does require a job change or something major; however, other times, workers can be taught to take a few different approaches to reduce their stress.

Here are three tips, or the ABC's for dealing with work stress:

A - Avoid a stressor.  
If a coworker is grating on you or there is a noisy AC fan blowing over your desk - ask to be relocated.  Negotiate a little bit if you need space or small changes. Be very careful in how you speak up because not all small complaints are easily received - so strategize how you can set up your workday to avoid or reduce certain exposures.

B- Break things down and manage the stressor.  
Workers need to spend some time assessing details about the stressor.
This could involve making a chart, writing about it, asking a mentor to discuss it, or searching online for information about it. The assessment phase is then followed by coming up with small ways to manage the current stressor.  For example, some workers can add some enjoyable to a stressful task.  One employee had a boss that was curt and tough to work with.  When they started meeting at a favorite restaurant for monthly check-ins, the atmosphere and food added something nice to the experience for the employee. This little addition helped the employee have a better attitude and the approach to meeting was enhanced.  Further, the employee also realized the immaturity of the manager and set up some ground rules on how much they would personally allow with sloppy behavior - and basically had a mentality of grace for someone in an elevated position who had some character issues.

Another way to break things down with work stress is to balance the stressor by finding personal ways to relieve the impact of the stress.  You can give yourself a reward once the stress fun task is completed, you can go for a run or do a workout before the stressful situation, or you can come up with creative ways to bring some joy into the situation. For example, one employee has to sit through a business meeting that included a manager who had a harsh approach to running meetings.  The employee was not the recipient of any berating, but the tone used was a stressor for this worker. To combat the annoyance experienced during this meeting time, the employee made uplifting notes on their electronic device.  The notes included quotes, comics, and images or people they were inspired by.  During the meeting, the worker would focus on the note and it would help diffuse some of the stress that was felt.  We can impact how much stress is received in our minds - and so I encourage you to find little strategies that work for you.

C. Confront the stressor. 

Confronting stress is something more people need to learn how to do.  Many times we are taking the stress too personal and so confronting it does not feel "doable" and we avoid it.
 Other times, the default stance is to avoid stressors and let them build up.  Sometimes this default mode occurs because we are not really sure what is happening. Sometimes what occurs in "real time" takes a while to process and adjust to - which means that one of the reasons we postpone or delay is not from slacking - but from still processing.  So give yourself some grace if you are wrapping your head around a situation.  Give yourself some grace if you are processing and chewing on an issue.  However, don't stay in that mode - and don't stay passive when there are things that can be done to make your work life a little better.  For example, one worker did not realize that a desk location was a source of stress.  Their desk, a small cubicle, was near the entrance and people always walked by and brushed the chair or seemed to be seeing their work.  While it was a promotion to even have a coveted cubicle (you know, it was a job that had a lot of contract workers and very few salaried positions with cubicles). Once the employee assessed and realized their cubicle was an issue, this worker found a colleague who would switch desks.  The proper procedures were followed and the helpful manager said something like, "I get this move, it reminds me of airplane seats, some people prefer the window and others prefer the aisle."

So you see - to confront the stress issue we need to understand it better and then we need to not take it so personal. It might help to practice detaching from the personal connection to the stressor, which I know is easier said then done, but sometimes assessing and breaking the stressor down allows you to take it less personal. The comfort level goes up as you really process the stress.  Try it and see....


Q: Why did Dr. Prior share these ABC's for dealing with work stress?

A:  I shared stress tips because stressors are an inevitable part of life, but there are ways we can manage them.

The work motivation application:

If you have a stress related issues (in work or home life) that you are working through, I invite you to see how your current situation fits into the aforementioned ABC's:

Can you Avoid the stressor?
Can you Break the stressor down to manage and mediate it?
Can you Confront the stressor to bring about a needed Change?


If you still feel like reading, here are a few more tidbits from the Industrial and Organizational (I-O) perspective.

~ Work stress can be defined as the worker's response to stimuli that leads to negative physical or mental consequences.
~ Research around work stress tends to focus on antecedents, manifestations, and consequences of stress, but current research is addressing "preventative" and "intervention" initiatives.
~ Occupational Health is the area of I-O that looks at work and family issues and it explores stressors that interact with work success and mental health.
~ Work related stress costs organizations billions of dollars each year and the topic is complex because stressors range from individual characteristics of workers to organizational issues to broad scale market components.

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