The Stress Cycle at Work

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Stress at work Your boss is yelling for a report that was due two days ago. Your inbox is filled with urgent requests.  It’s no small wonder that your stress level is through the roof. Stress at work is one of the leading causes of reduced productivity, job dissatisfaction and increased conflicts. Ignoring the symptoms can lead to fatigue, illness and even injury. The new year is an excellent time to take a step back and look at ways to break the stress cycle.

Consider the external stressors. Stress can be caused by an uncomfortable chair or by a computer screen that is not ergonomically positioned. Other stressors include loud co-workers, demanding managers, complaining clients and that nosy co-worker in the next cubicle. 

Work on solutions. Take the demanding boss who may or may not be aware of all the work on your desk. The next time he or she adds another project to your pile, take a deep breath and speak up — respectfully. Ask for a few minutes to talk and explain the “urgent” projects currently on your desk. Share your prioritization plan and ask if they have another plan in mind. Weigh the alternatives: not completing the project on time because you are overburdened, or requesting temporary assistance. Reaching out for help or guidance can significantly reduce stress.

Consider the internal stress factors. Low self-esteem and feeling unimportant or insignificant are examples of internal stress factors. Take a moment to remember what you loved about your career.  Do you still enjoy what you do?  Which is causing you more stress – the work or the environment? If you have already mentally “checked-out,” is it time for a new career? While we may not be able to change all of the circumstances, we can change our habits and reaction to how we deal with stress. Here are some tips 

•    Setting out clothes the night before or getting up earlier are excellent habits. An attitude change is even better. Think of it as getting ready for your entire day, not just your job.  It’s not all about work.

•    Use your commute to relax. Listen to your favorite radio station. Try an audio book. Spend the time thinking about anything other than the work on your desk.  It will be there when you get there. Worrying about it before hand will only increase your stress.

•    Once you’re at work, plan your work and work your plan. We all plan our work  day, but it takes one minor crisis to throw the plan out of whack. Planning your day is fine, but don’t pack it so tight that you don’t leave room for the unexpected.  

•    Take your lunch and breaks away from your desk. Your boss may admire your dedication when you work through lunch, but taking lunch and other breaks away from your desk helps you to re-energize. Moreover, don’t assume that your boss is admiring your dedication. Rather, he may be worrying about labor law violations and overtime pay.

If you let it, stress can be as debilitating as a disease. What better time than now to break the stress cycle?  Keep controversy and conflict into perspective and:
* Remember that the moment is only temporary; any situation can change with time;
* Don’t be so rigid that any deviation from your planned course increases your stress;
* Learn to be flexible;
* Give yourself permission to enjoy life;
* Learn from your mistakes. Admit to them, apologize and move on.