How to handle stress in the workplace

By 4th December 2014 General

Stress is an insidious problem on the workplace, especially among IT professionals who have to deal with their work’s challenges and face tough deadlines on their projects.

Stress on the job takes its toll not only on individuals but also impacts the organisation’s productivity and bottom line due to delayed work and the costs associated with it.

In this article, I’ll discuss some basics steps to handle stress and minimise its adverse effects.

Recognise the symptoms

While a little bit of stress gives us that oomph when the going gets tough and puts us in a state of physical alertness that helps us face life’s challenges, too much of it will wreak havoc on your body and mind.

But before learning to spot the symptoms of stress, you need first of all to stop underplaying its effects and take it seriously. Brilliant careers have been cut short due to the effects of stress and its notorious cousins: burnout and depression.

Among the symptoms of stress, some of the most recognisable include: low energy, irritability, lack of concentration, upset stomach and headaches.

On the American Institute of Stress website you can take an online questionnaire which lets you find out your stress level as well as find tips on how to deal with stress and minimise its effects on your life.

Admit it

There’s nothing to be ashamed about being stressed. Admitting that you are living with the symptoms of stress and becoming aware of their effects on your personal and professional lives is an important step to start dealing with it effectively.

Unfortunately, the word ‘stress’ gets bandied around too liberally, so many people tend to underplay its effects and think it will simply go away. Overtaxing your physical and mental reserves in this manner only makes you more prone to stress.

You wouldn’t keep your finger stuck in a flame, so why force your mind to remain in a state of stress? Just because you can’t see stress doesn’t mean its effects are less real. As in any other physical and mental problems, prevention is always better than cure, and early intervention much better than late.

Talk it out

One of the most harmful psychological effects of stress is that it saps away at your confidence and often exaggerates the size and difficulty of the tasks that you handling at work. It’s difficult to pull yourself out of this distorted worldview on your own, which why it is very helpful to speak with someone you trust about your concerns and share your feelings.

Reminding yourself that everybody has their own burdens to carry can be therapeutic in a philosophical sort of way and having somebody to support you through difficult times can give you the strength to overcome stress and take on life’s challenges with renewed confidence.

Write it down

Journaling is one of the most effective ways to deal with troubles like stress and niggling life worries. It is at once an intimate yet very versatile way of externalising your feelings and help bring about that shift in perspective that I mentioned in the previous section.

Writing down how you’re feeling, listing what’s worrying you and brainstorming solutions on paper helps address the dazed, unfocused sensations that come with stress and helps recalibrate your efforts with the demands of your work.

Whilst mental images can easily be exaggerated beyond proportion, writing something down brings about a more objective perspective to a problem and taps into the analytic bent that most of us in the IT industry share, helping us find rational solutions instead of losing ourselves in irrational fantasies.

Sweat it out

Almost anything that affects our body and mind negatively can be made better with physical exercise and stress in particular rarely stands up to the onslaught of buzz-inducing endorphins that flood your body’s bloodstream after an intense workout.

In many cases even a long walk or light jog can be enough to help ‘clear your mind’. One of the chief causes of stress is being locked both physically and mentally in the same space. Changing your environment, putting yourself in a totally opposite situation: from sitting at your desk to jumping up and down at the gym, can give you that jolt you need that pushes out of the stress pit and into productivity mode once again.

Sleep on it

If the workload has been so heavy that you’ve been missing out on sleep then its time you catch some Z’s again. I realise that stress makes you reluctant to slow down the pace; you probably feel like you’re actually not keep up to your usual performance standards and want to work faster. But this only precipitates further stress, especially since hasty work often leads to mistakes being made.

In order to break the stress cycle you need to paradoxically slow down and allow your body and mind time to recover. In a state of stress your body is expending more energy priming you for action of some sort – the old fight-or-flight response – only it doesn’t have a concrete target.

Sleeping helps to switch off this response and restore calm to your body and mind; you’re essentially passing on the message that ‘Hey, I can deal with this in good time’ and crushing the core belief behind stress which puts your ability to deal with a given situation in question.

Conclusion

Stress is a common problem that can be overcome with equally common methods. Whilst certain forms of stress may require visiting a medical professional and receiving more specific treatment, the tips in his article can help address most situations and complement other forms of treatment.

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