Today’s workforce faces a large number of pressures: deadlines, office politics, nonproductive meetings, conflict, job ambiguity, miscommunication, increased workload, insufficient resources, consumer complaints and extended hours. On-the-job stress can be very costly, too, since it often results in increased absenteeism, decreased efficiency, low morale, reduced effectiveness, and higher staff turnover.
Researchers have found that since 1965 the general stress levels in the U.S. 50%, and it is estimated that 75-90percent of all office visits to healthcare professionals are accountable for stress-related symptoms and ailments. We all know that a certain degree of stress can be useful. Stress actually enhances performance by sharpening concentration, focusing attention and increasing motivation; however, once the threshold of optimal stress is crossed it can activate an extremely negative domino effect.
High levels of anxiety not only undermine your work performance, efficiency and productivity, but more importantly, it can severely affect your health. Common physical symptoms of stress include headaches, migraines, insomnia, neck and back aches, nausea, twitching, appetite changes and sweating. The long-term effects of anxiety can include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, gastrointestinal problems as well as cancer.
Along with the physical symptoms, anxiety can also result in serious psychological and emotional issues like mood swings, poor concentration, anxiety, irritability, anger, depression, forgetfulness, pessimism, confusion and self-doubt. No doubt most of us agree it is important to efficiently manage our stress, but how do we do it? Here are a few ideas that can enable you to keep your stress low and your performance level.
Control your time
When you’re over-committed, something must give. Take the time to identify your main responsibilities or tasks and concentrate on them first. Avoid taking on assignments merely to please others or to look great. Successful time management involves your ability to control the actions on your lifetime – and the better you are at it, the less stress you will encounter. Minimize procrastination. Putting off significant responsibilities breeds stress.
Procrastination typically happens for three reasons: You are not sure how to perform the job, you can not decide how to approach this, and/or you do not particularly enjoy doing what you need to do. Avoid waiting until the last minute to finish jobs by breaking down a large project into as many small, manageable,”instant” jobs as possible. Write these mini-projects onto a sheet of paper and include several of these in your daily To Do List. When you complete one of the tasks, treat yourself to a wonderful reward. Before you know it, the job will be finished and you’ll feel energized consequently.
Take some time out for yourself. The busyness of work life and continuous interaction with others can create a very valid need for alone time. Making time in your schedule for privacy can be a significant challenge, but also make it a priority to set aside “down” or “quiet” time just as you schedule business meetings and lunch appointments. During this period, give yourself permission to have a mini vacation. Find a quite place to relax where you won’t be interrupted and then emotionally transfer yourself to a quiet and gorgeous setting. Imagine taking a leisurely stroll on the beach or dangling your feet in the cool waters of a lazy mountain escape.
As you feel the warm sunshine on your face and the cool breeze in the air, you’ll feel the tension and anxieties of the day gradually drift away. Practice healthy self-talk. You feel what you believe. Negative, despairing and critical thinking generates fear, anger, worry and anxiety. Practice keeping a positive mental attitude about yourself, your job and people around you.
Remember, you do have options in life and you’ll be able to change and control lots of the things which you’re dissatisfied with if you’re ready to put your mind to it. Reconsider all meetings. Unproductive meetings are among the worse time wasters in companies today. Meetings should only be held when interaction is required, and only those directly involved or affected ought to be required to attend.
Keep in mind
Productive meetings serve a vital function – to discuss important information and/or to address critical issues. But unnecessary meetings only delay the conclusion of important objectives, which ultimately contributes to more pressure and anxiety. A study quoted in The Wall Street Journal reported that when American supervisors started and finished their meetings on time and followed a schedule they could save 80 percent of the time they now waste in meetings!
Control your diet. If you place low octane fuel in your car your engine will still run, but not in top performance level. The same principle is true for your body and mind. If you frequently consume refined sugar, considerable amounts of caffeine, and foods high in fat – or if you skip meals – you can still operate, but with much less efficiency. A nutritious diet is critical to maintaining excellent concentration, a high amount of energy and a healthy outlook on life. Get your heart pumping. Physical activity is one of the best stress busters around. A brisk walk, game of tennis, or Pilates class will help you let off steam and distracts you from the source of stress.
Exercise may also boost your immune system and help you to fight off illnesses that anxiety can cause. Stop mulling it over – do it. If you are bombarded with anxieties, sit down with a pencil and paper and spend 15 minutes writing down your concerns and possible solutions to the issues. By the time you complete, you will understand that you don’t feel as stressed since you’re now better prepared to do it. If you are a company, be mindful of what your business or organization can do to help your employees minimize stress at work.
Managing stress in the office – or anywhere else in life, for that matter – is really a matter of balance. If your work is quite busy, hectic or noisy, balance it with quiet times and relaxing activities. If your job is emotionally demanding or requires extended periods of concentration, balance it with play and physical activity. Eat enough but not too much. Enjoy time with family and friends, offset with periods of reflection and solitude. The key is recognizing the value of activities which are not related to your job and giving them sufficient priority in your daily calendar. And there’s yet another thing to think about: If keeping your life in balance just is not enough to relieve your anxiety, you might be sensible to think about meeting with a mentor or counselor that will help you determine if your workforce is an indicator that you ought to pursue another job or another career altogether. Listen to your anxiety – it may be trying to tell you something!