Stress is all around us and we all experience it. Have you ever planned a wedding? Had a baby? Moved house? Even happy events such as these can be stressful - all of these can set the body's stress levels at 110% and yet, miraculously, most of us still manage to enjoy these experiences. Stress is a natural reaction which you will never be entirely free of and really you should not want to be, either. A certain amount can motivate us into action better than many other stimuli and might even improve our creativity.
So, Can We Ignore Stress?
Stress is natural and a certain amount of it is inevitable, regardless of what we do in our everyday lives. Does that mean that it's something we can safely ignore?
The answer to that is a clear and definite no. The sort of stress that arises in the workplace, the sort that needs to be managed, is a dangerous thing. It makes you short-tempered, irritable and anxious - you'll have difficulty concentrating and ordinary tasks will swell in size until they seem like monstrous obstacles you can never surmount.
This is the sort of stress that follows you home, haunts your hours of rest and stops you from sleeping. You have too much to do and not enough time or resources. There are rumours of redundancy or of the whole business going bust. How will you pay the bills? What is there that you can do? It is at this point that you need to take action and learn how to manage your stress effectively.
How to Manage Your Stress
1. Let go
Managing your stress requires a certain amount of letting go - take a step back from the computer and breathe. There are lots of ways to manage stress. You have to take a broad view, recognise what things you can change, what steps you can take, and also learn to accept that some things are simply beyond your control.
Something that is definitely under your control, however, is your own physical fitness. It is a fact verified by many surveys that fit people cope better with stress than the rest of us. Regular exercise and getting fit - or at least fitter - will help you cope when it all gets a bit much at work.
Don't worry, this doesn't mean that you have to get up an hour early and drive to the gym for a violent workout which leaves you in no fit state to work. It just means that you should be more active. Take the stairs rather than the lift or go for a brisk walk in the park before work or during your break. Do something pleasurable like go for a swim or a walk in the woods at the weekends. It all helps!
3. Eat properly
Remember that infamous statement made famous by Gordon Gecko in the film Wall Street. Let me state that Gecko was certainly not the hero of the piece and we should not be following his example. Regular food is necessary for human beings if only to keep up our blood sugar levels.
4. Step away from the office
The chance to get away from the office, if only for a short while, and talk about something else rather than work is a proven ingredient in stress management programmes. In the same vein, make sure that you take regular breaks during the day. Even if all you do is take a short trip to the cafeteria and admire the view out of the window for five minutes, it will refresh your mind and give you that vital extra boost.
5. Balance your schedule
You don't need to be a Yoga or Feng Shui expert to achieve a balanced schedule. This is another one of those areas where you have to take the broad view. You must learn to balance your daily schedule. Try to avoid concentrations of stressful meetings. If you are going to have to argue your case in front of your colleagues in the morning, try to leave an afternoon of peaceful admin or correspondence. Give your nerves time to recover. Of course, it won't always be possible to do this, but you will cope with an action packed day better if your other days have some balance. Try to avoid over-commitment and do not spread yourself too thin.
6. Prioritise and delegate
Do you enjoy writing lists and highlighting the most important things to do? Then you are born to prioritise! Part of creating a balanced schedule is learning how to prioritise. When work becomes stressful you must distinguish between what must be done and what might be done. Put the ‘must-dos' at the start of your list and leave the ‘might-dos' until later.
On the same tack, delegate whenever possible. If you are a very conscientious person then you might find this more difficult, but it is vital part, not only of stress management but also of management in general. No one has much good to say about those who micro-manage, especially not those on the receiving end of it. Learning to trust your juniors may well significantly reduce their stress levels as well as yours.
The Key to a Stress-Free Life
The real secret of stress management, though, is self-awareness. Be aware of how you behave when you are stressed. Once you learn the symptoms and know how you are likely to react to them, it becomes much easier to prevent or act on them.
Finally, remember that nothing relieves stress better or more quickly than a guffaw of laughter. Keeping your sense of humour is the best way to manage stress in the workplace, and in the world in general.
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