Less Stress, Better Quality of Life

We don’t really know how to deal with and handle stress effectively. We have big plans for this year, which means we’ll probably be running into a bunch of stressful situations. Got any suggestions for keeping things in perspective?

Thoughts of the Day: Acknowledge the sources of stress. Recognize the progress that is being made. If you feel overwhelmed, take a break. Build a tool chest of healthy responses.

Change, unpredictable inputs and outcomes, people who see things differently, loss of control, can all lead to stress. For most folks at work, with all the moving parts and outside influences, stress is a given. It comes from many sources: dealing with interruptions, managing unplanned requests, figuring things out when they don’t go as planned, answering questions that don’t seem so simple or straightforward, working too many hours, trying to balance demands of personal and work life. You get the idea – stress can be all around us.

One simple and effective way to manage stress is to keep a list of incoming requests and things to do. Add to the list and cross things off throughout the day. Simply having a place to record the flow of activities can yield a sense of control, which is one of the keys to reducing stress.

Keeping a list helps to limit interruptions. Taking a few seconds to jot down a note is better than stopping everything to consider each incoming request individually. Get a sense of control by setting specific times during the day to address the list: to review, prioritize, delegate, ask for help and set deadlines.

Often, something that seems impossible is quite doable, you just have to change how you look at it. Get perspective by getting away. Let your inner, unconscious brain work on the puzzle, while your outer, conscious brain focuses on elsewhere. Ask a co-worker to consider the problem and share their thoughts. Ask yourself if it’s truly important to solve this item; maybe letting go will yield better results in another area.

Not every situation calls for the same response. Sometimes you can be momentarily tough and force a project through, just to get it done. Other times you might need a take a break, whether it’s a couple hours to get some exercise, or a longer time off for vacation or sabbatical. If you can’t imagine being able to get free, now’s the time to disrupt that limitation. Let others learn how to take over and solve the problems you’ve been hoarding, while you step away to refresh.

Build a set of habits that enforce boundaries. Set a time in the afternoon when you clean up your desk and get ready to head home. Make plans for days off that take your thoughts away from business. Take up rejuvenating activities such as yoga, individual or group sports, hobbies, meditation. Find people to talk to, in whom you can confide your fears and from whom you can get honest perspective and support.

Learn to let go of being a control freak. Not everything is going to go the way you want. Frequently there are even better ways to get something done than the way you’ve always done it or imagined it would go. And often, imperfect-but-done is good enough, even though perfection is your ideal. Stop insisting that you have the only solution. Encourage others to participate in a way that works for them. Watch how stress drops away as tasks are completed and you didn’t have to be responsible for doing them.