How to Handle Work Stress

Work stress comes from many areas:

  • You hate your job
  • You hate your boss
  • You hate your commute
  • Your job under pays you
  • Your job is boring
  • Your job is not secure
  • You hate your co-workers
  • You hate your customers
  • The work itself is stressful
  • The pace is too slow
  • The pace is too fast

…and the list can go on and on.  How do we fix this?

Work Stress Remover #1:  Treat work as work.  A means to an end.  Something that brings in money to help me live.

One key to managing work stress might be to reframe work itself.  For example, if you identify your self-worth with your job or job status, then if the job goes bad, you feel stressed, inadequate, angry, etc.  During the recession of 2008-2009, I did quite a bit of outplacement work (think George Clooney in Up in the Air).  In many cases, when people lost their jobs, it wasn’t just the lack of income that stressed them, it was the loss of identity when they were asked to pack up their stuff and leave.  Reframe your job as a means to an end and this might take off some of the pressure.

Work Stress Remover #2:  Figure out what you really want to do…and get busy doing it!

But another issue is work stress from a situation where you are in a bad fit or don’t have the skills or ability to move into the role you want.  In this case, you have a couple of choices.  You can be miserable and play the victim or you can get busy figuring out what you want to do, find someone in that field to guide you, and then get the necessary education, skills and experience (maybe through volunteering while still keeping your day job) .  I was miserable in the Navy as a dental assistant but when I figured out what I really wanted to do with my life, I just got busy moving on that path.  I did my share of complaining, playing the victim, and making everyone around me unhappy.  Once I made the decision to move forward, everything changed!

Work Stress Remover #3:  Move on.

If any of that above list rings true with you, why not quit?  Yeah I know it’s not always possible but ask yourself what would happen if you lost that job.  Would you have to do some crazy planning to survive?  Of course.  Would you die?  No.  Yes you might have to take a pay cut.  Yes you might have to relocate but fortunately you have choices.  Keep in mind that life is short and every miserable second spent in a bad job is another second that ticks off the good part of your life too.

Work stress is something that we all experience, even in a great job but it doesn’t have to be something we just accept.  This week, think about what you can change and what you should change.  If needed, find a career coach to help you think it through.  Either way, don’t let work stress bleed into other areas in your life.  It will if you let it.

 

Divide and Conquer to Beat Stress

Stress is an interesting phenomenon.  On one hand, it can save our life if we are threatened.  On the other, it can kill us if left unmanaged.  Not enough stress can stress us out.  Too much stress can over-stress us to the point of illness.  The key of course is to learn to manage it.

Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye coined the term “stress” back in 1936.   He referred to the condition as one that happens when there was “a non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”  This could mean a good response (eustress) or a bad one (distress).  In figuring out how to deal with stress more effectively, we then must learn how to divide and conquer.

In my mind, there are six areas that can cause us stress.  They are:

  • Work
  • Familial
  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Relational
  • Spiritual

For us to manage our stress, we first must identify the area that’s triggering it and deal with that area first.  If we don’t, then we can expect the stress will move from eustress (helpful) to distress (harmful).

For example, if we are stress out about our tyrant boss, the way to deal with it wouldn’t be working out harder (although that might help with the symptoms).  We would have to develop the assertiveness to confront our boss or look for another job.  Over the next few weeks we’ll look at each stressor and identify some coping mechanisms to deal with them.

For this week, take some time to identify the areas in your life that lead you to the most stress.  By using the principle of dividing and conquering, we can better manage stress and become a more effective worker, family-member, and friend.