Words from the wise - how to deal with workplace stress
Posted on 30th March 2023 at 11:13
Did you know that 79% of people who experience stress say that the cause is related to their work or workplace situations?
How can this happen? There is no one cause; we hear stories from people who say that take on too much, that there are too many demands, or that there is too much uncertainty. Or a whole host of other things.
Not all stress is bad - but too much stress can impact your wellness, ability to work and your relationships both in and out of work. It can cause burnout, and problems with sleep.
Inspired by the thoughts of others, we have pulled together some words from the wise - how many resonate with you? Are there any you adopt?
Reframe workplace stress
1. Prioritise your tasks
"You can do anything, but not everything." - David Allen
When things seem overwhelming, a strategy to prioritise them might work for you. In his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, author Stephen Covey suggests a matrix according to urgency and importance, with a plan for tasks that fall into the following sub-categories:
Urgent and important: These tasks should be done first
Important but not urgent: Block off time on your calendar to get this done
Urgent but unimportant: Delegate this task
Neither urgent or important: Remove from your to-do list. Don’t do it
2. Take breaks
"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you." - Anne Lamott
3. Learn to delegate
"Surround yourself with people who are better than you. Seek out quality people, acknowledge their talents, and let them do their jobs. You'll earn their respect and gratitude." - John Wooden
We can’t do everything ourselves, and we can’t know everything either. Yet some people feel that they can’t delegate effectively, perhaps ‘it’s quicker for me to do it myself’ or ‘this is my project and I don’t want to let go’. Or perhaps it’s because they just don’t like to ask for help. If you are struggling with letting go, think of it this way: Delegation shows trust. It gives people an opportunity to learn. It uses their individual skills and knowledge to the best advantage.
4. Communicate effectively
"The art of communication is the language of leadership." - James Humes
Communication is not just saying something or sending an email or message - it’s about conversation, mutual understanding and relationships. Communication can improve if you can understand what another person needs, how they might feel, or what is important to them. Effective communication also includes asking questions to check knowledge and understanding - even what you might think is a simple instruction might be misinterpreted. The next time you delegate a task to someone, ask them to explain it back to you, being clear it’s so you can check how well your communication came across rather than implying it’s a failure on their part.
5. Set realistic goals
"A goal without a plan is just a wish." - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Remember SMART objectives? They’re more than just something to write on a strategy document or a performance appraisal, setting and agreeing SMART objectives can also save you time and ensure that you are focused on exactly what matters in your company. To keep yourself on track, remember the Specific nature of the task, how you will Measure its success, that you can Achieve it given the parameters of the task, that you understand its Relevance and there is a Time deadline on it. That will keep you focussed and take away some of the stress.
6. Practice mindfulness
"The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Do you feel stuck in a bit of a hamster wheel? Taking some time to stop to notice thoughts, emotions and body sensations can increase our capacity to cope with challenges and build stress resilience.
There are so many approaches to mindfulness. Making some regular time for yourself to just notice your feelings can be a first start.
7. Reframe your thoughts; approach with a positive attitude
"Positive anything is better than negative nothing." - Elbert Hubbard
Often the negative side of things that are getting you down is the side that is at the front of your mind. It is often the side that takes the most energy from you. This can also lead to a downward spiral, with negative thoughts impacting the original problem. If this sounds like you, try this: Instead of saying ‘I have to…’, say ‘I get to…’. It obviously does not eradicate the problem, but it can reframe how you approach it. ‘I get to go on a training course’ is more positive than ‘I have to go on a training course’.
8. Keep criticism in perspective
If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.” - Hillary Clinton
It’s important to consider people’s motivations if they criticise you. If they intend to help you improve then that feedback can be incredibly constructive. However, if they intend to undermine you then that’s something that reflects on them more than it reflects on you. People may also unintentionally create ill-feeling by criticism just because they are not aware of a situation or their language may be clumsy. You may not have the full picture, so see it for what it is.
9. Stay organised and declutter
"Clutter is not just physical stuff. It's old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self." - Eleanor Brown
As the tidying guru Marie Kondo also says - if you don’t need it or if it does not spark joy then off it goes. Keeping thoughts in order work in the same way - sometimes they fly around and need to be organised, and sometimes they are no longer serving you and should go in the cerebral bin. Some people swear by notebook organisers to help them decide, in the same way as they might write a to-do list. The process of writing down thoughts can also be cathartic.
10. Know when to ask for help
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
If you have the same thoughts rolling around in your head and not going away, it may pay you to share them with someone for their perspective or just to listen. Having more minds on the problem will both break it down and also bring in new ideas. It’s also a good sense-checker and leveller, especially if you are someone for whom a problem can grow if it’s left to its own devices in your head.
Do any of these resonate with you? Leave us a comment below, and let us know of any other quotes that you have pinned on your wall that help you deal with workplace stress.
Being able to spot signs of poor workplace health can make all the difference in developing and keeping a healthy workforce.
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