5 Tips for Managing Work-Related Stress

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How do you deal with the stress of working under pressure? This question is not only for job seekers looking to impress their prospective interviewers. Everyone, including those currently employed, self-employed or owners of larger businesses experience working under pressure. Even if you are in your dream career, or a successful entrepreneur doing what you love – every job comes with some level of stress. A great friend of mine who is also this blog reader asked to give some tips on how to deal with the stress of working under pressure.

Let me be upfront and tell you that we do need a certain level of pressure and even stress in our work life. Just enough to create the sense of urgency, keep us energized and focused on the goals.  But if stress becomes chronic, it has the opposite effect and it’s not healthy for any aspect of our life. Some of the common job-related stress factors are:

–          Not making enough money

–          Unrealistically high workload

–          Lack of support in the work environment

–          Conflicting priorities

–          Insufficient growth opportunities.

Some of these issues are more under our control than others and we might not be able to eliminate all of them. But the actual stress comes from us internalizing these and other external factors when we push ourselves too hard and worry about the outcome. Be mindful of what stresses you out and what effects stress has on you. So how to manage the stress from working under pressure?

Here are some tips you may find helpful:

1.Learn to say “No”. Many of us are guilty of putting too much on our plate and multitasking all the time. It’s very tempting to take on multiple projects, especially if you enjoy what you do. But it’s good to be aware of our limits before we burn out. Even with the work you love, when you are doing too much at once, at least one of the two things will happen – either the quality of your work will suffer for the quantity, or you will burn out. In the world of technology and social media, it’s easy to stay “connected” 24/7, especially if you don’t have set work hours and like to blend your professional and personal lives. It might be the time for you to set up some boundaries. Deciding where to draw the line between work and the rest of your life will help you see more clearly when you are overexerting yourself.

2. Ask for help. In a workplace, it’s called delegating. If you are working with a team, it’s worth investing time in developing your team members’ skills and talents so that you could rely on their help whenever needed with whatever needed. I knew a manager who was quick to sign up for every action item originating from the workplace meetings. With time he started falling further and further behind with the delivery of what he committed to. He clearly stretched himself too thin. When asked why he wouldn’t free up some of his time through delegating – he said he simply had no one to delegate to. Despite the fact that there were tens of people working in his department. This is a sign of someone who has control issues. So let go, don’t hog all of the tasks – instead prepare others to take more responsibility and gain more experience.

Even if you don’t have a team at your disposal, reach out for help. You most likely know by now what your core strengths are – don’t give up those.  Honestly, identify the areas that might be your weak spots and seek out help with those. Even if you are a budding entrepreneur, who cannot outsource those tasks, accepting help from reliable friends and family members can help you manage your job expectations and reduce the stress levels. Don’t worry too much about inconveniencing people, as this cooperation may open the opportunities for you to help the people in your life with their goals in your turn.

3. Take care of yourself. Regardless of how much you love what you do and how motivated you are, everyone needs the time to unwind and get recharged. Otherwise, burnout is inevitable. One skipped meal or an occasional all-nighter will not kill you, but do not make a habit of sacrificing your well-being:  healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition and an appropriate amount of exercise for work. It will catch up with you.  If you are employed, do check out your company’s employee wellness programs to see what resources are available to you to cope with stress. Not many employees use or even know about this – but some employers’ insurance plans come with employee assistance programs including even the service of conducting any research on behalf of the employee. Also, carve out some time in your busy schedule for hitting the gym, or if you are more like me and enjoy the outdoors – for going on brisk walks in the fresh air.

4. Always go back to your “Why”.  I myself tend to take on too much at times. That’s why every once in a while I have to remind myself to go back to my “Why”.  When in doubt as to the value of a certain project, ask yourself – why do you do what you do? When prioritizing which project to pick for your next big step, evaluate the project from the viewpoint of what goal it serves. How is it going to support you in your Big Dream?  As a bare minimum, make sure the new project does not take away the precious resources from your Big Dream.

5. Let go.  Highly energetic and self-motivated individuals most of the time enjoy their life in the fast lane and the challenges it brings.  There will be times in our life when we miss an opportunity, sometimes simply because we are too busy to take on yet another project, regardless of how attractive it looks. Don’t beat yourself up if you missed an opportunity, and don’t treat it as it was the end of the world. I promise it’s not the last opportunity coming your way. There will be more.

What causes you most stress? What helps you to cope with working under pressure? Please share so that others can also benefit from your experiences.

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  1. I am currently under stress myself. Each one of the points you discussed applies to me 100% and I am going to take your valuable advice on them. Thank you so much!

  2. Natella, you did descibe my current work situation. Thank you very much for your tips. Hope they will help me not to burn out 🙂

  3. From my experience, I can say that any job can be stressful, even if you love what you do. There are many reasons why your work might be making you feel stressed, such as long hours, a heavy workload, your manager finding faults with what you do and other conflicts in the workplace. The main thing is not to let constant stress at work turn to burnout, which is the physical, emotional or mental exhaustion from work. Your tips are as always very helpful for those who want to avoid burnout in their current roles, Natella!

  4. Pretty often stress is an inevitable part of our work life. That’s why it is so impornant to know how to handle work related stressful situations. Thank you, Natella for your very useful words of advice.

  5. Such a relevant and helpful post Natella. I currently operate under a very busy schedule both in my professional and personal life. Through the end of this summer and into the fall I reached a point where I had more new actions to deal with than I could reasonably handle and the growing pile was becoming difficult to manage. What worked well for me was to first organize, then categorize, and finally, revise due dates on any pending actions where possible. I focused my time on actions that were most urgent and most important leaving other, less urgent or less important actions to sit until I had the time to deal with them. To ensure I maintained high quality I was sure to communicate any revised timelines so that people weren’t left in the dark with potential delays. What I found to my surprise was that not one person had a problem with my request to revise or push out the completion dates from their original requests? It was during this time that I really benefitted from exercise and nutrition as well. I didn’t always feel like going to the gym or taking the time req’d to eat well but it did wonders for clearing my mind and re-energizing me for the next challenge in my path.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing with us your system Jason. Sounds like a very organized and well working system you have developed for yourself to rely on during the stressful times. Two nuggets that stood out most to me – how not a single person had a problem with you moving the deadline and how you made sure to find time for the gym and healthy eating!! I didn’t see anything about delegating? I imagine you didn’t find possible delegating to others some of those tasks?

      1. Yes Natella, the lack of pushback regarding the deadlines was surprising to me also. The most important factor was to simply ask and people were quite receptive. I didn’t mention any delegating in this example as all of the actions I was referring to were my responsibility and required my expertise. Of course, I had been delegating actions to members of my team where they were able to assist.

  6. Even the line of work has its own systole and diastole, openings at the moment are frenzied and herculean. As an employee, you can never satisfy your boss and I think this is the main reason behind the work stress. Telling honestly, when someone is getting overstressed, he comes aggressive, vexed and depressed lustfully. Thus, you need to manage your work-related stress by identifying the stressors, taking frequent breaks, setting the time limits, maintaining a schedule to keep the stress away from affecting your personal and professional engagement. Thanks- Natella:) I will definitely recommend this post.