How To Deal With A Stressful Job

How To Deal With A Stressful Job

How To Deal With A Stressful Job

By Mark Wager

At one stage or another you will feel stressed at work and while a little bit of stress is good when that stress gets too much then it can have a detrimental effect not only on your work but also on your personal life.  Instead of leaving work behind, you end up bringing it home with you, talking to your partner and friends about how stressful work is and before you know it your whole day is completely filled with thoughts about work, you find it difficult to sleep and you find yourself in the situation that you are living to work instead of working to live. Stress can damage people’s life’s and careers and the ability to manage stress is more highly prioritised now than ever before . In this weeks article I will explore some general principles on how to make your professional life  more stress free.

Focus on what you can control 

I had a client call me last week, who was preparing for an important interview for one of those jobs that only become available every five or six years. It was clear she was incredibly stressed about the interview which was the next day and understandably so. I told her that the best solution for stress is to focus on what she could control because she couldn’t control who else applied for the job, nor the decision of the interview panel so why worry about those factors. Instead  she could focus her energy on what she could control which was her own performance. She found that by focussing on what she had power over made her more comfortable, as long as she left the interview knowing that she did the very best she could then that’s all she could do.

Bill Walsh, a Super Bowl signing coach in the United States wrote a book called “The Score Takes Care of Itself.” Its a book that has been used by many successful teams, including the All Blacks and the general principle was that if you could get the behaviours right then the score takes care of itself. This applies for individuals as well as teams so don’t allow the expected results stress you out especially when you can't control the results. Instead spend your energy focussing on what you can control which is your performance.

Limit your work hours 

The common reaction to dealing with a high workload is to work longer hours and while this is an understandable reaction it is in fact a false benefit. The longer hours you work the more tired you are and when you are tired you are less productive meaning that with each subsequent hour you work you are actually doing less work and the probability of you making a mistake increases at the cost of  more time and more stress. 

Now there are times that you are going to have to put in extra hours but these times should be rare and for only short periods. This approach is not sustainable so it may seem counter intuitive but make sure you leave work at the right time, and you don't spend your evening checking or replying to emails and you are not going into work early. Don't sacrifice your home life for your work life. If you ever go around a cemetery and look at the gravestones you will see many, many comments about beloved Father, Mother but I can’t remember any epigraph saying beloved employee, will be greatly missed. Work can be all consuming especially in today’s society when there are so many ways to contact people, so make sure you draw a line when work ends and when home begins.

Get more sleep

All good performance starts with a good nights sleep. If you are able to wake and approach the day full of energy then your productivity will increase, you will get more done and hopefully you will be less stressed. So prepare for a good nights sleep by stopping any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Try taking a warm bath or reading a calming book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. Especially avoid any tablet or phone work as the light form such equipment mimics sunlight tricking your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime. Turn off your phones, close your emails and get a good nights sleep because work will still be waiting for you in the morning.

Learn to say no

A common cause of stress is having too much work for the time that you have and this is especially true for high performers. I’ve never been in a board room when Managers are taking about who gets extra work and people say let’s give it to the poor performing team member. If you are good at your job then you are likely to get more work as a result so it’s important to know when and how to say no.

A good way to say no is to explain the consequences of accepting the work. If you say yes to this new work what is the cost to your other work and are people aware of this cost. “If I do X then I won’t be able to do Y” or “if I do X then it won’t be done until Y” this will not stop all work but it will stop doing work that is not essential. In most cases people may not now how much work you have. All they know is if you say yes then you must have enough time so be prepared to learn how to say no.

Stress is becoming unavoidable but stress can be managed and it’s important that we all learn how to do this not only for our sakes but for our friends and families as well as they share our lives. We all have bad days but a bad day doesn’t make a bad life unless we allow it to happen so focus on what you can control, cut down your work hours and get a good nights sleep because when you do as the author Katrina Mayer once wrote:

‘The day she let go of the things that were weighing her down, was the day she began to shine the brightest”

Posted: Monday 5 August 2019

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