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On a Team

Dealing With Stress

Stress comes from something that requires a change or response. It could be emotional, physical, social, or economic. Stress is okay and expected in every day life, but when there is too much stress, the human body does not handle it very well. Workplace stress happens when the expectations at work start to conflict with the control the person has to meet those expectations. That means there is more to be done than can physically be done. Workplace stress is a health hazard.

When stressed, the body reacts. The senses become more acute, the pulse and breathing quicken, and the body's muscles tighten. This is the body's normal "fight or flight" response. Once the situation is finished, the body returns to normal. Trouble begins when there is no end and the body stays in a stressed state. A common indicator of too much stress is fatigue. Other ailments include sleep disturbances, mood changes, upset stomach, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and a short temper.

Some common workplace stressors are:

Recently companies have started to realize the impact stress has on employees and their job performance. Some ways that employers are trying to reduce stress in the workplace are:

Stress in Your Life

It is also extremely important that you are able to recognize the stressors in your life. Some people persist at a chaotic rate without realizing how stressed they are until it is too late. The first step to reducing your stress is for you to identify it.

Review the questions below, and answer them honestly.

If you answered yes to most of the questions, you have a high level of stress. The next thing for you to do is to figure out what you can change.

Tips for Reducing Workplace Stress

Review Priorities: Begin your day by reviewing your priorities. Keep a "to do list" if it will help you organize and prioritize your duties. Eliminate unimportant tasks. Periodically throughout the day review what has been accomplished.

Re-energize: Take breaks throughout the day. Get away from your work, relax, and breathe. A short walk would be helpful. Many stressed people feel they cannot take the time away from work, but the opposite is true. Clearing your head will make you more productive.

Appreciate Coworkers: Let your coworkers know how much you appreciate them. In a stressful environment the little things often get overlooked and undervalued. This is the best way to build your support team. As an added benefit, this will also reduce their stress levels.

Appreciate Supervisors: Believe it or not, your boss is human, too. Managing upward and responding to your boss as one of your customers will lead to stress-reducing responses from him or her over time. When was the last time someone asked the boss to lunch?

Monitor Intake: Snacking is a great way to take in nutrients when you are busy, but it is not healthy. Watch how much caffeine, sugar, and junk food you eat. These can change your mood.

Work on Conflict Management: A course on conflict management may help you see things in a different light, and if you have already had a course, a refresher course will remind you of the concepts. Over the long term, reducing conflict in your workplace will reduce your stress. You must learn how to manage conflict.

Remember to Listen: The workplace is busy, and your natural reaction is to block out everything so you can focus on the task at hand. Take the time to stop and listen to what others are saying. It's an important part of communication.

Evaluate your Expectations: Are your expectations for yourself and others realistic? Try to look at the big picture and assess all the demands on everyone's time. If you recognize that the expectations are unrealistic, then have another look at them.

Put it in Perspective: You are not solely about your work. Lighten up and enjoy your life. Have fun or don't do it. A phrase I use often is, "Will the world stop if this doesn't get done?"

Remember to Rest: Tossing and turning or worrying all night does not get the project completed. Sleep is good for your body and your brain. Do not let stress rob you of your sleep. Sleep is the one thing that will keep you sane.

Dealing with stress takes time and effort, but it is worth it. It will make you feel much better. If you feel better, you will be more productive.

Team Building Skills
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Velda Arnaud, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Lead, Educate, Serve Society

Last updated 10/4/14 (va)
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