I could rattle off all the usual suspects — exercise, sleep, nutrition, meditation, massage and yoga. But you’ve heard all that before, haven’t you? And you’ve tried to implement these stress reducers, with only limited success. Unfortunately, for reasons that are beyond your control, you can’t always fit these stress antidotes into your workday — and then what?
Don’t panic. There is one thing that is almost always within your control: What happens between your ears. What and how you think on the job has a major impact on your stress level. And you can choose the way you think about events, and what you decide to do about them.
But first let’s see if these signs of work stress apply to you:
- You are often sniffling, coughing or aching.
- Your concentration is nonexistent.
- You are constantly ready for a nap.
- You have become grouchy and short-tempered.
- You are less efficient on the job.
- Getting out of bed for work feels like having a root canal.
- Your sense of humor has evaporated.
- Your attitude toward work is “who cares?”
- You get into skirmishes with co-workers.
- Even the fun stuff isn’t appealing anymore.
Be honest — no one’s looking over your shoulder — did you check all 10 signs of work stress? If so, you aren’t alone. And even if only two of these signs seem to fit, you can feel better on the job. Here’s how:
- Accept that the world is not fair. There will be times when your hard work goes unnoticed, when someone is chosen over you for an interesting assignment, or when you alone are required to put in overtime. Rather than getting mentally worked up about these situations, accept that they are just part of the deal. It isn’t worth getting upset over, and complaining that things aren’t fair will only make you look like a whiner. Don’t forget that the unfairness of life may soon work in your favor.
- You won’t turn into a pumpkin if you make a mistake. Errors on the job are certainly embarrassing and frustrating. However they rarely lead to anything more than a reprimand. Mistakes often provide important lessons, and they make us more accepting of others’ imperfections.
- Resist the need to be right. Insisting on being right is highly stress- inducing. First, there is often more than one right answer. Second, unless you own the company, this is not your “ball game.” If you disagree strongly enough with your boss or co-workers, maybe you should join another ball team.
- Decide to learn something new from each person and situation. You can always learn new things, or get a fresh outlook. Leaving your mind open to this possibility turns potentially frustrating situations into great learning experiences.
- Empower others on the job. When someone comes to you for help, instead of jumping in and fixing it yourself, empower that person to come up with their own solutions. This will boost their confidence and lighten your load.
- Be solution focused. Determine what problems can be realistically fixed, and fix them. Let go of impossible goals — they are a waste of time and energy.
At first these changes will feel uncomfortable, and you may find your ego or emotions resisting them. If you stick with it, however, you will see how much better you feel. Pretty soon these new patterns will become habit, and work will be a much happier, healthier place. And you may actually find yourself whistling while you work!