Careers Clinic: How To Manage Stress At Work

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The demands of the modern workplace coupled with increasingly busier lives mean stress rears it’s ugly head at some point most days.  There are, however, two different types of stress: healthy and unhealthy stress. The difference is quite simple:

Healthy Stress Vs Unhealthy Stress

Under the right amount of pressure, you work at your best, you are productive, creative, decisive, alert and stimulated. Waking up you feel rested, you look forward to going to work, and you have plenty of energy. Sure you expect to be challenged and stretched, but you like that.  With your deadline met, project finished, or target reached you breathe a sigh of relief and a sense of calm returns.  You look forward to your next task.

If on the other hand, you have negative feelings at the mere thought of the next task, you are in early stages of unhealthy stress. The early warning signs are obvious but often go unnoticed until it’s too late. If you can identify with one or more of the following now is the time to take action:

  1. Sleep pattern disrupted. This becomes apparent in two different ways either you cannot sleep or you need more sleep but still don’t feel rested.
  2. No time: You gradually notice a lack interest in doing the things you typically enjoy. Like the gym, reading or meeting friends.
  3. Emotional Rollercoaster: You are not sure if you want to laugh, cry, shout or do all three at once. All you know is that your emotions are unpredictable.
  4. Pain: Headaches and/or lower back pain that you never had before become frequent.

Do not ignore these four early stage warnings. Instead, use these steps to manage stress before it’s a problem.


Don’t have time for lunch:

Instead of taking lunch, you grab something ‘To Go’ and go back to work. If this type of scenario resonates with you, you are displaying the most common early indicator of unhealthy stress. Lunch break is vital to recuperation. In fact, after a break that includes something to eat, and fresh air your blood pressure and stress hormones decrease making you significantly more productive once back at your desk.


Take time to make time:

Immediately make your lunch break a non-negotiable part of your day.  Get up from your desk, get out of the office and get some fresh air. You need to take at least 30 minutes away from your desk every lunchtime. Go for a walk, chat with colleagues, read a book or ring a friend. No matter what get away from your desk.


Constant Interruptions

Social media notifications, the constant ping of emails and a buzzing phone are part of the modern office. With no doors to close or no office to retreat to constant interruptions are frustrating in the extreme. Meeting deadlines, completing a task or finishing a project is ever more challenging.


Modern Day ‘Do not disturb sign.’

If you need to get something done, you need the space to ignore all distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. The simple task of putting in your headphone is the modern day equivalent of ‘Do not Disturb Sign’. Colleagues must make a real effort to get your attention and physically interrupt you.


You always say ‘Yes.’

If you accept every task sent your way, it’s time to re-evaluate. If ‘Yes’ is your default reply you are slipping into dangerous territory because the point will come when you can’t manage everything.


No without a story!

The next time somebody asks for your help say “I’d love to but I can’t at the minute. Come back next time & I’ll do my best.” Make no excuse. The more you say, the more likely you are to change your mind. Stop talking or change the conversation immediately.

By Sinead Brady


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