27 September 2023

Tackle stress: Four key things to focus on

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Sarah Landrum* discusses how people can tackle the four most stressful aspects of their jobs.

What causes a person to feel stressed and what their tolerance level is for stress is as unique as the individuals themselves.

While perspectives on stress may differ, one thing most people can agree on is that working stresses us out.

Researchers have conducted several studies on the topic to analyse the main causes of job stress. As a working adult, you’ve likely experienced several of the stress triggers below. Check out some tips for managing each of the triggers.

The four most stressful aspects of your job

  1. Heavy workload

If you regularly feel like you have too much to do at work and not enough time to do it, you may have an excessive workload.

Start by determining whether you’re working on assignments where you can add great value.

If work could be delegated to another team member, delegation might be the appropriate course of action.

If you find yourself spending time trying to become a subject matter expert in lots of areas to stay on top of projects, you might be better served by finding colleagues with that area of expertise and asking them for help.

Or, you could let your manager know that specific training or assistance on certain projects would benefit the team.

You also might need to prioritise your work. That could mean saying “no” or “not right now” to some things.

The amount of work that needs to be done may not go away, but there are strategies to help you manage it.

  1. Deadlines

Before you get to the point where you’re watching the clock and every minute counts, break your project down into manageable chunks.

Figure out when the full deliverable is due and work on pieces of it at a time. In essence, create a series of mini projects with deadlines for yourself.

You’ll be able to keep yourself on track and know you’re progressing at an appropriate speed.

Set realistic expectations based on your schedule and negotiate timing with the requestor if needed.

When it comes to assignments that are unexpected or have a quick turnaround, that’s a different story.

Look at everything you are working on and make temporary adjustments to accommodate the urgent request.

  1. Commuting

Getting to work and back home again can be a challenge each day. If you need to be in a specific location to do your work, the commute is unavoidable.

Many people in cities with the worst traffic are going at it alone.

One way to alleviate some stress is to share the burden of driving. Join a carpool where the driver rotates every so often.

When it’s not your turn to drive, you can relax and enjoy being a passenger.

If carpooling isn’t an option for you, use technology, like podcasts and audio books, to entertain yourself and lower your blood pressure from driving.

It will keep your mind off the fact that the stop-and-go traffic is doing more stopping than going.

Just remember not to text or do anything that will distract you from being a safe driver.

  1. Performance reviews

Let’s face it. No one likes being judged and that’s how performance reviews feel — like judgment.

You can combat some of the stress that comes with a review by adequately preparing for it.

Leading up to the review, keep a record of what you accomplished, learned and had challenges with so you are ready to discuss them.

Know what your goals are and where you need support.

Remember that the review is intended to be a two-way conversation between you and your manager and to be a tool in helping you develop.

Keep your perspective

There are factors at work and in life that introduce bad stress.

Make it a regular practice to do activities you enjoy and develop healthy habits to keep your stress level down. Here are some things to consider:

Do less.

If you have unnecessary commitments in your life that are no longer serving you in a positive way, let them go.

You may have enjoyed playing in the bowling league at one point in your life.

If it now feels like a burden to get to the bowling alley two times a week, let it go.

Exercise, eat well, get enough sleep.

This might be the supreme trinity of good health.

When you take proper care of your body, then your body and mind are better equipped to handle the less pleasant aspects of life.

Get organised.

The state of our physical environment can help perpetuate or alleviate stress.

Simplify your life by cleaning up the clutter that may be in your space so you feel at ease.

Get rid of things you don’t need and ensure each item is in the proper place. If it feels overwhelming, tackle a small area at a time.

Remember, stress triggers may always exist, but you have the power to manage them and control how they affect your life.

*Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a career site for young professionals about creating a happier, more successful career.

This article first appeared at ivyexec.com.

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