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Feeling Stressed at Work? Here Are 4 Proven Ways to Cope
How to handle stress at work.
Like it or not, stress is a part of our daily lives, but it doesn’t have to make us miserable and in fact, a certain amount of stress can actually be a good thing. Studies have shown that if it’s used in the right way, stress can make us more creative, motivate us to succeed, and even boost brain power.
With that said, chronic stress, the kind that keeps you up at night and prevents you from enjoying life because you’re constantly worrying about the next bill that needs to be paid or the next report you’re expected to hand in, is a decidedly negative thing.
4 Ways To Manage Stress at Work
So here are a few tips for keeping stress in its place and even using it to fuel your creativity and stay motivated; both in your work and in other areas of your life.
1. Acknowledge your stress at work
The first thing to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by something in your life, whether it’s money, work or a relationship issue, is to acknowledge the stress rather than trying to deny or ignore it. Research by UCLA psychology professor Matt Lieberman shows that simply acknowledging your stress changes the way your brain responds to it and can help you react in a more constructive way.
When you tell yourself “I’m feeling stressed about everything I have to do this week” or “I’m worried about the report I need to hand in on Monday” you’re able to think consciously about the automatic emotional response you’re having and choose a more rational one instead.
2. Embrace the stress and think positively
Although most of us assume that the best way to deal with stress is to try to relax and calm our nerves, research by Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks shows that embracing stress is more effective than trying to suppress it.
For her study, she had 140 people agree to give a speech in public. Some were told that they should try to relax by telling themselves “I am calm.” Others were told to embrace their stress by saying “I am excited.” While both groups still felt nervous before their talk, the ones who had embraced the stress said they felt more confident and better equipped to deal with the stress.
And it wasn’t just in their heads; the observers who were asked to rate the speeches indicated that they found the speakers in the “I am excited” group were more confident, competent and persuasive.
Another study by University of Rochester professor of psychology Jeremy Jamieson found that when students were told that stress could help them perform better on their exam, they scored higher than students who hadn’t been told anything.
So the next time you’re feeling anxious about something, don’t try to suppress the stress. Instead, embrace what you’re feeling and try to view it in a more positive light.
3. Schedule time for worrying
Most of the time, what we feel stressed and anxious about isn’t the present, but the future. We feel quite capable of dealing with what’s happening right now because we’re able to tackle it head on, whereas the future is more uncertain and thus more frightening.
But if you constantly find yourself worrying about the future, one way to prevent yourself from feeling stressed out 24/7 is to plan time for worrying into your schedule and postpone all your worrying until this scheduled “worry slot” rolls around. While this might sound crazy, research has shown that setting aside a specific amount of time for stress may help chronic worriers better manage their anxiety.
During your worry sessions, sit down and list everything you’re feeling anxious about. Ask yourself why you’re worried about these things. What are you most afraid of? Once you know what you’re facing, start brainstorming possible solutions and thinking of the possible outcomes.
Even if you don’t come up with a perfect solution immediately, just thinking out the different scenarios can give you more peace of mind.
4. Give yourself time to recuperate
If you’ve undergone a particularly stressful experience, whether you gave a presentation at work or tackled a difficult problem head on, it’s important to give your mind and body a chance to release all the tension that’s been building up and recuperate for the next challenge.
Everyone releases stress and tension in different ways, so it’s important to find out what works best for you. For some people a strenuous work out is the best way to de-stress, while for others spending a few moments in quiet meditation is the best way to relax.
Other relaxation techniques may include aromatherapy, listening to music, getting a massage, taking a nature walk, journaling or engaging in a hobby. Once you’ve figured out what works best for you, plan some time for that activity each day, even if it’s only half an hour.
By using these four strategies together and acknowledging your stress, reframing the way you look at it, scheduling time to worry and finally taking time to recuperate each day, you’ll soon be able to not only manage stress but even use it to your advantage.