Workplace stress is unlike other kinds of stress because work involves the mind so much that it often makes people lose focus on the bigger picture, and divert concentration to the small things. I’ll make sure that you learn techniques and methods to help you be more effective at work to deal with workplace stress.
Have you ever gotten frustrated with an endless stream of deadlines and to-do lists that never seem to get finished?
Sometimes the pressure can be overwhelming and cause someone to get thrown off their path due to the stress of completing the tasks at hand.
I’ve learned that dealing with stress effectively is important to achieving long-term goals because the effects of stress can be cumulative on a mental and physical level.
The truth is that dealing with stress has not been easy for me, and it’s something I still struggle with each day.
In this article, I’m to share some tips with you that have helped me to stay focused, improve productivity and combat the effects stress has had on my body and mind.
1. Get a positive focus
“Stay positive” is heard so often in the personal development world that sometimes it makes people feel negative. It’s hard to stay positive when stuff goes wrong. And sometimes, feeling negative is a necessary part of the process of finding solutions for problems.
The goal is to stay positive over the long term.
Staying positive over the long haul involves choosing to focus on the positive things while accepting that negative things will always happen.
This isn’t about denying reality and forcing a happy outlook all the time. It isn’t about forcing happiness and not accepting any negative feeling.
It’s about accepting certain daily inconveniences and figuring out how they factor into achieving a long-term goal.
Doing the following things really helped reconnect to the bigger picture and deal with workplace stress in a more productive way:
- Checking out stuff on social media that made me smile or laugh (and making sure I didn’t get lost and waste time there!)
- Quick meditation and breathing exercises to re-calibrate my brain
- Standing up, smiling and looking upwards because I found it was impossible to think negatively while doing that
- Looking out the window and finding something to love that would uplift my mood
These all act to change your focus onto something positive, rather than getting dragged into a negative, stressful cycle. The break the pattern so as you can bring a fresh, positive perspective to the problem.
2. Reframing thoughts
I find the way I talk to myself affects the meaning of the words I use. It means that when I talk to myself (which is often), I had better be saying the right things to myself!
For example, “putting on big boy pants” vs “putting on happy pants” vs. “putting on everyday pants” might be the same article of clothing but the language used changes up the meaning, makes me think differently and can lead to different actions and outcomes.
Some more examples I find useful in reframing thoughts in the workplace:
Tasks = > Outcomes: Learning to focus on the money that’s being earned or the goal that will be achieved instead of the inconvenience of the task at hand.
Dealing with a “problem” customer -> Developing business skills: Getting caught up in customer complaints was challenging, but ultimately understanding their issues helped me to provide better service and improved my capacity to do business with many kinds of people.
Working to pay bills -> Working to build a future:
Working to just exist usually means that there is a lack of goals. Setting goals and focusing on achieving them helped me put the work I did into perspective. It framed my mind to look forward to the future and not the due date on my bills.
The way we think is truly affected by our language, and here is a video by Lera Boroditsky explaining this concept further.
3. Change your posture
Each posture we assume puts the spine in a different position and that affects the capacity of our lungs, oxygenation of our body and ultimately our neurochemistry.
Having said that, your mood can really change depending on your posture. Here is a great video by Amy Cuddy on Ted Talks that gives you the scientific basis for why your posture can change not only how you feel, but who you become:
One technique for dealing with information overwhelm during a meeting was to stand up and confirm what was being said. This was a way I could confidently clarify any conflicting ideas and confirm the developments that were being discussed.
4. Get moving and breathe to lower stress
Often just staying in the same seated position is enough to make one’s mood deteriorate. Walking, running or hitting the gym will increase oxygenation, circulation, boost key hormones connected to mood and set the right frame of mind.
Likewise, this can be applied to the workday by having a walking meeting. We’ve all heard of coffee meetings, but these come with the negative effects of sitting. I found that walking and talking side-by-side is more natural and relaxed. You can try this to see if it will improve your own workplace communications, as it did mine.
5. Listen to music in the workplace
Given my musical background, you could have probably guessed this one… but even now it plays such a huge role in how effective I am.
Most people listen to music at the gym because it motivates them and gets them moving. Now imagine if instead of music they were listening to someone reading the dictionary.
Unless they are really into linguistics, my bet is that that reading word definitions is much less motivating.
Music really has power, and when used with focus AND posture it can be the ultimate mood changer. Music is my go to mood and state changer. I still my headphones on, zone out, go in flow (and usually awkward semi sit dance whilst working!) – but for me, it is how I deal with workplace stress. I’m focused on my outcome, my output and then my tasks to get there.
In my case, base-heavy and deep EDM is my go-to choice when I need to overcome challenges, as it charges my energy up and lifts my mood. I’d recommend something like this from Black Coffee.
6. Embrace the suck
Most people don’t have fun when they are forced to do something they don’t enjoy, even if it’s productive.
Focusing on the outcome, not getting stuck in the present feeling of dread, and just embracing the difficulty helped me dive right in and enjoy the process. That’s because I developed the frame of mind where I knew that what I was doing was benefitting me in the long run.
Do you have chores piling up like cleaning, laundry or administrative paperwork?
I do too.
But believe it or not, there are times when I have enjoyed it.
Quite simply, as I focused on the result and got myself into a physically better place (see ideas above), put on music and got the right mindset, I started enjoying the activity and got it done.
And once it is done well…guess what? Stress reduces.
7. Believe that some stress is healthy
Everyone knows stress is unhealthy, but did you know that stress can make you stronger when you change your attitude about it?
Stress can make you strong when you believe it will.
Kelly McGonigal explains how this can happen and if you are going through something stressful right now this could be the most important thing you watch all week:
One person might bend over to pick up 30lbs and put his back out for a month, while another does the same thing at the gym for physical benefits.
According to a study of 30,000 US adults, it was discovered that having high stress increased the risk of death by 43%.
But (and this is really important!)…people who did not view stress as harmful had the lowest death rate. Even people with high stress compared to people with relatively lower levels of stress!
The overwhelming truth is that the way you think and act can change what stress does to you.
8. Care for others to reduce stress
Caring about other people produces positive brain chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. These neurotransmitters make you feel positive, increase self-esteem, and can convince you that you have a place in this world.
An important study proving this concept found that respondents that had a serious stressful incidence, like a death in the family or financial crisis, had a 30% higher chance of death.
Those that spent time helping others when stressed, however, had no negative change in death rate.
Personally, I found that when faced with stress, talking with a friend, hearing their problems, volunteering or helping a relative shifted my mood and increased my self-esteem. This ultimately led to a reframe in my mind that helped me deal with the stress around me. A fabulous way for you to deal with workplace stress, feel good in helping others and also help others when they’re in need.
9. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude
The same positive feelings that come with caring for others can also be extended to feeling gratitude.
Gratitude, in essence, is the feeling of caring for yourself.
The process of giving thanks for who we are, what we’ve been given and what we’ve achieved drives neurochemistry towards a positive mood no matter where you are at right now.
It is also an acknowledgment of the stress from the past that led to the success that brought you here. And no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done (negative or positive) you have been successful in something to still be alive in today’s world.
How do you deal with workplace stress?
Remember all those daily stressors I mentioned earlier? The deadlines, sales targets, workplace dramas and everything else throwing you off your path?
I bet you forgot all about those little things while reading this because so much of what I’ve written is about learning to focus on the big picture. That is how you can do simple things to help you deal with workplace stress!
Goals provide the foundation for that picture, and the stress endured is part of the process of making them happen.