Deadlines, pressure from managers, results to be achieved, difficult customers, colleagues with anxieties, difficult period for the company… There are many stress factors at work and for the most part they are out of your control. But there are some that you can take action on and others that you can learn to put in perspective.
1. Identify the source
Sometimes problems pile up, but most of the time there are one or two particular sources of stress. Once you have identified them you will be better able to improve the situation. Are you not getting on with your supervisor? Ask for time for mediation to resolve the conflict. Is a particularly difficult assignment taking up all your time? Ask for help, either on the assignment or on the related tasks that you no longer have time to give your attention to.
2. Make schedules
Email and the telephone are distractions and most of the time they don’t require you to respond in the same minute. Set aside one or two times during the day to focus on them, for example from 9 to 10 am in the morning and from 3 to 4 pm in the afternoon, and the rest of the time put your phone on voicemail and don’t open your inbox. You will be more efficient and focused, which will make your workload more manageable.
3. Learn to say no
Stressed employees are less engaged and efficient. Work overload is one of the most common causes of professional stress, and it very often comes from accepting assignments without daring to say no, either because you think you can get away with it or because you are afraid of the consequences (dismissal or a reputation of slacking off). But it is better to accomplish a high-priority task well than to botch several secondary tasks. If a colleague asks for help when you are already overloaded, don’t hesitate to say no – he will understand. And even if it’s your boss who tries to give you additional responsibilities, know how to say no, or ask for a delay, or even accept as long as you can delegate other assignments in return.
4. Adopt a list of things not to do
The list of things to do is useful, but it is somewhat stressful, especially when some items don’t get crossed off in time! The list of things not to do, meanwhile, is easier to follow and is good for your self-confidence. Noting on it things like “avoid chatting with my colleagues” or “do not surf the internet at work” will help you avoid getting unfocused.
5. Talk about it
You are not alone in this situation. It’s not a question of complaining 24 hours a day but locking yourself in is not the solution either. Begin with your colleagues. There is a great chance that they are experiencing the same thing you are – they will be sympathetic and maybe you can find solutions together (exchange assignments for a new look, collective action to ask for better working conditions…). Your manager meanwhile may not be aware of the seriousness of the situation and will most likely relieve you if you tell him about it. Those around you can also be a valuable support, especially for helping you to put it in perspective. And consider talking to a psychologist before reaching burnout syndrome.
6. Know how to disconnect
Can you be reached night and day, including holidays? It’s very commendable, but also very bad for your stress level! Here’s a promise – unless you are the CEO (and even then!) the company will not crash and burn if you turn off your phone for a few days. Whether you are aware of it or not, message anxiety, even if it’s only to tell you that you will have something more to do when you get in on Monday morning, although it’s Friday evening, will affect your whole weekend and make you spend two days brooding instead of enjoying a well-deserved rest.
7. Look after your lifestyle
The more time you spend in the office the more important it is to compensate for it. Eating healthily, respecting sleep cycles, exercising and relaxing, dedicating time for leisure or spending time with your family and friends are all elements that will improve your quality of life and help you. If work is not at the centre of all your preoccupations, what is going wrong will not seem so serious to you.